Dot info and Country Names GAC
Commentary on the Names Council Resolution
1. Background and Introduction
In August 2001, GAC became aware of anomalies in registration practices during the .info sunrise period with respect to country names. Accordingly, GAC in Montevideo considered the question and published conclusions with respect to country names in its Communiqué. The ICANN Board supported the GAC recommendations in principle and decided that such names should be registered by the Registry to ICANN for the time being unless registered by a valid trademark holder. The Board has also initiated an Action Plan to address other aspects of the issue and to report before the March 2002 Accra meeting.
These recent developments have given rise to some discussion in the ICANN Community, notably on the DNSO lists. The Names Council, on 11 October 2001 adopted a Resolution about this.
GAC has comments and reservations about the Names Council resolution. In the interests of a transparent and informed discussion, and hopefully with a view to a resolution of any outstanding difficulties, GAC submits this commentary for the consideration of ICANN and all other parties concerned.
GAC would also recall that this is not the first time that it has addressed this issue. In its November 2000 Marina del Rey opinion on new gTLDs, GAC stated that:
3.5 The GAC discussed geographical, geopolitical, and ethnic concepts in relation to new gTLDs. These discussions will continue in subsequent meetings of the GAC.
3.6 The GAC notes that WIPO Member States have asked WIPO to consider and make recommendations on issues related to bad faith, abusive, misleading or unfair use of personal names, International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) for Pharmaceutical Substances, names of international intergovernmental organizations, geographical indications, indications of source or geographical terms, and trade names.
3.6.1 WIPOís report may lead to the development of policies in these areas. In these circumstances, the registration policies for new gTLDs, as approved by ICANN, could make reference to the WIPO 2nd Domain Names Process and provide for ready adoption of any ICANN policies resulting from this process. Accordingly, should registration policies initially implemented by new gTLDs allow for registrations of names in any of these categories, registrants should be made aware that the adoption of such policies may have potential impact on registrations.
Had this advice been taken at the time, any registrant in the new TLDs registering a name in any of the categories of names addressed by the WIPO report would have done so in the full knowledge that a policy development process arising from the WIPO report could put at risk those registrations. GACís attention was drawn to the registration of large numbers of country names in .info during the sunrise period and upon further investigation it was evident that a large number of these registrations had not met the necessary criteria. In the circumstances, and in light of its previous statements, the GAC advised ICANN to take steps to reserve country names in .info and assign them to the corresponding governments and public authorities, at their request.
Such action provides an option, within a small part of the DNS, for many countries that have expressed serious concerns about this issue. The GAC's recommendation in Montevideo is a focused response to an issue that is of great concern to many countries.
GAC is also aware that many governments that may have a concern about the registration of their country names in .info are not yet aware of these developments. Furthermore, registration of a domain name tends to create expectations of continuing use by Registrants. In the circumstances, the GACís advice sought to avoid conflict between such expectations and the expressed interest of a number of countries to ensure that country names are used in the interests of the general public in the country concerned.
2. The WIPO-2 Report
The recent WIPO resolution mandates special sessions of the Standing Committee on Trademarks (SCT) to address each aspect of the WIPO-2 Report. The SCT is asked to submit a report by September 2002.
3. The GAC Recommendation
Following thorough discussion, the GAC Communiqué addresses primarily country names in .info according to ISO 3166-1. In developing its response, the GAC consulted with both ICANN and Afilias with a view to ensuring a feasible and workable solution.
From the point of view of a number of governments and public authorities, this is a minimum acceptable position and leaves open a range of related issues to be addressed in the future.
4. Names Council Resolution
It follows that resolution that has been adopted by the Names Council raises several specific problems from GACís point of view. In general, the debate within the DNSO appears not to recognise the major effort made by GAC members to circumscribe and limit their requirement for reservation of the names of countries in .info according to ISO 3166-1, as well as actively seeking cooperation with Afilias regarding the approach..
The GAC, provides the following comments in relation to aspects of the Names Councilís resolution:
The GAC acknowledges that the problem is not inherent to dot info, however, the GAC made the recommendation to the ICANN Board because of the Ďspecial nature of .infoí and in response to significant concerns raised with the GAC prior to the Montevideo meeting. It has not suggested that the reservation be applied to any other gTLD.
The GAC discussed their proposal with Afilias staff during the Montevideo meeting. The reservation as recommended by the GAC, does not hinder Afilias in the administration of their registration process of names in .info and as such, there are no retrospective implications for suppliers and users.
It should also be remembered that the GAC first flagged concerns about the use of geographical and geopolitical names as an issue in November 2000. In particular, the GAC specifically recommended that the issues under consideration in the WIPO 2 report and the possible impact of ongoing policy discussions be raised with registrants.
WIPO is a member of the GAC and as such, the GAC is aware of the work being undertaken by WIPO in this area. WIPO has referred the question back to its member governments who have decided on the immediate follow-up.
It must also be acknowledged that as the domain name system operates in a
dynamic environment, the GAC is aware that it may be called on to provide
advice in specific areas that may precede the work of inter-governmental organisations
such as WIPO. In this vein, ICANN is to be commended for taking action, as
it has done.
In response to the request to the ICANN Board:
The GAC supports the notion that all interested parts of the ICANN structure contribute to WIPOís work not only in respect to geographic identifiers , but in relation to the work of WIPO more generally. Many members of the GAC are also Member States of WIPO and as such are well-informed on the work being undertaken.
The GAC welcomes the opportunity to discuss the issue with the DNSO on the understanding that the interested parties, including governments can participate effectively.
In conclusion, the GAC would welcome further discussion with the DNSO and Names Council members in order to clarify the arguments on both parts. However, the GAC disagrees with some of the arguments and conclusions in the Names Council Resolution of 11 October 2001. GAC members will be glad to participate in the Action Plan recently announced by ICANN in this respect.
Dr Paul Twomey
26 October 2001
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