Intellectual property debate heats up, as ICANN looks to the future

The future's better late than never


ICANN Lisbon The first day of the ICANN meetings in Lisbon had a certain predisposition to it. Lost luggage complaints, which oddly dovetailed with a certain ICANN-induced weariness, seemed to be more prevalent than concerns about the organization itself. A kind of internet industry bonding ritual had begun, along the lines of Monday morning at the water cooler.

The opening day speeches reinforced that feeling of familiarity. Everybody seemed to be getting to know each other again after an extended absence.

The second day had more of a feeling of sleeves being rolled up, as everyone involved broke off into groups of particular interest. One of the difficulties of this arrangement is that with so many worthwhile topics being discussed, and some of the sessions being all-day affairs, you need to make a decision early on about how to approach the day.

I decided to focus on the registrar and intellectual property angles, which have revolved around the issuance of new top level domains (TLDs), and the privacy debate surrounding the Whois database.

The arduous task of approving new TLDs has dogged ICANN for years. In what is essentially a kind of virtual land rush, ICANN has taken it upon itself to determine the who, what, where and when of entirely new classes of property rights.

Although the .xxx argument is the most famous, and has yet to be resolved (allegedly sometime this week), the problems created by this approach are really more complicated than the moralistic issues that so often surrounded that debate. In fact, the .travel/.aero debate of a few years ago proved as divisive if not more, due to the stubborn odyssee of Edward Hasbrouck, a travel writer, to determine why a relatively narrow industry group had received an entire TLD to the exclusion of all other stakeholders.

ICANN's bylaws require it to "operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner". Instead, following approval of .aero by ICANN's Board of Directors, the rules for .aero were drafted by ICANN staff in secret meetings with Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA). These rules differ radically from the original proposal, in that only suppliers of travel services, not consumer advocates, are allowed to register .aero domain names. Consumers and travellers aren't welcome. Members of the "aviation media" can register .aero domain names, but only if they "promote" air transportation. No critics or muckrakers need apply.

The current process seems to be far more inclusive than the divisive process that had Hasbrouck hounding ICANN for years for information regarding the process that led to the approval of the .travel/.aero TLDs, but it still begs the question of just what kind of rights ICANN is granting, and why and how certain people or groups become excluded from obtaining those rights.

ICANN, as it states in its own literature, exists to promote the security and stability of the internet. Part of that responsibility consists of providing a coherent framework for the net itself, which may indeed include organizing the TLDs in a manner that is easily comprehensible to the public.

In fact, today's discussion in the intellectual property forum provided a nice example of how a more inclusive ICANN process ought to work. The sponsors of .asia have provided a very orderly procedure for ensuring that current trademark holders can maintain that trademark, essentially establishing a three-step procedure with current trademark users at the front of the line.

One participant in the discussion noted that in many jurisdictions the first to register a trademark takes precedence over anyone using a sufficiently similar mark that has not been registered, which could lead to problems in certain jurisdictions, Edmon Chung of .asia noted that it specifically intended that current users, whether located in Asia or not, retain their rights with a minimum of potential litigation. After all, the point is for people or companies actually to use the names, not to squat on them.

The nexus to Asia is sufficiently loose to enable almost anyone with an established trademark to register it through .asia - only one of the tech, admin, billing or registrant parties involved needs to be in Asia, which includes the Marshall Islands, an American protectorate. Thus, just about any American company will be able to qualify. Admittedly, geographical distinctions are easier to draw than substantive distinctions, as in the .travel/.aero domains, but again the openness of the process is what matters. Conflicts would be dealt with through public auction, though that raises the question of economic might versus legal right.

Next page: Whois

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Meet Wizard Spider, the multimillion-dollar gang behind Conti, Ryuk malware
    Russia-linked crime-as-a-service crew is rich, professional – and investing in R&D

    Analysis Wizard Spider, the Russia-linked crew behind high-profile malware Conti, Ryuk and Trickbot, has grown over the past five years into a multimillion-dollar organization that has built a corporate-like operating model, a year-long study has found.

    In a technical report this week, the folks at Prodaft, which has been tracking the cybercrime gang since 2021, outlined its own findings on Wizard Spider, supplemented by info that leaked about the Conti operation in February after the crooks publicly sided with Russia during the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

    What Prodaft found was a gang sitting on assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars funneled from multiple sophisticated malware variants. Wizard Spider, we're told, runs as a business with a complex network of subgroups and teams that target specific types of software, and has associations with other well-known miscreants, including those behind REvil and Qbot (also known as Qakbot or Pinkslipbot).

    Continue reading
  • Supreme Court urged to halt 'unconstitutional' Texas content-no-moderation law
    Everyone's entitled to a viewpoint but what's your viewpoint on what exactly is and isn't a viewpoint?

    A coalition of advocacy groups on Tuesday asked the US Supreme Court to block Texas' social media law HB 20 after the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last week lifted a preliminary injunction that had kept it from taking effect.

    The Lone Star State law, which forbids large social media platforms from moderating content that's "lawful-but-awful," as advocacy group the Center for Democracy and Technology puts it, was approved last September by Governor Greg Abbott (R). It was immediately challenged in court and the judge hearing the case imposed a preliminary injunction, preventing the legislation from being enforced, on the basis that the trade groups opposing it – NetChoice and CCIA – were likely to prevail.

    But that injunction was lifted on appeal. That case continues to be litigated, but thanks to the Fifth Circuit, HB 20 can be enforced even as its constitutionality remains in dispute, hence the coalition's application [PDF] this month to the Supreme Court.

    Continue reading
  • How these crooks backdoor online shops and siphon victims' credit card info
    FBI and co blow lid off latest PHP tampering scam

    The FBI and its friends have warned businesses of crooks scraping people's credit-card details from tampered payment pages on compromised websites.

    It's an age-old problem: someone breaks into your online store and alters the code so that as your customers enter their info, copies of their data is siphoned to fraudsters to exploit. The Feds this week have detailed one such effort that reared its head lately.

    As early as September 2020, we're told, miscreants compromised at least one American company's vulnerable website from three IP addresses: 80[.]249.207.19, 80[.]82.64.211 and 80[.]249.206.197. The intruders modified the web script TempOrders.php in an attempt to inject malicious code into the checkout.php page.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022