Electronic Commerce & Law Report™ ICANN Beijing
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 17th April 2013 in 360 Blog

Source:  Electronic Commerce & Law Report: News Archive > 2013 > 04/17/2013 > Lead Report: ICANN Beijing Meeting, April 7-11 > ICANN Policy: GNSO Review, New TLDs Could Amplify Brand Owners’ Voices in ICANN Policymaking
18 ECLR 723

ICANN Policy GNSO Review, New TLDs Could Amplify Brand Owners’ Voices in ICANN Policymaking

By Amy E. Bivins

ICANNBEIJING—An upcoming organizational review of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ policymaking body, the Generic Names Supporting Organization, could give brand owners a greater voice at ICANN, attorneys told BNA during ICANN’s April 7-11 public meeting in Beijing. The ICANN bylaws provide for periodic reviews of each of its supporting organizations, advisory committees, and its nominating committee. ICANN’s structural improvements committee oversees the reviews. The review of the GNSO is scheduled to begin later this year. The topic came up frequently in Beijing, with an eye toward planned sessions on the matter at ICANN’s next public meeting in Durban, South Africa, July 14-18. Changing Brand Owner Interests The goal of the review will be to determine (i) whether the GNSO has a continuing purpose in the ICANN structure, and (ii) if so, whether any change in structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness. The GNSO is divided into the contracted party house—registries and registrars—and the non- contracted party house-everyone else. The current GNSO Council structure was adopted in 2008 following an organizational review. The contracted party house has seven seats, three for the registry stakeholder group, three for the registrar stakeholder group, and an additional seat for the nominating committee appointee. The non-contracted party house has 13 seats: two for the Business Constituency, two for the Intellectual Property Constituency, two for the Internet Service and Connection Providers Constituency, six for the noncommercial users, and one for another nominating committee appointee. The default threshold to pass a GNSO Council motion generally requires a simple majority vote of each house. The six seats occupied by noncommercial interests typically provide that group with an unfair veto power over most GNSO Council actions, Brian Winterfeldt, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, D.C., told BNA. Winterfeldt represents ICANN’s IPC on the GNSO Council. Traditionally, brand owners have fallen exclusively within the non-contracted party house. But that is changing with the new TLDs program. Nearly one-third of new top-level domain applications were for .brand TLDs. These parties have some interests that still align with ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency, but they have concerns that align with contracted parties’ interests, too. A group of such brand registries seeks to create their own constituency group, or a stakeholder group within a restructured ICANN. The group’s founding members include Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. The creation of a brand registries group as some part of the GNSO will be important in the long-term, because the current constituency groups do not directly reflect the new and emerging needs of brand TLDs, Jennifer C. Wolfe, managing director of Wolfe Domain, a digital brand strategy advisory firm in Cincinnati, told BNA. “[W]hether they become a part of the existing registry stakeholder group or their own stakeholder group, they will certainly have a stronger voice than they did in a .com brand world,” Wolfe said, noting the large percentage of .brand new TLDs. “While there are some discussing trade associations and that would be valuable, I think that within
4/17/13 Electronic Commerce & Law Report

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the ICANN structure this specific group needs a voice and a seat at the table,” Wolfe said. However, the mere addition of a brand registry group in the contracted party house would not overcome noncommercial users’ ability to veto most GNSO Council actions, Winterfeldt observed. “We see a need for a fundamental restructuring of the Council that would better balance non- commercial interests in this rapidly changing landscape,” Winterfeldt said.

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