Nominations for ICA’s 2019 Lonnie Borck Memorial Award – now open!

The ICA is happy and proud to announce that we are now accepting nominations for ICA’s 2019 Lonnie Borck Memorial Award! Thanks to NamesCon’s generous support, for the 3rd year in the row, the award will be held during the conference.
The Lonnie Borck Memorial Award is granted to an individual for indelible contribution to domain investor rights, and we invite you all to take part in the process and submit your suggestions for the nominees. The nomination process is open to the entire domain name community so please share the short nomination form with your colleagues, on your blogs, or social media. The form will be opened until November 1st, after which, the winner will be chosen from amongst the nominees by members of the ICA Board.
Last year’s award was presented to Kathy Kleiman, a pioneer advocate for domain registrant rights from the very beginning of the UDRP process, and David Weslow of Wiley Rein received the award in 2017, for his pro bono representation of Heidi Powell as she attempted to protect her registration of HeidiPowell.com.
For coverage of past years’ awards, check out the below links.

ICA Letter to David Redl on Expiry of NTIA-Verisign Cooperative Agreement

In its letter to David Redl of the NTIA, the ICA urges that the NTIA extend Amendment 32 to the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Commerce and Verisign, which is set to expire on November 30, 2018. Read the full letter, which was submitted on October 18th, 2018, here.




ICA Letter to ICANN Board of Directors on ICANN oversight over the UDRP

In its letter submitted to the ICANN board on October 9th, 2018, ICA pointed out the absence of any ICANN oversight over the UDRP such as an office or staff, regular review process, complaints procedure, or contracts with existing UDRP dispute resolution service providers. ICA requests that ICANN includes a budget for such oversight in its current budgeting process. Read the full letter Here: Letter to ICANN Board of Directors – October 9, 2018


Dereliction of Duty in Wonderland

Guest post by Greg Thomas

The shot clock is ticking towards expiration of the NTIA-Verisign Cooperative Agreement — yet stakeholders are AWOL on completing accountability safeguards at root of the Internet.

It is remarkable — for all the wrong reasons — that only two months remain before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) must make a fateful decision on how it will address its’ long-standing Cooperative Agreement with Verisign — the private-sector corporation that edits the authoritative address book of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS), maintains two of the DNS root servers, and operates the .com and .net registries of the Internet, undoubtedly one of the most lucrative concessions ever granted.

Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”― Lewis Carroll 


Yet, despite representing a unique and singular opportunity to finish the critical task of improving accountability at the root zone of the Internet — and in stark contrast to the herculean effort to develop accountability mechanisms for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) prior to the transition of the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) in 2016 — the much-vaunted global community of stakeholders is deafeningly silent. Whether from fatigue, attention-deficit disorder, or a failure of imagination, the absence of meaningful engagement and public dialogue by AWOL stakeholders is nothing less than dereliction of duty.

To be fair, I’ve spent nearly a decade thinking about this inflection point — perhaps longer and in greater detail than most. By way of introduction, I got my first real taste of the strange world through the looking-glass — that is, Internet governance — when I was recruited by Verisign in 2009 to help design the company’s strategy for renewal of the .net and .com registry agreements in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and with an eye on the horizon for the 2017–18 renewal cycle.

Early in 2010, I delivered a multi-year strategic plan that heavily focused on a long-term effort to build trust with the Internet’s global community of stakeholders and the U.S. Government — an approach that was sorely lacking after years of boorish, heavy-handed and appallingly tone-deaf missteps by the company and its predecessor, Network Solutions. My proposals, which anticipated the possibility that the .com concession was renewed but with constrained pricing, were all but dismissed and I was asked to leave the company not long after, in May 2010.

I was rehired in late 2013, to build a cross-company strategic perspective for the 2017–18 renewal cycle, this time including disposition of the Cooperative Agreement. The hallmark of my second stint at the company was the IANA transition and efforts to ensure that appropriate accountability safeguards were in place prior to removal of ICANN’s “training wheels”: the soft power represented by Uncle Sam’s ability to yank the lucrative, yet zero-dollar IANA procurement contract. In April of 2016, I departed Verisign, this time under my own steam, to focus my energy on other business ventures and my family, which was devastated by the sudden, unexpected loss of my father due to cancer the year before.

