For more than a year ICA has been asking ICANN when it will commence with the task of implementing the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) policy for the new gTLD program as it currently stands in the Applicant Guidebook (AG). The URS is a required rights protection mechanism (RPM) that must be in place before any new gTLDs can open, and the current model balances trademark holder and registrant rights and is the result of a laborious two-year process resulting in recommendations that were unanimously adopted by the GNSO Council and subsequently by the ICANN Board. Each of our inquiries about the commencement of URS implementation have received the same general response of “soon”, but no perceptible progress had been made since the new gTLD program launched in the spring of 2011.
We have just learned that ICANN senior executive Kurt Pritz has sent a publicly available e-mail to GNSO Council Chairman Stephane Van Gelder advising him that URS implementation will finally begin in earnest within a few weeks. That exchange is below, and here are our key take-aways:
- ICANN continues to assert that the present URS model does “not appear to meet cost requirements”. Yet, so far as know, and our knowledge includes a targeted document disclosure request filed on this and related subjects (see http://internetcommerce.org/WIPO2ICANN_URS_Summits), ICANN has no documented cost analysis proving this assertion and is instead relying on the feedback of the two principal UDRP providers, WIPO and NAF, who have their own separate rationales for making such an assertion. At the conference held yesterday in Washington held to discuss Melbourne IT’s HARM proposal (about which we shall post separately) there was a fairly broad consensus that ICANN should publish an RFP for the URS and solicit bids from a broad range of credible arbitration providers beyond the thin ranks of WIPO and NAF, based on the common sense belief that a URS focused on slam dunk infringement should not require a great deal of expert time or associated cost (if it takes more than 15 minutes to render a decision, it’s not a black-and-white case and belongs in a UDRP proceeding). There was also considerable support for the notion that, if the price target of $300-$500 simply cannot be met, ICANN should consider at least short-term subsidization by using some of the $350 million it has collected in new gTLD application fees. ICA believes it is premature to “flesh out some of those [alternative] models for possible implementation”, and thereby contemplate significant revisions of URS, until we have market testing of the true cost of implementing the present model. Before there is any consideration of “potential solutions”, let’s determine if there really is a cost problem that needs to be solved.
- A meeting on URS implementation, possibly in the form of a webinar, will be scheduled for the first week of October. We are unsure who will be invited to speak at the webinar and whether it will include adequate representation of the registrant community, both commercial and non-commercial. Let’s wait and see.
- A second meeting will be scheduled during the upcoming ICANN meeting in Toronto. We believe it’s is essential that this critical meeting result in a credible path to timely implementation.
- ICANN has stated that “the meetings we are having are open to all”. This is consistent with the open and transparent approach to URS implementation that ICA has consistently advocated, and we intend to be intimately involved.
- ICANN understands the key role played by the GNSO Council in developing and approving the present model and “that the GNSO leadership might want to conduct the URS discussions in a certain way”, and is willing to “work in whichever way the GNSO wishes to proceed”. From our viewpoint, this position is an extremely positive development because it respects the key policymaking role that the Council plays for gTLDs, puts the ICANN community as represented by the Council rather than ICANN staff in the driver’s seat on designing and managing the implementation process, and is a far better approach than the “Summit” concept contemplated earlier this year. It also undercuts potential efforts by some brand interests to try to circumvent the Council through direct lobbying of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and, through it, the ICANN Board.
- ICANN aims to “seek to meet the cost and timeliness goals for which the URS was designed” and to balance that with a commitment to “seek to ensure that registrants enjoy the protections written into the current model”. Assuring that registrants enjoy the essential due process rights written into the current policy, and that they are not diluted in pursuit of complainant cost reduction, will be ICA’s foremost goal as this discussion ensues.
All in all, these are overdue but overall positive developments. Again, it’s our belief that any substantial alteration of the URS based on cost goals should not even be considered until we have some accurate, market-tested idea of the cost of implementing the current model — and that does not yet exist. Even then, we are wary of reopening this carefully constructed RPM because some of the ideas floating around for reducing cost could substantially reduce registrant rights in new gTLDs and convert the URS from a narrow supplement to the UDRP into a cut-price, rights-gutting alternative to it. That’s an unacceptable bait-and-switch.
But ICANN’s recognition of the central role to be played by the GNSO Council in considering any alteration is positive. It is critically important that whatever is done on URS implementation get off to a sound launch in Toronto, because there is an unusually long half-year gap between it and the next, April 2013 ICANN meeting in Beijing. A botched process could lead to further pushback in the launch date for new gTLDs, while one that results in evisceration of registrant rights could fatally undermine their prospects for success.
The e-mail exchange follows:
From:firstname.lastname@example.org[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Stéphane Van Gelder
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 5:08 AM
To: Kurt Pritz
Cc: GNSO Council List
Subject: [council] Re: Uniform Rapid Suspension Discussion
Thanks Kurt. I am copying the Council for their information.
The Council will no doubt follow-up on this in the near future.
Stéphane Van Gelder
Directeur Général / General manager
INDOM NetNames France
Registry Relations and Strategy Director
T: +33 (0)1 48 01 83 51
F: +33 (0)1 48 01 83 61
Le 18 sept. 2012 à 22:09, Kurt Pritz a écrit :
I am writing to let you know that we are planning a set of discussions on Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) implementation in the near future and seek the input of GNSO leadership. As you know, a meeting in Prague we indicated that URS, as currently designed, did not appear to meet cost requirements. In Prague, contributors in the meeting described briefly several potential solutions. In the next set of meetings, we want to flesh out some of those models for possible implementation. We want to have one meeting in about two weeks (probably a webinar type of format with a possibility for some face-to-face interaction), and then we have a meeting in Toronto is scheduled. The first meeting will be announced shortly.
I am writing you because some of the proposed solutions, while feasible, do not match up with the specific conclusions of the STI team when it did its work. We recognize the role of the GNSO in those discussions. While the meetings we are having are open to all, we understand that the GNSO leadership might want to conduct the URS discussions in a certain way. Having the twin goals of developing a solution in time for use by new gTLDs and ensuring that all those interested can participate in the discussion, we can work in whichever way the GNSO wishes to proceed. (Of course, we also seek to meet the cost and timeliness goals for which the URS was designed and also seek to ensure that registrants enjoy the protections written into the current model by the IRT and STI.)The output of the next meetings can inform GNSO discussion or we can carry on in a way acceptable to the GNSO.
I am also copying Olivier as ALAC members participated in the STI.
I hope you find this helpful. Contact me anytime with questions.