During ICANN’s public comment period on lifting price caps on .org domains, over 3200 people submitted comments, overwhelmingly opposing price cap removals.
ICANN however, seemingly ignoring these comments, has granted PIR the right to raise prices on .org domains.
In response, NameCheap, a well-known domain registrar, has submitted a Request for Reconsideration to ICANN. Yesterday, ICANN’s Ombudsman, Herb Waye, sided with ICANN, equating many of the comments submitted as “spam”, generated through form letters provided by the ICA.
ICA is hugely disappointed in the Ombudsman’s response, which mischaracterizes the nature of the submitted comments. We ask for an apology to the numerous people who sent those comments in and to retract his ill-advised statements.
You can read the full letter we sent to the Ombudsman here.
If you’re inclined to let ICANN know how they can improve their comment process, you have until tomorrow, Friday 13th, to fill out their survey here. Ironically, one of the questions in the survey asks whether you’d “respond more often to Public Comments if the consultation included short and precise questions regarding the subject matter.”
ICA’s recommendation is that while IGOs and INGOs should have effective access to rights protection mechanisms which reasonably meet their unique requirements not to submit to national courts, no new procedure is required because they can use the UDRP.
In a statement released today, PIR, the operator of the .ORG domain name registry, did not rule out the possibility of substantial price hikes on .org domain names if its new proposed contract is approved by ICANN.
In response to the thousands of objections submitted to ICANN by individual registrants, charities, religious groups, community organizations, and some of the largest and most prestigious organizations in America, PIR asked its customers to “rest assured” that it will not raise prices “unreasonably” and claims that it has “no specific plans” to hike prices.
Conspicuously absent however, is any promise to its customers not to raise prices beyond its current 10% price hike cap. Clearly, PIR is keeping all of its options open, and even in the professed absence of “any specific plans”, it is apparent that PIR likely has general plans to raise prices beyond the current 10% price cap with no limit in sight. This is hardly surprising, for if PIR intended to limit price hikes to the generous currently permitted 10% per year, it would have had no need whatsoever to request the removal of all price caps in the new proposed contract, and accordingly PIR’s claim that it is “simply moving to the standard registry agreement” rings hollow. If PIR was truly committed to keeping prices “reasonably low”, it would have simply agreed to keep the current 10% annual cap on price increases.
Indeed, the so-called “standard registry agreement” is only standard for the new gTLD domain names that were bought and paid for by private interests and which therefore have none of the unique characteristics of a legacy TLD that has been home for organizations throughout the world, long before PIR was awarded the exclusive contract by ICANN.
Despite PIR’s claim that it is “constrained by the competitive market”, PIR is in fact the only source of .org domain names. If the over 10 million .org registrants wish to continue using their existing domain names they are forced to pay whatever price PIR charges. If a .org registrant does not pay whatever inflated fee is levied by PIR for the ability to continue using its domain name, the registrant faces the unacceptable prospect of both an expensive and disruptive rebranding and the abandonment of its .org domain name to be taken over by another user with unknown intentions, perhaps even to undermine the mission of the current non-profit registrant. It is the unique and otherwise unconstrained control over the online homes built on .org domain names that makes price caps on .org domains so crucial in protecting the vibrant and vital community of non-profits that relies upon .org domain names.
Despite PIR claims that current registrants will have “the ability to lock in pricing at the then current rate for 10 years”, the actual proposed contract expressly leaves this up to particular registrars to offer such terms, in their discretion. Similarly, under the proposed contract, existing registrants are not entitled to receive notice of pending increases from PIR, but rather PIR only agrees to give notice of hikes in renewal pricing to registrars. Registrants may thereby be left exposed to dramatic price hikes on their existing domain names after their current term expires.
What has apparently been lost in the contract negotiation is the fact that ICANN is supposed to protect registrants and keep prices low, particularly in legacy TLDs where registrants have relied upon existing price constraints.
Legacy TLDs should not be treated like the new gTLDs nor priced like them nor managed like them.
For further reading, see:
“ICA Comment Letter Regarding Proposed Renewal of the .org Registry Agreement” (Submitted to ICANN, April 10, 2019)
“The economics of domain name prices” (Domain Name Wire, April 29, 2019)
“How ICANN uses the .Org registry to fund the Internet Society” (Domain Name Wire, April 24, 2019)
“The Spurious Justifications for Eliminating Price Caps on .org and Other Legacy Domains” (CircleID, April 23, 2019)
Those following the ICA, know we have recently submitted a Comment Letter to ICANN opposing their proposal to eliminate price caps on .org domains. We have now submitted a similar letter opposing the same for .info domains. You’ll find our official comment letter here.
It is three days before Comments close on ICANN’s proposal to eliminate price caps on .ORG domain names, and the community of organizations is making their voices heard! At the time of writing this post, there are over 1,867 Comments – all opposing the elimination of price caps. This is a striking number of Comments given that how rare it is for ICANN to receive so many Comments on a particular issue.
But this issue has gotten registrants upset, and organizations who rely upon .ORG, in particular. Hundreds of community groups, charities, churches, scout troops, university students, programmers, small businesses, individual registrants, and others have all expressed their opposition in no uncertain terms and we have yet to see a single Comment in favor of removing price caps.
