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Don't Break out the Champagne Just Yet: More Work to Do Before IANA Transition Occurs

J. Scott Evans

After two years of meetings, comment periods, and more meetings, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers submitted its IANA transition proposal to the US Department of Commerce last week at the end of the ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech. While this is a critical milestone and the multi-stakeholder community should be commended for its efforts, several concerns still remain. Adobe and its partners in the business constituency encourage stakeholders to remain vigilant as this process winds down to ensure all necessary accountability measures and bylaw changes are adopted by ICANN before the transition occurs.

Although there was unanimous approval of the proposal by ICANN's advisory committees at last week's meeting, no consensus was reached about the proper role of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Currently, GAC advice to the board has special status as outlined by ICANN bylaws. To mitigate concerns that foreign governments could potentially hijack ICANN's governing process, the Cross Community Working Group (CCWG) recommended changing the bylaw to require GAC advice be approved by a "full consensus" of the committee, meaning "the absence of any formal objection." This would greatly reduce the likelihood that governments in Moscow, Beijing or elsewhere could exert undue influence on the development of the Internet. Given this reality, it is key that any amendments to the ICANN bylaws be carefully crafted to ensure that the concept of "full consensus" is baked into the DNA of any requirement that GAC advice receive greater weight in the multi-stakeholder model.

Another key concern is ICANN's mission statement. The CCWG put in countless hours of work to enhance ICANN accountability, and significant improvements have been made so the organization's mission remains the stable and secure operation of the internet domain name system. ICANN's powers must be clearly enumerated to prevent the organization from regulating Internet services or content. However, ICANN should have a clear mandate to effectively administer the distribution of domain names by registries and registrars as well as enforce its contracts with these entities to ensure that negotiated intellectual property protections are respected. The recommendations are unclear on this point and it is extremely important that any amendments to the bylaws clearly and unequivocally provide ICANN the authority it needs to oversee the domain name system. Any failure to do so could have drastic ramifications for businesses and consumers.

These concerns and many others show that there is still a great deal of work to be done, and ICANN needs to adequately address them before the current contract with the U.S. government expires at the end of September. ICANN leaders have to remember that they are stewards of the Internet and trust matters. Without trust, this great experiment could come crashing down. The multi-stakeholder model has come a long way, and now we need to see if ICANN will heed the call and implement these necessary recommendations and clarify the open questions with tightly written bylaws.

Fortunately, there is still time for additional changes and concerns to be addressed. In addition to NTIA's approval process, Congress needs to weigh in on the proposal as well. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has scheduled a hearing for this week to review the proposal. Adobe encourages Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and his colleagues to consider these recommendations and urge ICANN officials to remain open-minded and engaged with stakeholders.

This may be the most critical time of the process, and we need to get this right. Just because the proposal has been submitted that does not mean the Internet community should step back and put the process on autopilot. As we move closer to implementation, Adobe encourages ICANN to continue to listen to stakeholders and act as the steward the Internet needs.

By J. Scott Evans, Trademark Director and Associate General Counsel at Adobe – J. Scott Evans joined Adobe Systems as Associate General Counsel responsible for global trademarks, copyright, domains and marketing in October 2013. Visit Page
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Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance
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GAC Did NOT Approve John Poole  –  Mar 17, 2016 9:35 AM PST

Scott: Your statement "there was unanimous approval of the proposal by ICANN's advisory committees at last week's meeting" is FALSE. GAC is one of ICANN's advisory committees and could NOT reach consensus on the proposal as a whole. Instead of approving the proposal, the GAC merely said it had no objection to it being transmitted to the ICANN Board--hardly a ringing endorsement. I can understand why ICANN spins the false narrative, but I don't understand why you feel compelled to repeat it. In fact you contradict yourself in the next statement by saying there is NO consensus about the role of GAC--which is part of the proposal!

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