On Wednesday, ICANN 47 is in full swing. There are as many as nine meetings going on at once, with overlapping times with even more meetings. Cloning would be a good idea. I’m beginning to figure out tactics for being in two places at one time, some of the time – sitting in one meeting while following the “scribefeed” (live transcription) of another, checking the ICANN “twitterverse” for updates, emailing with colleagues and cohorts from meeting to meeting, etc.
Compliance Update: Nowhere to go but up
My first meeting of the day was the Contractual Compliance Update. We heard that the Compliance Team has improved tools for complaint entry, including multiple complaint entry, and that it has a pilot program for bulk complaint entry. Its new tools replace a hodgepodge of old tools, including excel spreadsheets and legacy software systems. I suppose it’s a positive sign that it’s gearing up for a massive influx of new complaints. I’m not so sure that the signs are so positive when it comes to resolving complaints. We did learn that many complaints are resolved without going to the registrar in question, and that the largest group of complaints is about WHOIS inaccuracy. We also learned that complaint resolution has improved, but that many complaints are apparently not resolved on a timely basis (only 55 percent were resolved in the same quarter in which they were made).
IGO/INGO: I go, nobody else goes
Next, my working group, the intergovernmental organization (IGO) / international nongovernmental organization (INGO) / working group (WG), had its Policy Update at which we were going to seek input from the ICANN community on the burning questions in our preliminary report, about whether and how to protect IGO and INGO names. We were all set up, with an exciting experiment of facilitated engagement ready to unfold. Four easels were set up with four key issues on them, with four alternatives on each easel. Groups were supposed to do a “gallery walk” from easel to easel, taking 12 minutes at each to debate and explore the issues on the easel, leaving a legacy of sticky notes. The only problem was that the community didn’t show up. Unfortunately, the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) update was rescheduled resulting in it conflicting directly with our session (along with the six others that were initially scheduled during all or part of our time). As a result, members of the WG outnumbered other members of the community. Nonetheless, we carried on, dividing into two groups. We had a fruitful discussion, but it was not what it could have been.
Trademark Clearinghouse: Renovation Incomplete
While I was not able to attend the TMCH update, I did learn that the TMCH is months away from putting “TM+50” into action. TM+50 is an added feature of the TMCH that allows trademark owners to add up to 50 “previously abused” variations of each registered marks to the TMCH. (Previous abuse is proved by a successful Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or court decision for the registrant, where the defendant had used that variation.) It seems “blindingly obvious” (to use an ICANN term) that no sunrise period (and thus no new gTLD) can go live without TM+50 being active and trademark holders being given a real opportunity to register these variations.
SSAC Update: Insecurity and Instability
I also learned that (at another session I was unable to attend) the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) gave far more flavor and color on the “name clash” issue. It seems that nearly every new gTLD is already in use in some fashion (in private networks or otherwise). Even more disturbing, a significant portion of this traffic relates to VoIP (telephone calls using the Internet). While VoIP used to be a parallel system to standard telephone systems, an increasing amount of regular phone calls spend some time on the Internet. So, to elaborate onMikey O’Connor’s scenario, not only is our house on fire, etc., but the phone might not work when you call 911.
Lunch Break: ICANN the Good
Fear makes me hungry, so it was time for lunch. At lunchtime, I sat down with the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) representative from Sri Lanka, Jayantha Fernando. We had a wide-ranging discussion and I found him to be a strikingly impressive individual. He is responsible for a wide range of technology and data matters for Sri Lanka. As it turns out, he was a Fulbright Scholar, which took him to (among other places) Franklin Pierce Law School. Franklin Pierce (now University of New Hampshire Law School) is near and dear to the heart of my partner, Doug Wood. It was also the professional home of one of my ICANN friends, Mary Wong, until she joined ICANN this month as a Senior Policy Advisor. Mary is originally from Singapore, just around the corner from Sri Lanka in the grand scheme of things. While ICANN is a small world, it was not small enough that Mary and Jayantha had met. I made sure to mention Mary to Jayantha, and later I would mention Jayantha to Mary. A good ICANN moment.