While pursuing other ventures, I have continued to observe developments in Internet governance from afar with the expectation that, at some point, there would be some indication of activity by some of the many interests vested in the details of any potential disposition of the Cooperative Agreement.

Yet, crickets.

Over the summer, in an effort to help spur discussion on the topic, I submitted comments for a notice of inquiry by NTIA on “International Internet Policy Priorities.” To my knowledge, the only other comments on the Cooperative Agreement were submitted by the Internet Commerce Association, an industry group representing domain investors. Additionally, GoDaddy offered some thoughts in testimony provided during a Senate hearing around the same time. The lack of focus on this issue quickly turned into a personal sense of alarm, as Summer is turning into Fall, and the calendar continues to march towards November 30th.

During the IANA transition, NTIA and ICANN were adamant that the Cooperative Agreement with Verisign was outside the scope of work required for completion before the procurement contract with ICANN expired. In hindsight, that was probably a wise decision — especially considering that, even without the thorny details of the Cooperative Agreement, the stakeholder community required a temporary extension of the procurement contract in order to complete its work.

To be clear, while a temporary extension may be similarly required here, I do not believe that the same intensity of purpose is necessary to address the disposition of the Cooperative Agreement. Although it is impossible to be certain, due to the mysterious unavailability of the original NSF-Network Solutions Cooperative Agreement, a review of the amendments available on the NTIA website suggests that only this remains relevant: NTIA’s unilateral right to review and amend the .com registry agreement between ICANN and Verisign for the stated purposes of promoting consumer choice and competition in the domain name market.

NTIA has gone to great lengths to assert that its authority is very narrow, but let’s cut to the chase: the ability to effectively set the wholesale price from which a billion-dollar public company derives more than 90% of its’ annual revenue is the very large stick which permits NTIA to speak so modestly. As I stated in my submitted comments, I do not believe it is feasible nor desirable to extend the Cooperative Agreement beyond the time necessary to ensure that a successor mechanism is in place that offers the same or better accountability safeguards for the corporation controlling a vast proportion of the DNS.

In the United States, the regulation of competition is vested in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Both of these agencies are equipped with professionals possessing the experience and expertise to help foster the dynamic competition that best regulates healthy markets. Additionally, both agencies are experienced at negotiating and enforcing consent decrees with private-sector corporations, which is the solution I have previously suggested should be considered as an effective successor to the Cooperative Agreement.

Consider that, in the absence of any meaningful leverage, Verisign need only comply with a small number of technical key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to benefit, in perpetuity, from its’ presumptive right of renewal to this lucrative concession. This will only serve to allow the company to retreat further into a fortress shielded by legal provisions with which it can deflect anyone seeking redress or even basic cooperation beyond what is required for contractual compliance. One need only look at the history that includes the Cooperative Agreement to begin imagining a future without it. Or, consider the justification for the current accountability mechanism, as recounted to me in 2017 by a Clinton Administration official who helped insert this provision into the Agreement, “…time was running out and we weren’t worried about ICANN. We had to do something to keep them (the registry operator) from running away with the Internet!”

I don’t claim to have any monopoly on answers, or even good ideas. However, it is unacceptable to sit idly while one of a very small number of effective accountability safeguards expires. Take issue with me or my views, but I challenge anyone to defend the wisdom of permitting a corporation that controls so much of the core of the Internet to collect their share of Mammon while sitting comfortably behind impenetrable walls constructed from a presumptive right of renewal and a wide moat filled with basic technical KPIs; to argue with a straight face that competition is sufficiently present to regulate the domain name market and its hegemon.

Further complicating matters is the pragmatic reality that, although some have called for it, the .com registry agreement is not likely to ever be put out for open bid. The possibility that a non-US company could win a truly impartial and proper bid process overseen by ICANN is a national security non-starter. And anyone concerned about the global effects that could result from regulating an American company that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction — that is, indeed, a proverbial stone’s throw from the White House — can find ample and recent precedent for regulating entities domestically without being overly concerned about effects in other jurisdictions. Simply look at the EU’s implementation of its’ General Data Protection Regulation, which has largely had the effect of creating global privacy regulation by local fiat. What’s good for the Old World’s goose is just as good for the New World’s gander.

