Saturday, June 18, 2011

ICANN 41 Is More Than A GTLD Meeting

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would hold the Second Public Meeting of the year on 20th June 2011 at Singapore. One of the issues that would be discussed by ICANN there pertains to introduce an unlimited number of new Generic Top-Level Domain Names (GTLDs).

However, this is not the only issue that would be discussed at that meeting. Despite contrary claims, ICANN would also discuss many more “Crucial Issues”. For instance, ICANN’s Board of Directors would vote on whether to finalise the Applicant Guidebook, a 348-page document that explains how any established Institution (such as a Government, Business, or Non-Profit Organisation (NGO)) can apply to operate a Generic Top-Level Domain Names (GTLD) of its own choosing. If the Board approves the Guidebook as final, the process of issuing new GTLDs would start.

ICANN would also consider other crucial issues like Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), Inter-Registrar Transfers, New gTLD Applicants from Developing Countries, etc. These are just a few examples of dozens of topics that the ICANN Community will discuss during a week containing more than 120 panels, presentations, workshops and other sessions.

However, some of the issues deserve an “Indepth Analysis”. These proposals have far reaching consequences for Domain Name, Brands holders, Trademark owners and even for International Organisations like ICANN and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This decision would give a new meaning to Domain Names Protection, Brands Protection, Trademarks Protection, Cybersquatting Disputes Resolution, Cyber Law Compliances, Cyber Security requirements, Cyber Due Diligence, etc.

Further, these changes would also require “Better Dispute Resolution Mechanisms” than the existing ones. For instance, transfer-related issues are the number one area of complaint according to data from ICANN Compliance. Should there be a process or special provisions for the urgent return of a hijacked domain name? The GNSO Council votes on the issue Wednesday and in all probability it would be answered in affirmative.

Naturally, these GTLDs are in great demand and there would be attempts to squat famous Brands and Trademarks of others. ICANN should stringently deal with such attempts by allotting the GTLDs to only “Bonafide Applicants” after verifying their “Claims”. The traditional Domain names are frequently hijacked and Cyber Squatting cases have increased dramatically.

The present allotment of GTLD would also face similar problems if an effective “Pre Screening Procedure” along with “Reasonably High Application Fee” is not prescribed by ICANN. ICANN and WIPO would also be required to “Streamline” their Dispute Resolution Services keeping in mind the recent Technological Advances and changing nature of “Cyber Squatting Dispute Resolution Mechanism”.

However, the “High Cost” and “Bonafide Claim” issues would take us to another burning issue pertains to the “Capability” of Developing Countries and NGOs to apply for GTLDs. If the Board approves the “Expensive Process” for creating new GTLDs, Developing Countries may not be able to get the maximum benefit out of it.

Developing Countries may have a need for a new GTLD, but lack the “Financial Resources” to apply for and operate it would be a big hurdle. A Working Group comprised of members from ICANN Supporting Organisations and Advisory Committees has been considering how such groups might be funded if they apply for a GTLD/TLD. The Group offers a report on Thursday.