GNSO Council Meeting: Shootout or Kumbaya?
After lunch, the GNSO Council Meeting was the main event. There were three motions before the Council. One was not controversial – the approval of the Charter of a new Working Group on Policy and Implementation. I served on the drafting team that created the charter, so I was quite pleased to see that on the agenda. The other two motions, not so much. One was a motion to recommend that the Bylaws of ICANN be changed so that the GNSO would be in charge of “oversight” of implementation of policy. It went on to say that, if the GNSO issued “advice” to the ICANN Board (the “Board”) on matters of policy or implementation, and the Board wanted to take action “not consistent” with that advice, the Board would have to provide detailed notice to the GNSO and then engage in a “discussion” aimed at finding a mutually acceptable result. If the Board and GNSO could not come to such a result, then the Board would need to say why it was not following the GNSO advice.
This motion was born from a perceived slight to the Council in a recent board document. While I believe that the GNSO should have input into implementation, and that the GNSO should be in dialogue with the Board and staff of ICANN, a forced and formal process does not seem the way to go. Furthermore, the language of the motion was borrowed directly from the part of the ICANN Bylaws that created the “GAC advice.” As such, once this language is in the Bylaws, any standard rules of document interpretation would dictate that that “GNSO advice” would be treated the same as GAC advice. As we have seen this week and ever since Beijing, GAC advice is a very powerful tool, and one that the Board must work hard to reject or modify. The GNSO also has a very powerful tool – GNSO Policy Recommendations (resulting from a Policy Development Process) – which must be adopted by the Board unless rejected by a two-thirds vote. The motion appeared to be an attempt by the Council to create another very powerful tool for itself (whether or not that was its intent).
In a surprise move, Jeff Neuman withdrew the motion, stating that making the motion had accomplished what he had set out to do – provoke a discussion on the role of the GNSO in implementation of policy.
The Council moved on to the motion to approve the Charter of the Policy and Implementation Working Group. The motion was passed unanimously, creating a vehicle to continue the discussion provoked by Jeff’s motion, among other things, and to find ways to resolve these issues. In a coincidence of GNSO procedure, Jeff became the interim chair of the new WG, since he was the Council liaison to the drafting team. There’s a certain poetry to the result of these two motions.
The final motion was to approve the final report of the Working Group on Locking of a Domain Name subject to a UDRP. The motion was not controversial (indeed, the WG had achieved full consensus on all 17 recommendations), however its timing was. It had reached the Board as a draft motion over the weekend. Some councilors wanted to convert the motion to a final motion and vote on it. Unfortunately, the Council had only recently clarified that its procedure for motions dictated that they be made at least 10 days in advance. This rule is intended to give stakeholder groups and constituencies enough time to consider a motion and advise their councilors on how to vote. While many councilors wanted to waive the 10-day rule, the Council procedures do not give the Council the right to waive its own rules. The Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) decided to stand up for the Council’s rules. There was withering criticism from some councilors, and at least one statement that appeared to be a threat of payback. However, the council chair recognized that neither he nor the council had the power to place the motion on the agenda for this meeting, and it was therefore taken off the agenda to await the next regular or special meeting of the Council.
Gala Time: Something Fishy?
After the Council fireworks, it was time for the Gala. Unfortunately, I had to return to the hotel to do some work, and by the time I got to the Gala, the dolphin show was over, the live music was over, and the speeches were over. I walked through and found some food, which I found rather sweet. I then found out I had come at the buffet from the wrong direction, and I was starting with the “puddings” (as some call dessert). As they say, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first…” I then found the real food and friends and enjoyed the surrounding fish and other sea creatures in uShaka Marine World. After that, it was back to the hotel and to bed. My last day at ICANN 47 was coming up.
Before turning off the light, I checked the ICANN Twitterverse one more time. The GAC was still working, and had been debating their Advice on .wine and .vin for over 5 hours. Oy.