For years our community has struggled with the rules of the URS — the Uniform Rapid Suspension — aimed at taking down the "worst of the worst" domain name registrations in a manner faster and cheaper than its predecessor, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy — the UDRP.
On June 27, in Prague, a diverse group met to discuss the fate of the URS. To my surprise, it was a rare "kumbaya" moment, and that makes it worthy of comment. Better, the agreement moves us into a position to finish up the few remaining procedural details of the URS, and move forward to implementation.
J. Scott Evans organized a good panel, and everyone seemed surprised to hear the growing agreement across the room during the discussion. Comprised of fairly diverse voices, people seemed to repeat a similar chorus — that the Special Trademark Issues Team (a true multistakeholder body formed by the ICANN's GNSO) had gotten the URS right. The Implementation Recommendations Team (IRT) had a vision for resolving disputes of "obvious misuse" and the GNSO's STI revised the URS rules to include more clarity and due process. As Jon Nevett put it, the final URS was "highly negotiated, highly discussed" and agreed upon by the Community. The goal before us seems to be getting the job done.
What the group also agreed upon is that procedural issues need to be better resolved. As a member of the STI, I'll admit that some of the procedural details that were so clear to us (as drafters) — ways to make the URS faster, more efficient and cheaper than the UDRP — may not have been translated well onto paper. But at the meeting on 6/26, John Berryhill, Mark Partridge, David Taylor, Mike Rodenbaugh and others did an excellent job of laying them out.
Their recommendations for URS procedures are simple, clear, will increase efficiency, reduce cost and increase Examiner response time. That's everything we want in the URS, and a roadmap for final implementation. Their ideas included:
1) Use web interfaces and technical to automate the filing and response of Complaints and responses. The entire process should be online with clear and clean website interfaces. Nominet does it, the Czech Arbitration Courtdoes it, the URS Providers should do it too.
2) Batch the processes — send cases to attorneys 6-8 at a time. That way an attorney can allocate an hour or two to rapid review and decision-making and receive fair compensation for his/her time. (Hailed again at the 6/27 session was the widely-agreed idea that if a URS disputes takes more than 15 minutes to decide, it's in the wrong forum.)
I will add a third process tweak:
3) Allow Examiners to check a small box if the URS is not the right forum for the dispute. Rather than merely dismissing a complaint, the Examiner should have a box that states "Wrong Forum" if a URS review is taking longer than 15 minutes, requires more information than presented by both sides, or especially raises issues such as commentary, critique or competition that require much more extensive evaluation. By checking such a box, the attorney may not feel as guilty about letting go of a dispute that truly has merit, but needs a forum that allows more extensive evaluation, such as the UDRP or a court. It may assuage guilt, and pressure.
All the above procedural tweaks keep the URS for its core mission: short-submissions, rapid evaluation, light decision-making, and that's something we all agreed on.
I urge the community not to spend another minute rehashing the "automatic default" scenario. Automatic default, to some, particularly respondents, still represent a dramatic change of substantive rights. One side will argue (again) that 14 days is enough to respond and the defaulter should lose automatically. The other side will argue (again) that due process is violated with only 14 days to respond, especially as New gTLDs reach out to people and entities around the world who don't speak English as a first (or second) language. Let's avoid repeating this debate — we've come too far and we're doing too well.
Instead, let's work together on the minor procedural issues remaining before us — the "process tweaks" as Mary Wong summarized at the end of the 6/26 session. Compared to the much-higher hurdles we have already jumped (sorry, I couldn't resist one Olympics analogy), the procedural path ahead seems fairly straightforward and clear.
When it comes up for air, the next item on the ICANN agenda should be the URS and finishing the procedural details. But given the spirit of the 6/26 Prague session, this shouldn't be too hard. We have all agreed that it's time to finish up the last of the procedural details. It's time to put a nice big bow on the URS — that's the right step for everyone.
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Minds + Machines