I.ve just returned from ICANN’s new gTLD meeting in London, where the Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) presented its skewed vision of protection mechanisms for new gTLDs. London was the second stop of a consultation process, which started in New York and will finish in Abu Dhabi in the beginning of August (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/consultation-outreach-en.htm). The idea behind these consultations, which are open to every interested party, is to give the opportunity to the IRT team to present its recommendations and receive comments. But, in reality, things are far from simple.
The report – both procedurally and substantively – has a lot of problems and legitimizing it will be a difficult task (even for ICANN). Taking into consideration that the composition of the IRT consists mainly of lawyers of big corporations (Time Warner, Richemont), the report will inevitably be biased towards trademark interests. And, it is. Hearing the IRT team talking about the report, there were times that I almost believed they are fighting a larger cause. Their language was careful, their wording well-articulated and they had the ability to answer almost every question. This to me meant only one thing: if one is not familiar with what has been happening over the past ten years, one could easily support the report.
Presumably, this was a new strategy. After a tough New York meeting two days earlier, where many voices attacked both the report and the IRT team, in the London meeting you could see that they have learned their lesson. Their presentations finished with the concluding remarks that the report does not reflect ICANN and is not meant to be a solution (rather it seeks to open the discussion); they often repeated that the team was not given enough time to prepare its recommendations and submit its findings. We all realized that after New York the team was trying to tone things down a bit.
At the same time, however, the IRT team did not back off from its main argument that trademark interests should be of primary concern with the introduction of new gTLDs. Sentence after sentence they were arguing how much trademark owners suffer from bad registrants. I don’t think they acknowledged at all that not all registrants are bad. I felt that the team used the most extreme of examples to convince the public that the IRT report is a good piece of policy that needs to be implemented.
And, to a certain extent, their plan did actually work. For example, if you are a parent and you hear that there are domain names promoting child pornography, of course you are going to applaud their work. But, no one really told these people that these constitute criminal activities and can be dealt in other forums; no one really said that trademark owners are not concerned about child pornography, but, in reality, they want to control words, phrases, terms and any linguistic activity that resembles their mark on the Internet; no one really mentioned that many trademark owners suppress free speech on the basis that the domain name is ‘harming’ their trademark.
Finally, after the long presentation by the IRT, the community was given opportunity to comment. I reiterated NCUC.s position that the IRT Recommendations are flawed and should not be implemented. There were also some excellent comments heard from Paul Keating (trademark lawyer) and Richard Tindal (from the well-known registrar, eNom) on the problems of the IRT report and its biased character.
One of the things that I realized is that we really need to inform the simple Internet user, the registrant, anywhere in the world, about what is happening and what the IRT team is trying to push forward. We need to make them see how they will be affected by this trademark invasion and how the DNS will be in jeopardy of losing its all-inclusive character and become a space reserved for trademark rights.