At ICANN: More Contractual Obligations For New TLD Operators?

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Members of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are pushing for additional contractual clauses for applicants of new generic top-level domains (TLDs).

GAC members who began their deliberations about the imminent launch of new internet address zones (like .web, .shop, .gay or .google) three days before the 46th ICANN meeting in Bejing (7-11 April) asked ICANN to include the so-called public interest commitments into the contracts with new TLD operators.

The public interest commitments (PICs) mechanism (including a dispute resolution procedure, PICDRP) was only recently established by ICANN in an effort to allow applicants to address GAC public policy concerns expressed in GAC “early warning” notices. Governments gathered in Beijing welcomed the PICs system. But they rejected ICANN’s proposal that compliance would be monitored by the “crowd,” with the possibility for any user to start a PICsDRP in case of deviations. Including the commitments into the contracts would shift monitoring responsibility to ICANN instead.

Governments, a Swiss delegate said, could not multiply their tax incomes in order to perform evermore new tasks in the process. The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in its written contribution supported a broadening of the scope of the public interest commitments to include that operators will “aid in combatting online illegal activities” and also “fight online counterfeiting and piracy” (see ICANN report on comments to PICs).

TLD applicants, on the other hand, have criticised that last-minute addition to the base contracts (which had been under discussion for quite some time), especially as the PICs are not the only addition. Clauses that would allow ICANN to unilaterally change the contracts will be heavily discussed over the ICANN meeting as will new contracts for registrars (registrar accreditation agreement, RAA) and the obligation for new TLD operators only to work with registrars that have signed the new RAAs.

Despite ICANN’s efforts governments are still worrying ICANN might not give full weight to “GAC advice” on the new TLDs because the organisation has announced it wanted to have one first contract in place on 23 April (and it has just published the third set of results for the initial evaluation of applications, with 93 passed, see new gTLD updates). Answering these worries, ICANN COO Akram Attalah ensured: “We will wait for GAC advice and ICANN Board reasoning and will not sign any contract before and put us in a position to have a contract change later.”


Monika Ermert may be reached at

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