[governance] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board - "Act in the public interest: Protect the integrity of the .org domain"

Ayden Férdeline ayden at ferdeline.com
Wed Feb 19 17:49:52 EST 2020

Dear all,

An important editorial has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding the proposed sale of the Public Interest Registry to Ethos Capital:

Act in the public interest: Protect the integrity of the .org domain


As the Pennsylvania Orphans Court could well put a stop to the sale of .ORG, it is important and impactful to see such a strong editorial published by a hometown newspaper.

Nora Abusitta-Ouri of Ethos Capital [offers a rebuttal here](http://www.circleid.com/posts/20200218_stop_propagating_false_information_about_the_org_transaction/).

On another mailing list, Richard Hill has offered an annotated response to her post. I am pasting it below for information purposes.

Nora writes: “[helping non-profits fulfill their mission] … starts with ensuring that current profits from .ORG are used to directly benefit the .ORG community. Currently, those profits go to the Internet Society for the general benefit of the Internet. We'd like to see them dedicated to .ORG.”

According to the information that has been made public, $24 million/year (at least for the first year) of the .ORG profit stream will go to paying the interest on the $ 360 million loan that is being used to fund the purchase of PIR. The profit stream has averaged $ 40 million/year recently. Even if you take the value for the last year, $ 58 million, a significant portion of the revenue stream will go to funding the loan, not to .ORG itself.

So a good chunk of the profits would go to the banks/financial institutions that are providing the loan. That does not appear to me to ensure that profits would be used to directly benefit the .ORG community.

And that’s payment of the interest. Presumably money will have to be put aside to pay back the loan. And presumably the folks who are providing the $775 million in cash want some return on their investment, so whatever they get won’t go to benefit the .ORG registrants.

Or are we supposed to believe that the privately held funds that are providing the $ 775 million will be happy to get no return whatsoever on their investment?  How about believing in the tooth fairy?

Nora writes: “[.ORG] is both a symbol of non-profits and mission-driven organizations on in the Internet and a means by which millions of organizations operate, communicate, fundraise, and, provide services to those in need.”

Exactly. And that’s precisely why many of those non-profits object in principle to transferring .ORG from a non-profit entity to a for-profit entity which, to make things worse, is privately owned, meaning it has no obligation to publish any financial information.

Nora writes: “The community deserves guarantees about .ORG's future. That is why Ethos and PIR have made commitments on prices, policy making and community enablement.”

If Ethos sincerely believed that the community deserves guarantees, then it would have made binding commitments, not just marketing statements that can be withdrawn at any time. Further, the commitments would go further than what Ethos has proposed in terms of the Stewardship Council and the incorporation as a public benefits corporation. And Ethos would have consulted the community in order to develop those commitments.

At a minimum, Ethos would have made binding commitments to abide by the criteria under which .ORG was assigned to ISOC/PIR by ICANN in 2002, which is what ICANN’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) has formally requested.

In my view, there is no new or convincing information in Nora’s statement.

Best wishes,

Ayden Férdeline
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