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Never mind that naked selfie scandal... Brazil lights the, er, kindling, dot-Amazon saga roars back into life

Seven-year battle could be finally coming to an end

Updated A seven-year fight over the introduction of .amazon top-level domains may finally be resolved this week with crunch talks in Brazil.

South American governments are furious at DNS overseer ICANN for refusing to put Amazon's application for the dot-word on permanent, hold and have insisted that ICANN's CEO come to Brasilia to thrash out a deal.

"The meeting would take place at ACTO headquarters, at any day between February 12 and 19," reads a letter [PDF] from the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) that is made up of representatives from the governments that the monster river runs through. And the plan is to "develop the mutually acceptable solution that is necessary, as per GAC Advice, if the '.Amazon' applications are to move forward."

That is a meeting that ICANN and its CEO Goran Marby have been actively avoiding for years, and for good reason. As an indicator of just how testy such a meeting will be, the letter requesting it wasn't even sent to Marby directly: it was (somewhat passively aggressively) sent through the chair of ICANN's governmental advisory committee (GAC).

It also pointedly notes that the meeting would "offer the very first opportunity for ACTO member States to dialogue with the ICANN President and CEO."

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The truth is that the Brazilian and Peruvian governments thought they had successfully squashed the application by US online monster retailer Amazon to add ".amazon" to the internet after they pressured the GAC to formally object to it.

That objection – back in 2012 - was itself suspicious because it came after the application had already been successfully evaluated. At the time, the sudden aversion to .amazon being added to the internet was thought to be a direct response from then-president Dilma Rousseff who was furious to discover that the NSA had been tapping her cell phone and wanted to send a message to the United States in as many ways as possible.

But ICANN gamely played along because it was worried about upsetting several governments and put the application on a "Will Not Proceed" footing. Amazon the retailer however was not happy and has spent the past seven years forcing ICANN to admit that it had no real reason to block the application.

So, an explanation?

It took the organization through its own independent review processes and three retired judges concluded that the ICANN Board and staff had broken their own bylaws and been less than fair or truthful in their decision-making. There was, the panel noted, no actual explanation or justification for its decision to block the name.

That decision was two years ago and ICANN has tried to stay out of the fray, saying that it was up to Amazon and ACTO to thrash out a deal. But after a year of talks, during which Amazon promised to give the governments millions of dollars of free Kindles and AWS hosting if they would just let the issue drop, zero progress had been made.

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As a result, ICANN's Board was obliged to act and through a tortuous series of board resolutions tried to force ACTO to reach an agreement with Amazon. But nothing worked and eventually ICANN had to officially decide that the application would move forward.

At which point ACTO also went through ICANN's exhaustive and largely pointless appeal mechanisms, claiming that the organization had acted without full knowledge of the issue. ICANN rejected that and late last month told ACTO, through a letter sent to the GAC chair, that the issue was done and dusted and it would make a decision at its public meeting next month in Japan. Or, in other words, it is going to add .amazon to the internet in March.

"Let me assure you that the Board and I consider this recent turn of events to be truly unfortunate," Marby groveled in the missive. "We sincerely hope that we can put any misunderstanding between ACTO and ourselves behind us and move forward together in a constructive and positive manner that enables all parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution."

The next day the letter from ACTO insisting on a face-to-face meet-up in Brasilia was sent. We don't know yet if Marby will actually go and face a grilling, or find some reason to decline and risk incurring the wrath of the governments of Brazil and Peru.

We've asked ICANN if its CEO is going to get on a plane and try to strike a deal that will finally end the saga, or if he'll continue to hide out in Los Angeles. So far, we've not had a response. ®

PS: Amazon at times takes the tips earned by its contracted delivery drivers and uses them to fund their base pay, it is claimed.

Updated to add

We're told that Goran Marby has confirmed he will meet with ACTO in Brasilia but ICANN has yet to say anything official.

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