On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG), thank you for giving us your time during a busy week in Toronto. We very much appreciated you explaining your priorities as you begin your work as CEO.
It was clear to the group that you are focused on achieving your initiatives and we are committed to working with you and ICANN staff in a collaborative manner. The members of the RrSG are a diverse group and many have been active in the ICANN community for over a decade. Your focus on implementation and ensuring successful rollout of new policy was a breath of fresh air for all.
This letter will provide perspective on your two highest priority objectives – the conclusion of the Registrar Accreditation (RAA) negotiations and the rollout of the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). We also address the last-minute requests of the Business and Intellectual Property Constituencies for additional rights protection mechanisms in new gTLDs.
For the past year, members of the RrSG and ICANN staff have been in negotiations over terms of a new RAA, with substantive progress made on all items. We have held numerous teleconferences, face to face meetings, and consultations with law enforcement, and feel the most recent draft document provided by the RrSG team provides for a much improved RAA for all parties and stakeholders.
As an example of progress, the RrSG (after clarifying consultations with law enforcement) has accepted nearly all (11 ½ of 12) requests made by authorities, including the complicated issues of enhanced data retention and Whois contact validation. As you’re aware, an unresolved issue is a process by which a registrar can fulfill its obligations when RAA terms conflict with national law.
The negotiating team has worked hard to gain members’ acceptance of these new requirements, amid strong internal disagreement, and a belief that material changes to the registration process must be subject to the defined policy development process. Accordingly, we believe both parties should accept the current RrSG draft as the best path forward and conclude negotiations with a set of terms that are reasonable and avoid negative or unintended consequences for registrars and their customers.
On that point, it’s important to express that inclusion of revocation language that allows ICANN to unilaterally “sunset” the full RAA is inappropriate for a commercial agreement, and there was broad-based opposition to the inclusion of this language both in Toronto and previously in Prague. We request its removal, in its entirety, prior to the groups re-engaging on substantive negotiations on the remaining outstanding issues.
We are all eager to conclude the new RAA and are hopeful your direct involvement in the discussions will expedite a positive outcome.
One of the critical elements of the new gTLD program is the successful launch of the TMCH, so it was encouraging to see you actively involved in moving this forward during our time in Toronto.
RrSG members have been active in the development of the “Community” model currently being discussed, and we (majority of members) support the adoption of this model by ICANN and the TMCH provider. As registrars interact directly with consumers during domain registration, we have a vested interest in how the communication between the registries and the TMCH works. And because we have this relationship with our customers, registrars will provide end-user support for the TMCH system and program.
We also understand various parties are advocating for the inclusion of additional Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs), in excess of what is currently in the Guidebook. We are extremely concerned about this development at such a late stage in the program.
The community spent years developing and building consensus for the current set of new RPMs for new gTLDs, and these will represent a significant increase to what currently exist in today’s gTLDs. Any effort to revisit the discussion of RPMs – particularly outside policy development processes meant to provide predictability to contracted parties should be done after the gTLD program (with its agreed-upon RPMs) has been implemented and the effectiveness of the new RPMs can be evaluated.
Additionally, we believe the additional RPMs circulated in Toronto represent a change to the policy and not the implementation of the TMCH. In our conversations with you, there was a clear distinction in your mind between the two and we would certainly agree with your assessment that policy and implementation be considered separately. The Policy Development Process exists to tackle community-wide issues by assembling a group of people from different stakeholder groups who can come together and work to resolve or lessen problems. Policy changes should not be pursued by a single interest group working directly with ICANN Staff. Doing so would in fact jeopardize, if not outright ignore, the significant implementation issues involved.
Based on the RPMs in the Guidebook, registrars and registry operators have created product and business plans around those mechanisms, and to change those at this late date would have a significant impact on those plans. Moving forward with a change to the RPMs could further negatively impact reliance on the ICANN policy development process.
Again, we want to commend you for the way in which you have entered the ICANN community and your eagerness to move the organization forward. We stand ready to collaborate with you in these efforts.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at any time for our thoughts or perspectives.
Chair, Registrar Stakeholder Group