ICANN Proposes URS for .Cat and .Pro in Steady March Toward .Net and .Com

Just ten days ago we advised the domain investment community that ICANN staff was seeking to act in an unacceptably unaccountable manner that appears to violate ICANN’s own Bylaws by improperly imposing Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) and other new gTLD program Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPM) implementations on legacy gTLDs. This would have the de facto effect of converting these RPMs into ICANN consensus policy for all registries without ever convening a Policy Development Process (PDP), as ICANN’s Bylaws require for establishing consensus policy.

Well now, less than two weeks later, they’re at it again. On May 28th ICANN put the proposed renewal registry agreements (RAs) for .Cat and .Pro out for comment, and both contain the URS.

Both renewal RA overviews contain the same weak and unconvincing rationale for this action:

With a view to increase the consistency of registry agreements across all gTLDs, ICANN has proposed that the renewal agreement be based on the approved new gTLD Registry Agreement as updated on 9 January 2014.

Sorry ICANN, but what about consistency with your own Bylaws and the bottom-up policy development process? Consistency of registry agreements should take a back seat to acting accountably and responsibly. For goodness sake, this URS imposition by contracting staff is taking place months before your policy staff colleagues have even delivered an initial Issues Report on these RPMs for community review. Where do you get off deciding that these RPMs should be foisted on the registrants at legacy gTLDs when we have yet to receive ICANN’s own initial evaluation of them?

But, as the American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Both of the proposed RAs contain a Section 2.8 that requires compliance with the processes and procedures in Specification 7 of the RA. And Specification 7 in turn imposes the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (PDDRP) and the URS.

If you connect the dots from .Travel through .Cat and .Pro you can trace a path that clearly is headed for .Org, .Net and .Com when those registry agreements come up for renewal, all without any community involvement in establishing what clearly should be a consensus policy if it is to be a starting point for contract renewal negotiations. Let’s face it, when a registry operator is presented with a proposed renewal agreement by ICANN staff that already contains these provisions do they have any real bargaining power? And whatever power they do have will be eroded a bit more with each new precedent that ICANN establishes – if staff gets away with this high-handed maneuver.

As we wrote on May 21st:

This is clearly an issue for domain registrants – registrants at new gTLDs knew that their domains were subject to the Trademark Clearinghouse claims notice system and the URS, but registrants at incumbent gTLDs have never been subject to URS and should only become so if the community decides it should become a consensus policy.

But this should also be an issue for every other ICANN stakeholder and global domain registrant who wants to hold the line against staff-driven usurpation of the community’s right to initiate and make policy decisions.

So get your comments in by June 21st if you want to see the community remain in control of this key policy decision rather than have ICANN staff determine it via private contract negotiations. ICA will be commenting against including the URS in this RA, but we need lots of company. 

So that’s it folks. Speak up against this staff power grab now or prepare to accept the inevitably of the URS at every legacy gTLD as it comes up for renewal in a staff-orchestrated mockery of accountability and Bylaws compliance. Then just add an after-the-fact domain transfer capability to the URS and it can become a $500 tool for ICANN-sanctioned rapid domain hijacking.

Our May 21st blog contains a handy comment template for those who wish to have a model for their own comments. And the same exact words can be used for commenting on the .Cat and .Pro proposals with a simple, single gTLD substitution.

So get busy and exercise your right to tell ICANN this whole situation is an outrage that just.Sucks.



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