In the end, if so many economically and otherwise vested interests, including domain investors, copyright and trademark owners, law enforcement, new generic Top-Level Domain operators, and others, allow the path to be chosen for them at this crossroads — in effect, to fail to finish the job of ensuring effective accountability safeguards for the last of the two remaining pillars of the original IANA triad — then perhaps we really are through the looking-glass and, as the Cheshire Cat would observe, we’re all mad here.

Greg Thomas is the Managing Director of The Viking Group LLC, a strategic public affairs consultancy and Executive Director of the Responsible Consumers Alliance, a non-profit promoting a culture of personal accountability. He can be reached at greg@accountableconsumers.org.

The views expressed here are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ICA.

Response to a United Nations Letter on the IGO Working Group Final Report

The ICA participated in responding to the United Nations, who had written a letter to the ICANN Board complaining about the IGO Working Group Final Report. The ICA was extensively involved in this Working Group and took issue with the UN’s complaints about the outcome. This Working Group spent four years examining the UDRP and how IGO’s and INGO’s could fairly access it. The response to the UN letter, submitted on August 16th, illustrates that the Final Report received support from a variety of stakeholders and that no new special dispute resolution system was required for IGOs and INGOs. For more information and to read full versions of the documents mentioned here, use the following links: Final Report, UN Letter  and the Response: Group Letter to ICANN August 16 2018


ICA Letter to ICANN on Proposed Release for Registration of O .COM

On June 20th, the ICA has submitted a letter to ICANN stating its concern over the proposed approach on the Proposed Amendment to implement the request from Verisign to release the single letter domain, O.com. The letter can be view here: ICA Comment Re O.com Release Proposal – June 20 2018

ICA’s UDRP Reform Policy Platform 2018

The Internet Commerce Association (“ICA”) is taking a leadership role in examining and reforming the UDRP. Over the following months and years during which the UDRP will be reviewed by the ICANN Rights Protection Mechanisms Working Group (the “Working Group”), the ICA will be developing policy reform proposals based upon extensive study and its consultations with ICA members who have first-hand experience with the UDRP. By publishing the 2018 UDRP Reform Policy Platform, the ICA intends to start a vigorous and constructive discussion. The ICA intends to seek broad support for these constructive reforms and to advocate for them both inside and outside the Working Group.

The UDRP although flawed in many significant respects, has been largely successful in being used to resolve thousands of domain name disputes since its inception in 1999. The language of the Policy provides for a generally fair and balanced approach to resolving these disputes, and accordingly the ICA’s policy proposals at this time encompass no substantive changes to the wording of the Policy itself. Rather, the ICA’s policy proposals encompass administrative and procedural reforms which will increase Accountability, Uniformity, Predictability, and Balance to the UDRP.

This is Version 1.1 of the ICA UDRP Reform Policy Platform. The ICA will continue to study the issues covered in this version and will additionally be publishing a Version 2.0 after consultation on Version 1.1 with UDRP stakeholders. Version 2.0 may therefore revise the policy proposals in Version 1.1, and will additionally propose further and more extensive policy proposals that the ICA is currently examining.


ICA's UDRP Reform Policy Platform version 1.1

Proposal for ICANN Rights Protection Mechanisms Working Group


A Re-Examination of the Defense of Laches After 18 Years of the UDRP

Can the UDRP be used to take away a Domain Name after 20 years?

Complainants can certainly try, as we recently saw with the Queen.com case.

Nevertheless, after 20 years of the UDRP it is high time for panelists to start seriously considering how severe delays in bringing a UDRP Complaint should no longer be tolerated. Many of our members have owned very valuable domain names for very long periods of time, and in many cases have built businesses around them.

That is why we undertook a major study of laches (the defense of delay) and have forcefully proposed that laches be recognized as a valid affirmative defense in the UDRP. We have found that laches has been unfairly sidelined as a valid defense.

