[governance] ICANN New gTLD Policy Up for Debate in Lisbon: Censorship & Nat'l Sovereignty at Issue

Robin Gross robin at ipjustice.org
Fri Mar 23 13:09:14 EDT 2007

IPJ Blog post on new gTLD policy:


-- ICANN New gTLD Policy Up for Debate in Lisbon: Censorship and 
National Sovereignty at Issue --

22 March 2007 — As ICANN’s Board Meeting 
http://www.icann.org/meetings/lisbon/ in Lisbon is about to kick-off, a 
number of important policy issues are on the agenda.

One of the most hotly contested issues at ICANN is the current draft 
proposal regarding the introduction of new generic top-level domains 
(gTLDs) and its impact on free expression and national sovereignty.

While the latest (16 March 2007) draft proposal 
http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-16mar07.htm would no 
longer allow a single country to block a new gTLD string application for 
non-technical reasons, it would allow any group of nations to block an 
application for a new top-level domain for non-technical reasons.

Recommendation 6 in the draft proposal still reads “Strings must not be 
contrary to generally accepted legal norms relating to morality and 
public order.”

But now, instead of any 1 country being able to block a string on a 
subject it didn’t like, any group of countries objecting to a string 
would be able to kill the application.

Why would the ICANN Board want to give this kind of control and 
censorious powers to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)? ICANN 
should stick to its technical mission and remain content-neutral in the 
allocation of new top-level domains and leave the politics out of the 

And the proposed gTLD policy still operates under the fiction that there 
are such accepted public policy and morality legal norms.

The proposed gTLD policy is still a recipe for censorship and an attack 
on national sovereignty. Why should the restrictions in any one country 
be imposed upon the citizens of another country? No one has even 
attempted to provide a justification for that.

ICANN’s Non-Commercial User’s Constituency (NCUC) proposed 
http://www.ipjustice.org/ICANN/drafts/022207.html to reform the new gTLD 
policy so that national laws will govern what speech may be permitted in 
a country, not ICANN policy. But that proposal was summarily swept aside.

Former ICANN Board Member Michael Palage and current GNSO Council Member 
Avri Doria have published a paper 

recommending that ICANN remain content-neutral and resist the path of 
censorship in the introduction of new gTLDs.

Concerned Netizens are encouraged to contact the ICANN Board and their 
GAC Members to urge reform of the proposed policy. NCUC prepared a 
sample letter to ICANN Board Members 
http://ipjustice.org/wp/2007/03/22/letter_board_gtld and a sample letter 
to GAC Members http://ipjustice.org/wp/2007/03/22/letter_gac_gtlds to 
assist Netizens in making their voices heard.

The GNSO Committee’s proposal still erroneously equates trademark rights 
with rights to domain names. The draft proposal attempts to justify 
censorship in the new gTLD space on the flaky rationale that trademark 
law does not permit the registration of scandalous words. The Committee 
fails to recognize that a trademark is an exclusive right to prevent 
others from using a word in commerce, and the policy they are setting is 
whether anyone can use use a word at all in the new gTLD space. Big 

Both the GNSO Committee on New gTLDs and the GAC will make policy 
recommendations on the issue to the ICANN Board. The ICANN Board will 
then vote on the policy recommendations. The ICANN Board would be smart 
to remain content-neutral and not allow ICANN’s technical mission to 
become muddled down in politics by giving GAC any power to prevent a new 
string for non-technical reasons. Nor should ICANN give itself any right 
to prevent a string for non-technical reasons. Besides the fact that its 
censorship, it will also create legal liability for ICANN.

But the question remains open: Can ICANN stand-up to the GAC and resist 
the urge to impose a policy of censorship in the new gTLD space?

See related: NCUC Press Release of 2/27/7 “Power Grab: ICANN to Become 
Internet’s Word Police” http://ipjustice.org/wp/2007/02/27/icann-power-grab/

If you live in the United States, your representative on the GAC is 
Suzanne Sene from the US Commerce Department. Suzanne Sene can be 
contacted via email to SSene[at]ntia.doc.gov

The ICANN GAC representatives from other countries are listed here: 

The ICANN Board of Directors are listed here: 

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