In our recent post on the proposed renewal draft of the .Com registry contract we noted that, in addition to appropriately rejecting IP sector urgings that the untested URS be foisted on 100-million-plus .Com domains through contractual fiat, and to continuing the price increase cap provisions of the current contract, the document contained other significant provisions including “Deferral of ‘thick WHOIS’ implementation, with that matter shunted to the GNSO policy process”. (http://internetcommerce.org/DotCom_Deja_Vu).
ICA policy calls for its members to provide correct WHOIS contact information and to comply with lawful requests for data placed under privacy protection. And our understanding has been that VeriSign is neutral on whether .Com should continue to have “thin WHOIS” - with the more detailed registrant data still available but residing at their registrars -- or should be required to convert to the “thick WHOIS” database maintained by other gTLDs.
So we thought the issue of “thick WHOIS” at .Com was relatively non-controversial. But perhaps not.
We were reviewing the agenda (http://gnso.icann.org/meetings/agenda-council-12apr12-en.htm) for the upcoming April 12th meeting of ICANN’s GNSO Council and were somewhat startled to come across this agenda item:
Item 5: GNSO Council comment on .COM contract renewal (10 minutes)
In its announcement on the .COM contract renewal dated 27 March 2012 (http://www.icann.org/en/news/announcements/announcement-27mar12-en.htm) ICANN states that the question of transitioning a large existing registry to thick WHOIS has been recognised by the GNSO as raising operational and other issues that require further discussion and consideration (http://www.icann.org/en/news/announcements/announcement-27mar12-en.htm).
So Council discussions are being cited as the rationale for the fact that the 2012 .COM contract contains no obligations on the registry operator to switch to a thick WHOIS format. Considering the debate that went on at Council level on this issue, the Council may deem this to be a misrepresentation of the truth. If so, the Council may then wish to draft a statement outlining this and direct the Chair to send it to the Board.
5.2 Next steps
We don’t know the full background on why some members of the GNSO Council may view ICANN’s announcement as having ‘misrepresented the truth’ in regard to their debate on this matter, so we’ll await review of the meeting transcript of the upcoming Council discussion.
But we think it’s worrisome when ICANN’s gTLD policymaking body schedules a discussion of such an internal communications matter. Given the upcoming challenges of processing hundreds (or thousands) of new gTLD applications, the imminent installation of a new CEO and any resulting management alterations, the uncertainty about whether ICANN will be re-awarded the IANA contract and what new obligations and commitments that may entail, and the ongoing global debate regarding the future shape and substance of Internet governance, ICANN’s senior community members need to be working cooperatively on these major challenges – not exchanging bickering views over whether one side misrepresented the position of the other as a rationale for its own action in regard to an important yet secondary issue that should be amenable to reasonable resolution.
We hope the GNSO Council will quickly resolve this with ICANN staff in a way that minimizes bruised feelings and future miscommunications. Given the current stakes for ICANN, can’t we all just get along?