Our newest article, A Re-Examination of the Defense of Laches After 18 Years of the UDRP (CircleID), makes the case that laches, as a valid equitable defense in other kinds of dispute, should naturally also be part of the UDRP as well. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be bringing this article to the specific attention of UDRP stakeholders.

If we are successful in having laches recognized as an acceptable defense under the UDRP, then this should both deter frivolous complaints against aged domains, and should also enable aged domains to be more strongly and reliably defended when complaints are filed against them.

The article was written by Zak Muscovitch, ICA Interim General Counsel with invaluable contributions by ICA Board Member, Nat Cohen.

A Re-Examination of the Defense of Laches After 18 Years of the UDRP


ICA Letter to ICANN Regarding the release of single-character domain for .COM

In its letter sent to ICANN before the Holidays, the ICA is asking for confirmation of a public comment period for Verisign RSEP (Registry Service Evaluation Process) for .com single character domain. The letter can be view here: Letter to ICANN re Release of single-character domain for .COM – December 22, 2017



The ICA is excited to be participating in THE Domain Conference, one of the sub-events at MERGE!, this October 14-18th in Orlando, Florida. The ICA will host a 45-minute session presenting an overview of our work with plenty of time for an audience Q&A.
MERGE! conference is organized by industry veterans and ICA members Jothan Frakes and Howard Neu along with his son Ray. They have years of experience organizing domain conferences and have contributed greatly to the growth of our industry. They have provided the following information about the conference.




MERGE! is taking a different spin on a domain conference by bringing together experts and members from a number of complementary industries. By bringing together a mix of designers, developers, integrators, investors, businesspeople, CMO/CIO/C-Suite decision makers, branding firms, blockchain experts, funding veterans, and many familiar faces from the domain industry, the conference organizers expect many connections will be made that will lead to successful collaborations. Participating in THE Domain Conference, also offers valuable exposure to the many other events and activities at MERGE!


MERGE! accumulates a variety of the people you’d want to lure to a domain event by hosting multiple events that would typically attract them, and then making the content all about the utility and promise of domain names. As unconventional and crazy as it may sound, it works and is fairly obvious after some thought.


A WHIR networking has been added to MERGE! WHIR is well known to those within the cloud, CMS, and hosting world. TheWHIR holds events throughout Canada and the US and have a fantastic track record in building the value of in-person interactions. Their events facilitate community by providing a fun and comfortable environment to meet, mingle and do business with face-to-face.


The CMS Summit event at MERGE! is adding an impressive roster of speakers from Joomla, Drupal, Concrete 5, Automattic, Magento and more.


Digital Search Summit has participants that are experts on the major search engines and social media platforms who are heavy hitting speakers and influencers.


Bitcoin, Etherium, and other cryptocurrencies have seen their popularity rise this year and the Blockchain technology and innovation will be the focus of the BlockChain Roadshow.


THE Domain Conference –  the venerable and recently renamed pillar that so many of our members can attribute a large portion of their rolodex to – will be happening amongst all of the other content, where we get a chance to example the successes and prosperity of the domain business at an event that is vendor-neutral as an industry event.


Attendees will have the opportunity to meet startups, developers and influencers – help them choose the right domain name for their business or clients or resource ideas for their domain names. MERGE! provides these diverse networking opportunities to all its attendees.


Speakers and new conference tracks are being added daily to the show’s multi-track format. You can see the agenda and speaker profiles on their website: MERGESHOW.COM 


All ICA Members receive a special discount, receiving a ticket price of $299 for the event using promo code: “proudlyICA” (until 9/15). The conference admission is currently $699, and will rise to $899 over the weekend, so this preferred and special ticket for ICA members is something that you should take advantage of.


Those attending should hurry and take advantage of the special rate on the hotel rooms at the Orlando World Center Marriott.  The current rate of $129 / night is almost entirely used up and once it is full, the room rate rises to $300/night.


For more information, contact Jothan Frakes at: jothan@jothan.com, skype: jothan.frakes or call (206) 355-0230.