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Individuals Fight for a Voice Within ICANN


Individuals Fight for a Voice Within ICANN

By Nick Patience 

Many in the internet community are worried that the Internet 
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is ignoring 
the individual domain name holders in these crucial formative 
months. At the forthcoming board meeting and preceding public 
meeting, ICANN is due to recognize seven key constituency 
groups within its domain name supporting organization (DNSO). 
These groups will represent various interests within the 
industry, such as ISPs and domain name registrars, and they 
will elect representatives to a names council, which will be 
the DNSO's steering committee, in effect. In turn, the DNSO 
will be entitled to three of the 19 seats on the full ICANN 
board, which will probably come into effect later this year. 

But missing from the list of seven constituency groups proposed 
by ICANN was one representing individuals who hold domain 
names, which is obviously a fast-growing, but disparate group. 
The seven constituencies ICANN wants to see formed are: 
country-code registries; commercial and business entities; 
generic domain registries; ISPs; non-commercial domain holders; 
registrars; and trademark intellectual property and 
anti-counterfeiting interests. There is no limitation on the 
number of constituencies in which an entity can participate, 
but no more than one employee of each entity will be permitted 
to serve on the names council at any one time. 

ICANN has said that it will look at a constituency representing 
individuals, even though it thinks most individuals can fit 
into one or more of the seven groups it has proposed 
(04/13/99). ICANN chairman Esther Dyson says the board wants to 
see the seven constituencies that it has outlined take shape 
before any others will be recognized, but says additional 
constituencies are possible. However, she adds that "they will 
have to come up with a good reason for their existence" and 
that the board will encourage them to speak to the other 
constituencies before trying to start up their own 

But some in the community have already started to form 
themselves into groups purporting to specifically represent the 
interests of individual domain holders. They see the existence 
of such a group crucial if the policies of the DNSO - and by 
extension, ICANN itself - are not to be dominated by commercial 
and trademark- holding interests. The main group that has 
popped its head above the parapet is a movement started by Joop 
Teernstra of the New Zealand Internet Registry Ltd, which 
trades under the name Domainz, registering names in the .nz 
country code. He has been joined by various supporters and has 
proposed calling the individual domain name owners constituency 
the Cyberspace Association (http://www.democracy .org.nz/idno). 

One of its supporters, Jay Fenello of Iperdome Inc says that 
many feel that the non-commercial domain name holders (NCDNH) 
constituency is in danger of being dominated by large groups 
such as the Internet Society (ISOC) and Educause, the 
non-profit group that represent the interests of US education 
institutions. Indeed, ISOC has launched an effort to form the 
NCDNH and Educause is listed as one of its supporters 
(04/13/99). An alternative proposal to establish the NCDNH has 
been submitted to ICANN by Michael Sondow of the International 
Congress of Independent Internet Users (ICIIU). Sondow has put 
out a call for support ahead of the Berlin meeting and has 
secured the backing of groups including the Electronic Frontier 
Foundation (EFF) and REDI, a Spanish non-commercial internet 
law association. Sondow is also hopeful that Ralph Nader's 
Consumer Project on Technology organization will get behind his 
efforts. (<http://www.iciiu.org/>http://www.iciiu.org). 

In addition, Fenello has set up a trade association-like body 
called the Personal Domain Name Holders Association (PDNHA 
http://www.pdnha.org) in an attempt to focus like-minded people 
in one place to present a "standard interface" in the world of 
internet politics, representing individual domain name holders. 
This is separate from
the efforts to establish a new constituency and says the PDNHA 
will slot into whichever constituency - or constituencies - 
look the most suitable. He has also put out a call for people 
to join him and says the exact legal structure for the 
organization will be finalized once the nature of the NCDNH is 
known, which will presumably become clear post-Berlin.