Governments Weigh Options On New Top-Level Domains At ICANN

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By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch

Governments have been considering their options with regard to intervening against applications for new generic top level domains, which are currently being processed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In their report published after the end of ICANN meetings last week, governments listed consumer protection, competition issues and the number of defensive registrations a new zone might attract. They also listed specific topics of top-level domains (TLDs, such as .com) about which they have ongoing concerns, including religious terms, names that target regulated sector industries (like finance or health), generic names if applied for exclusive use, and as well “intellectual property rights, particularly in relation to strings aimed at the distribution of music, video and other digital material.”

In its report, the ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC) noted that some governments are considering, “whether the existing mechanisms provided in the Guidebook [on new gTLDs] are sufficient to address the identified issues.” GAC members also would like to see potential changes made by applicants put into the contracts and enforced.

New ICANN head Fadi Chehadé said ICANN reached an arrangement on the objections already. ICANN has proposed to give more time for people with concerns by extending the objection period again, until 13 March. Chehadé said top priorities for the next weeks are making the much-debated trademark clearinghouse work and cutting a deal on the new registrar accreditation agreement (RAA).

The RAA has been discussed for more than two years and resulted in complaints by the Non-Commercial User Constituency about the neglect of the related data protection aspects. Everyone has bent over backwards, said Robin Gross, chair of the Non-Commercial User Constituency, to give law enforcement agencies what they wanted without taking into account privacy rights. Law enforcement agencies from some countries meet regularly during the ICANN meetings, while data protection agencies are not in attendance. Gross also warned against reopening rights protection mechanisms already agreed upon, like the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

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