IRT Final Report Ignores End User Concerns

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Remember the draft IRT report? Well they’ve published the final version after supposedly taking into consideration comments and feedback.
However you’d be forgiven for thinking that their view on the feedback process was ever so slightly biased.
Basically they seem to have taken on board any comments and feedback that supported their views and either ignored or dismissed any that didn’t.

To view all the comments that were left you can go here (they seem to have moved the pages around, so the other links I had to the comments are no longer working)

The comments that were submitted came from a wide variety of sources, but included end users, end user groups, registrars, lawyers and companies interested in launching new gTLDs.

So what is in the final report that is so abhorrent?

Take the issue of whois and privacy, which I mentioned during the comment period:

After carefully consideration, the IRT believes that the provision of WHOIS information at the registry level under the Thick WHOIS model is essential to the cost-effective protection of consumers and intellectual property owners. For this reason, the IRT recommends that ICANN amend the proposed Registry Agreement to include an obligation that all registry operators for new gTLDs must provide registry-level WHOIS under the Thick WHOIS model currently in place in the .info and .biz registries

I love the way they lump “consumers” in with “intellectual property owners”, but I digress. There is a footnote that basically brushes off concerns about privacy:

The IRT acknowledges that some comments raised privacy concerns about this recommendation. However, it notes that the thick registry Whois model has been employed in many new gTLDs for many years without any evidence of legal problems, and also that ICANN, on the unanimous recommendation of the GNSO Council, has established a procedure that can be invoked by any registry that believes it faces a conflict between its contractual Whois obligations and requirements of national privacy laws. See To date, this procedure has never been invoked.

They have completely ignored or are ignorant of the very important difference between data collection and display. As I mentioned in my comments on this particular subject:

The IRT recommendation for Thick WHOIS as implemented by the .BIZ and .INFO registries could be put forward for incorporation into the next version of the Guidebook, but the IRT should also recognize that variations may occur depending on local law (Telnic is one example). In other words, the data that is displayed to the public vs. the data that is actually captured is something that needs to be clarified.
As I already stated, I would have huge issues with the display of personally identifiable data without there being safeguards in place. The .tel implementation is very sane and balances individual’s rights to privacy with law enforcements requirements

In essence if the IRT has their way private individuals will be left with three options:

  1. Not register domains if they value their privacy
  2. Provide bogus contact information, while this may breach registry rules it’s quite easy to provide plausible information that is not correct
  3. Use a proxy service, which would again lead to issues of display (self defeating?)

The IRT’s take on WHOIS is incredibly shortsighted and contradictory.

From their report (my emphasis added):

In order to test the efficacy of each proposal and the solution to be developed by the IRT Sub-Groups based upon the proposals prioritized, the IRT also developed the following list of questions to be asked as a benchmarking checklist against which to measure all proposals:
what are the harms that are being addressed by the solution;
will it scale;
does it accommodate territorial variations in trademark rights;
does it conform to extent of actual legal rights;
does it work in light of IDNs;
can it be gamed and abused;
is it the least-burdensome solution;
is it technologically feasible;
how will it affect consumers and competition; and
what are the costs and who pays them.

There is no clear distinction to my knowledge between a “user” and a “consumer”, as a “consumer” can also encompass registrants, who, as private individuals have rights.
While a right to privacy may not be guaranteed under US law, it is definitely guaranteed under EU law, so how a namespace for global use, which may be legally constituted within the EU could be compatible with a “thick whois” display is beyond me.
And as I already mentioned, abuse of whois is child’s play. So by ignoring registrants’ rights to privacy they seem to be doing themselves no favours.

With regard to proxy registration services the IRT does consider them worthy of research, but doesn’t actually make any firm statement on them:

However, the IRT did identify one proposal, in particular, that it believes should be further considered to determine whether it has any merit; namely the development of universal standards and practices for proxy domain name registration
Many of those who filed comments to the DAG have asked that ICANN consider the issue of proxy domain name registrations with regard to new gTLDs. The IRT
recognizes that proxy domain name registration services raise complex concerns that require a great deal more analysis and consideration that were outside the limited time frame available. As a result, the IRT takes no position at this time on proxy domain name registrations. The IRT does recommend, however, that ICANN consider this issue and report to the community on whether it should or is able to make any recommendations with regard to the use, standards and practices of proxy registrations.
The timetable of such recommendations may be independent of the timetable for the introduction of new gTLDs, but the IRT strongly recommends that ICANN’s consideration of this issue commence as soon as possible.

Considering how much of a policy “football” whois is in ICANN circles it is understandable that the IRT did not wish to get too deeply embroiled, but that they would also insist on their thick whois model is abhorrent.

Other areas that caused issues for people in the draft report have also been more or less ignored. While the original draft report spoke of a specific number of trademark registrations qualifying an IP holder to special protection, they have toned this down in the final document. Unfortunately they still haven’t dropped the idea completely, so the “tiered” trademark holder concept is still alive and well in IRTville.

It is obvious to anyone reading this final report that the document was drafted from the perspective of intellectual property rights owners only, and even within that group only the “heavyweights” seem to really matter.

George Kirikos sums up some of the issues very nicely:

The URS in particular is an extremist view of trademark rights, tilted in favour of IP interests co
mpared to the UDRP and beyond what is protected or

recognized by law and due process. It also obfuscates the dual requirement of BOTH bad faith use AND registration (there are lots of inconsistencies in the
language that seek to weaken the standard to make it “OR” instead of “AND”).
The level of defaults will be even higher than the UDRP simply because good faith registrants never receive actual notice of complaints. Even faxes were
considered too expensive! A 1 page fax, using email-to-fax technology (so it can easily be automated by the URS provider) would cost less than $1 ANYWHERE
in the world! The IRT team should try sending registered letters in a statistically valid sample size and measure how long it takes them to be
delivered to different parts of the world — it can be more than a week, even from the USA to Canada, let alone from Europe to Canada

As I mentioned previously, not all WIPO UDRP decisions go as smoothly for trademark holders as they would like. In many cases the trademark holders seem to work under the assumption that their trademark and IP gives them rights that negate those of 3rd parties.

Of course, in common with other ICANN documents, there is now a public comment period open for people to make their feelings heard. You don’t need to be a registrar or anything special to make your voice heard.

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