We are gratified to see that the National Council of Nonprofits, which represents 25,000 organizational members has itself taken a strong stand against ICANN’s proposal (See: https://mm.icann.org/pipermail/comments-org-renewal-18mar19/2019q2/000918.html).
We encourage everyone to read the comments and for ICANN to take these comments extremely seriously.
The .ORG registry is for organizations. And Organizations clearly don’t want to see unlimited price hikes. So, who is in favour of eliminating price caps on .ORG domain names, except the ostensible recipient of potentially higher fees, i.e. PIR, the registry operator itself?
ICANN went off in the wrong direction here, but it is not too late to align itself with registrants instead of its contracted registry operators. As the U.S. Department of Justice stated, ICANN’s mandate is “to manage TLDs in a manner that safeguards the interests of registrants in obtaining high quality domains at the lowest possible prices” and “ICANN is obligated to manage gTLDs in the interests of registrants “. ICANN, don’t forget that your legitimacy comes from serving the public interest, not in the interest of your contracted parties.
It is not too late to make your important voice heard. You can use the user-friendly Comment Form which the ICA created for this purpose, here:https://www.internetcommerce.
The Internet Commerce Association (the “ICA”) Congratulates Australian Domain Investors on the rejection of certain Proposed Policy Changes in the Australian namespace which would have had a detrimental effect on domain name investors and on the Australian namespace.
On April 15, 2018, auDA management responded to the Policy Review Panel’s Final Report and Recommendations (the “PRP”). The ICA had submitted a detailed response to the Final Report (“the ICA Comment”) and auDA Management has clearly taken it to heart. As pointed out in the ICA Comment, and as concluded by auDA Management, “there is no evidence that domain name flipping as an investment strategy is having a negative impact on the utility of the .au domain nor resulting in a scarcity of domain names” and that “the PRP has not provided any evidentiary material on which to assess the nature of the warehousing problem and what, if any, action is required”.
Moreover, auDA Management rightly concluded that, “the warehousing prohibition appears to disproportionately target domain investors as the licence portfolios or holdings of trademark and brand owners will be excluded under the PRP proposal. This proposal elevates the rights of trademark and other intellectual property owners over other licence holders in the .au domain, which may give rise to issues of market power and anti-competitive practices.”
auDA management accordingly, “DOES NOT SUPPORT THE PRP RECOMMENDATION FOR A RESALE AND WAREHOUSING PROHIBITION”.
Moreover, auDA Management has “abolished” the domain monetisation rule for the com.au and net.au namespaces: “A Person….will be able to use [their domain name] for any legitimate purpose, including domain name monetisation or domain name investment. This is consistent with the approach in other ccTLDs, including .ca, .nz, .fr, .uk and .de domains.”
The ICA is very pleased that auDA Management has gotten these crucial issues right and that it has resisted unsubstantiated and ill-conceived attempts to prohibit domain name investing and monetisation in the .au namespace. The ICA believes that the rejection of these proposed policies will ensure the continued viability and success of the .au namespace and expresses its appreciation for auDA management’s clear rejection of these wrongheaded policy proposals which would have dramatically affected domain name investment in Australia.
ICANN has recently announced that it intends to eliminate price caps on .org domains in the new registry contract. Under the new terms, the registry could increase prices on registrations to an unlimited amount, provided that they give advance notice.
ICANN also preemptively added URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension) to the new contracts, despite the RPM Working Group still examining and deliberating on this very issue.
ICA has composed and submitted a comment letter to ICANN opposing this decision. Read the full letter here
auDA, the Australian registry, is considering some dramatic policy changes, one of which attempts to potentially devastate domain name investing in Australia. While auDA has never had domain name investment-friendly policies, these new proposed changes make things decidedly worse and threaten the very existence of investment in Australian domain names.
The ICA views this as a threat to domain investing globally, and believes auDA should embrace domain investing, rather than oppose it. We have composed and submitted a comment letter, which you can read here.
You can also get involved yourself. auDA has called for public comment submissions, and we encourage all of you, to submit your comments. The deadline is April 12th, and you will find more information here.
If you have interest or stake in the Australian domain name market, and would like more information, or a template to submit your own comment to auDA, please email us at email@example.com.
Domain owners rely on the UDRP to be implemented fairly and for transfers to be ordered only when there is clear evidence that the domain owner has violated the Policy. In an article published today on CircleID, ICA’s General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch, describes a mistaken approach adopted by some panelists in cases where the domain owner did not submit a defense. The article highlights decisions in which domain names were transferred despite apparent inadequate evidence of bad faith on the part of the domain owners. Zak attributes of any evidence to this mistaken approach to a misapplication of the UDRP Rules and to a misreading of an early influential decision that has served to lead panelists astray.
While undefended disputes are often seen as “throw away” cases, since most UDRP disputes are undefended the quality of outcomes in the UDRP depends largely on how these undefended cases are handled. The chance for an easy win in an undefended case also likely encourages complainants to try their luck with frivolous complaints.
More robust evidentiary requirements in no response cases have the potential to greatly improve the quality of UDRP outcomes, and would better assure the rights of domain owners.
Read the article here