Foundation Experts Attended the 46th International ICANN Meeting in Beijing

The 46th International ICANN Meeting was held in Beijing April 7-11, 2013. The event for representatives of companies and organizations related to the Internet addressing issues has been attended by over 2,500 people.

The Foundation representatives took part in the event sessions on the New gTLD Program which provides a framework for the .MOSCOW and .МОСКВА domains’ implementation.

FAITID representatives discussed with their foreign colleagues the current work on the text of the Registry Agreement (RA), preparation of new domain extensions for pre-delegation testing and the process of ICANN Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) deployment.

At present, the applicants for new domains are most of all concerned with the Registry Agreement provision under which the ICANN Board will be entitled to modify on an unilateral basis the signed RA texts without taking into account its contractors’ opinions. The domain registries insist that the situation where one of the contractual parties may alter the agreed terms and conditions goes against the regular business practices.

ICANN explains that it needs a possible alteration of the existing agreements because the new top-level domain introduction will seriously change the domain name market and the relevant changes can be both positive and negative in their nature. To exclude any bad consequences of the New gTLD Program (e.g., new ways of the unfair competition), ICANN might need an option for prompt agreement modification.

Incidentally, this kind of reasoning is not good enough for the top-level domain applicants, although the RA amending process will be quite a complicated one (in particular, ICANN will have to discuss at first the amendments with registries and get relevant comments from the Internet community; besides, the ICANN contracting parties may appeal against these amendments under the procedures in place). The industry players ask ICANN to provide some examples of the situations in which it could decide to amend the agreements. In addition, they generally criticise ICANN for an attempted material revision of the rules of the game at this stage of the New gTLD Program.

One more reason for the top-level domain applicants’ dissatisfaction with the agreement is the provision obliging them to do business only with the registrars which have entered with ICANN into the 2013 Registry Accreditation Agreement (RAA). At present, the registrars are bound by the RAA versions of 2001 and 2009 and are not committed to re-concluding their agreements with ICANN until the current ones expire, even if their clauses differ from the 2013 agreement. Taking into account the fact that the 2013 RAA contains quite a few significant changes which affect the registrar business, the new domain registrants fear that not all registrars will be ready to sign it at once. This fact may lead to narrowing the new domain extension distribution channels.

However, these concerns are unlikely to refer to the major global registrars most of which are active members of the relevant ICANN constituency and are now engaged in negotiations with ICANN on the 2013 RAA provisions. At the constituency’s meeting in Beijing it was announced that the registrars and ICANN had reached consensus in principle on the accreditation agreement terms and conditions. In the nearest future the 2013 RAA is to be approved and will then become available for signing.

The registrars’ readiness to operate under the new agreement is also confirmed by the fact that during the meetings with FAITID representatives in Beijing they expressed their strong interest to get accredited in the .MOSCOW and .МОСКВА TLDs.