ICANN Faces Pressure From Friends and Foes

My latest Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, BBC version, homepage version) highlights the growing frustration with ICANN’s accountability and transparency. The column highlights the many policy issues associated with Internet governance and notes that over the past month even ICANN’s most ardent supporters have begun to express doubts about the organization' s lack of transparency and accountability.  Last week, U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher called for a Congressional investigation into ICANN and its recent decision to settle litigation with VeriSign, which manages the lucrative dot-com registry.  The settlement, which awards VeriSign near-permanent control over the dot-com domain, has faced sharp criticism from across the Internet governance community. 

Closer to home, CIRA recently published an open letter to ICANN calling on the organization to implement greater accountability, transparency, and fair processes.  Backing up its words with actions, CIRA announced that until ICANN addressed these concerns, it would suspend payment of thousands of dollars in contributions and cease consideration of a new contractual agreement with ICANN.  Moreover, CIRA added that it would no longer host or sponsor any ICANN-related events.

While CIRA focused on ICANN’s lack of accountability, the Public Interest Registry, which manages the dot-org domain, last week called on ICANN to address concerns over the thriving business of grabbing domain names that have not been re-registered. PIR noted that many registrants are unaware that their domain names are valuable and that allowing them to lapse may lead to their misuse.  PIR pointed specifically to one instance where a domain name associated with a rape crisis center was not re-registered and soon after pointed to a pornographic website.

Internet governance policies strike at the core of free speech, privacy, and a competitive marketplace.  ICANN’s seeming inability to address these issues in an accountable, transparent, and timely manner has alienated some of its strongest supporters, opening the door to the prospect for major changes to the global Internet governance landscape.

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