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GAC New gTLD No Fly Zone

Michael D. Palage

I have struggled over the past couple of weeks to come up with a metaphor to succinctly describe the standoff between the ICANN Board and the ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC) over the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) implementation process. So here's my best attempt to explain these dynamics in terms a layperson may be better to understand. I chose the metaphor for its timeliness, without meaning to offend anyone.

ICANN is a bit like an upstart want-to-be super-power bent on spreading its doctrine of consumer choice and innovation around the world at all cost. To achieve this goal, it has amassed a vast array of aircraft to ensure air superiority (just as the British Empire once used its powerful navy to open markets around the world to free trade). Supporting this strategic build-up is a military infrastructure wanting to supply the ICANN Air Force with fancy fighter jets equipped with their deadly missiles and bombs.

The GAC in this metaphor is the United Nations or NATO (pick the intergovernmental organization of your choice). The GAC recognizes the lofty ambitious of ICANN to spread consumer choice and innovation around the world, but also that an unfettered projection of this doctrine around the global could potentially have a destabilizing effect. To address these legitimate public policy concerns, the GAC has proposed a series of "no-fly zones," in which ICANN and their supporting military complex must not go — even in service of laudable ends.

The increasing polarization of the new gTLD debate has resulted in most viewing the issue in simple black and white terms. This is unfortunate as the GAC scorecard provides a much wider range of grey that permits ICANN to spread their doctrine of consumer choice and innovation around the world, while respecting the limited public policy no-fly zones that they have established. Only time will tell if the ICANN Board will respect the GAC's proposed no-fly zones or if ICANN will demand total air-superiority regardless of the consequences.

By Michael D. Palage, Intellectual Property Attorney and IT Consultant
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Bad metaphor Milton Mueller  –  Mar 15, 2011 10:41 AM PST

Military metaphors are not helpful, and even destructive in this context. Domain names are not weapons and those who try to push any and every internet governance issue into this mold are paving the way for a complete loss of freedom and innovation on the internet.

It's clear that GAC's calls for last-minute changes in well-debated issues are not motivated by "public" interest but primarily by the special interest of trademark interests.

Since the privatization and liberalization of cryptography in the early 1990s, civil society and business have fought for the right to use the power of information and communication technology for human ends. Governments have fought to reserve those powers for themselves so that they can remain in control. Which side are you on, Mike?

Do you have a better metaphor Michael D. Palage  –  Mar 15, 2011 10:58 AM PST

Milton,

My first career was as an electrical engineer for the US Department of Defense. I guess you will also have reservations about the title of my next article: ICANN's New gTLD Phased Array Early Warning System.

I am on the side of producing a responsible introduction of new gTLDs, it has been the same side I have been on for the last seven years.

I think the GAC has raised valid public policy concerns and are not just acting as puppets of the Intellectual Property Interests. With regard to the sanctity of the bottom up consensus development process. The vast majority of contributors to date (including myself) are applicants/potential applicants/consultants/service providers, etc. how many truly non-interested parties have contributed to the new gTLD process?

Bill Dee raised a real important point in Brussels, the GAC is the voice of the billion internet users that have never heard of ICANN.

Bill Dee's comment Milton Mueller  –  Mar 15, 2011 11:19 AM PST

Really, did the EU or US Commerce Department hold a public hearing asking for public input on these issues? (Answer: no) Did any other government you can name? (Answer: no).

I got more public input with my 400-signature petition than any government has. Look at the positions advanced by the GAC. They have nothing to do with the public interest and are focused on a) censorship and b) trademark

Mike, there are two explanations why you repeat the self-serving claim that GAC is giving voice to billions of internet users. One is that you are totally disconnected from the real politics and the real nature of GAC. The other is that, (as is so typical of the ICANN process) you are attempting to butter up those in power in service of some other, unstated agenda.

I'll let the readers decide. I've lost interest in this discussion now and won't provide you any more opportunities to posture.

Drink Driving Metaphor? Brian Retkin  –  Mar 15, 2011 2:38 PM PST

Fear by trademark owners of new gTLDs is understandable; but issues in this arena should be left to the Courts of Law. By its very nature, the law always finds itself at least one or two steps behind innovation. 

In the UK for example, Drink Drive regulations were only brought in in 1965, decades after cars were introduced.  This, in a valiant attempt to try and stop people driving uninvited (but almost legally) into trees, fences, lamposts.....and occasionally, into other peoples' homes and out the other side.

Ultimately the law will catch up with the Internet and make resolution of trademark and other such matters a simpler and cheaper process.

Perhaps this is the time to throw the spotlight towards those who fear (and in some cases, those who look to instill fear) whenever there is the slightest mention of real evolution and expansion of the World Wide Web.

Oh yes...this is just my opinion...I'm not going to argue with Milton L. Mueller....as he is already an Associate Professor, Director of the Convergence Center, and Director of the Graduate Program in Telecommunications and Network Management at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University......and clearly.....I am not

Among the band of long time ICANN Michael Roberts  –  Mar 15, 2011 7:35 PM PST

Among the band of long time ICANN insiders, many arguments devolve to a question of who has standing to speak for ICANN's billions of constituents.  Milton wants to denigrate the role of governments on the grounds that (some) are oppressive and don't respect the rights of their citizens.  And he rails against the economic (and accompanying political) power of rights holders.  Michael is signed up for the legitimacy of the multi-stakeholder model, not because it is written on the tablets somewhere, but because it is a pragmatic solution to the geopolitical cyberspace problem of the moment.  The net of all this is an ICANN Board surrounded by a sea of special pleaders, all of whom seem to think their pleading has a special resonance to it that should carry the day.  Democracy, this is not.  Whether it is the best solution for the DNS is still open to question.

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