On August 7, Suzanne Radell, the U.S. representative to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and senior policy advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, met with USCIB’s ICT Policy Committee to discuss the outcome of the ICANN 47, which was held in Durban, South Africa on July 14-18, and its implications for ICANN’s management of the evolving domain name system going forward. In particular, Radell discussed the GAC’s decision to file a formal objection to the ICANN Board against Amazon’s application for the .amazon generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) name – and the U.S. government’s decision to abstain from this objection.
The Internet’s domain-name system (DNS) allows users to refer to web sites and other resources using easier-to-remember domain names — such as www.uscib.org — rather than the all-numeric addresses assigned to each computer on the Internet. The right-most label in a domain name is referred to as its “top-level domain” (TLD). Examples include .com, .org, or .edu. In June 2011, ICANN’s board voted to expand the gTLD program “to enhance competition and consumer choice, enabling the benefits to innovation via the introduction of new gTLDs.” Examples of new gTLDs include company brand names (e.g., .microsoft, .google), sectors (.investments, .loan), or professional services (.architect, .attorney), to name a few. Amazon applied for the .amazon new gTLD as a company brand name.
The objection to Amazon’s application was driven primarily by Brazil, with support from Peru, Venezuela and other Latin American countries that share the Amazon region, on grounds that the Amazon “is a very important cultural, traditional, regional and geographical name.” The objection prompted extensive interventions in the Public Forum component of the ICANN meeting—as well as in media commentary—as intellectual property experts argued that there is no basis in international law for countries to claim ownership of geographic terms. They further urged the ICANN Board to seek counsel about the legality of the GAC’s objection to the .amazon gTLD application. The U.S. government’s abstention on this issue appears to suggest that Washington shares these concerns.
Radell also examined other challenging issues that eluded a GAC consensus in Durban, which could potentially affect USCIB members and will likely dominate the ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires, November 17-21. These include: (1) the protection of Inter-governmental Organization (IGO) acronyms in the domain name system; (2) enhanced safeguard advice for new gTLDs for regulated or professional sectors (e.g., .cash, .health, .doctor); and (3) a decision on whether or not to allow the contracting process to move forward for applicants of so-called “closed” gTLDs, a terms that refers to a new gTLD in which the applicant is the sole registrant for the domain name.
Staff contact: Barbara Wanner