The Internet Commerce Association (ICA) was established in September 2006 following the .com settlement between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and VeriSign. After reviewing that back room-negotiated no-bid perpetual contract, domain name monetization industry leaders concluded that permanent representation within ICANN, in Washington, and in other critical decision-making arenas was needed to protect its collective interests.
For more information regarding the ICA’s activities on behalf of our membership, please review reports posted on the ICA’s home page.
To adequately represent our members, ICA activities have included—
Effectively Opposing “Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2661). Introduced by U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe on February 25, 2008, the Snowe Bill would have established a parallel infringement system that is broader, less protective of registrant rights, and more punitive than the existing UDRP and national laws such as the U.S Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The ICA immediately – initiated aggressive lobbying against this proposed measure; provided its members and other domainers with an analysis of and position paper regarding the bill as well as information, including a suggested letter text, for effectively contacting members of the Senate; and communicated with other groups resulting in statements against the bill from such organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet Governance project, and IP Justice. The Snowe bill did not receive further Senate consideration.
The ICA remains vigilant and continues its dialogue with members of Congress, other key policymakers, and industry groups to help develop effective measures against phishing and other forms of online fraud that do not unfairly prejudice the legitimate rights of domain name registrants and that promote a reasonable balance between their rights and those of trademark owners.
ICANN Commercial and Business Users Constituency (BC). The ICA is actively involved in ICANN policy development, attending three yearly ICANN meetings, writing policy statements and speaking at ICANN meetings on many issues. In 2008, to better represent its members and their industry ICA joined the BC to become a part of ICANN’s formal policy development process. We now have an official voice in ICANN policy development.
The ICA encouraged its members to attend and engage at the Los Angeles ICANN meeting held in October 2007 – the first meeting held within the continental U.S. since 2001 – and provided detailed background materials to the many members who responded and attended the meeting to help make their participation more meaningful and effective. The ICA continues to assist and coordinate with its members when they attend ICANN meetings.
Rights Protections for New gTLDs. While adamantly opposing intentional trademark infringement, ICA demands that its members receive adequate due process when the legitimacy of their domains are challenged. To this end, throughout the three-year development of the Applicant Guidebook for New gTLDs, the ICA fought to assure that the new rights protections mechanisms gave adequate respect to the legitimate rights of domain registrants. In particular, the ICA‘s efforts prevented the new Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) mechanisms from becoming a functional substitute for ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). ICA will actively monitor implementation of URS and other new rights protections as new gTLDs come online.
Ethical Leadership. In September 2007 the ICA promulgated a Member Code of Conduct that establishes a strong ethical framework for the domain name monetization industry. Through the adoption of this code, the ICA seeks to demonstrate that industry self-regulation is the primary and effective means of assuring best practices and avoiding onerous new law and regulation. In February 2008, the ICA Board adopted a public membership list policy to improve accountability to the Code of Conduct. These policies continue the effort to move the industry towards more transparent and ethical business practices initiated by establishment of the Code of Conduct.
U.S. Government. The U.S. Government plays a key role for domain name registrants. ICANN was created by the U.S. in 1998 and the U.S. continues to enjoy a unique oversight relationship with ICANN through operation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The U.S. also wields considerable influence within ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) as well as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and other multilateral bodies that affect Internet commerce and the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights. Finally, the U.S. often sets important precedents through its adoption and enforcement of new laws and regulations that establish the legal and policy framework for Internet commerce and IP enforcement. Therefore, the ICA maintains a permanent office in Washington and actively seeks to inform Congress, the Executive Branch, the Department of Commerce, and other key participants in U.S. policy development (e.g. think tanks and public interest groups) of the business models and public policy positions of the domain name investment and development community.
Since its creation ICA has provided formal input to Congress and the Executive Branch on a number of key issues. These activities include:
- “Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2661) – ICA actively and successfully lobbied against the “Snowe bill”.
- Issuing a public statement in April 2007 decrying VeriSign’s announcement of an unjustified seven percent price increase for .com and .net DN registrations and calling for effective Congressional and DOC oversight. In particular, ICA noted that the .com increase was inconsistent with the “serve the public interest” standard established by the DOC when it approved the new .com registry agreement in November 2006.
- Transmitting a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in November 2006 applauding its bipartisan expression of concern over the .Com settlement and urging intervention against similar pending registry operation agreements.
- Providing a record statement for the Senate Commerce Committee’s September 2006 oversight hearing on “Internet Governance: The Future of ICANN”. This statement raised concerns over ICANN’s lack of adequate transparency and accountability; objected to the unjustified price increases and perpetual renewal clauses of the then-pending registry agreements for .biz, .info, and .org; cited inadequate attention to Internet security; and urged near-term reform of ICANN practices.
- In the 112th Congress (2011-12) ICA has expressing concern to members of Congress regarding domain seizures conducted by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE)division of the Department of Homeland Security as well as the potential impact of the proposed Protect IP legislation (S. 968 – 112th Congress. While opposing copyright and trademark infringement, ICA believes that the private right of action in this legislative proposal, in combination with an unclear definition of infringing website, could adversely affect the legitimate rights of domain registrants.
The ICA engages in constructive dialogue with members and staff of key Congressional committees exercising oversight over the Department of Commerce and dealing with trademark law and other IP matters. The ICA has also discussed matters of concern to its members with senior staff of the Department of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office.
The ICA has joined and is a fully participating member of the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee – this organization is made up of a broad cross-section of the public interest community and Internet industry, and supports and encourages the Congressional Internet Caucus in its mission to educate policymakers about important Internet related policy issues.
- In October 2007 the ICA’s Counsel participated in a far-ranging discussion of how to best balance the rights of trademark owners and DN registrants at the annual Leadership Meeting of the International Trademark Association. The ICA continues to engage in constructive dialogue and debate with the IP community and similar legal and business groups with an interest in and influence over Internet commerce and IP policies.
- ICA is continuously involved in policy development at ICANN.
Looking Toward The Future. While ICA has accomplished much on behalf of professional DN registrants during its brief existence, new challenges await and much more remains to be done.
There remains a continuing need for the ICA to engage the full time assistance of public relations specialists to explain its members’ business activities and its own policy positions to the media, and to highlight innovative and beneficial domain name activities. This need is particularly acute for critical “inside-the-beltway” publications that influence public policy decision makers in Washington.
As the Internet is a global telecommunications and data transmissions system the ICA must be able to monitor and participate in relevant discussions and decisions taking place in Brussels (European Union – EU), Geneva (WIPO), and all other locations where the future of Internet commerce and domain name registrant rights are being decided.
The ICA needs continued strong support and feedback from its current members, as well as broader support and participation from the entire professional DN registrant community, if it is to continue and expand its vital work. We thank you for your support and interest and look forward to continuing to be your vigorous advocate within ICANN, in Washington, and in all other key decision centers affecting domain name registrants.