This set of FAQs reflects questions ICANN has received from many different sources, including firstname.lastname@example.org. This section will be periodically updated in order to keep the public well informed of operations and developments concerning the organization.
(Posted September 13, 1999)
Q: What is ICANN doing regarding resolution of trademark/domain-name disputes?
A: As envisioned in the U.S. Government's White Paper on Management of Internet Names and Addresses, one of the issues ICANN has been addressing is a dispute-resolution policy for trademark/domain name disputes. At the ICANN meeting held August 24-26, 1999 in Santiago, Chile, ICANN's Board of Directors adopted a dispute resolution policy to be applied uniformly by all ICANN-accredited registrars in the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains.
Q: How are disputes to be handled under the policy?
A: In general, the policy provides that registrars receiving complaints concerning the impact of domain names they have registered on trademarks or service marks will take no action until they receive instructions from the domain-name holder or an order of a court, arbitrator, or other neutral decision maker deciding the parties' dispute. There is an exception in the policy, however, for disputes involving domain names that are shown to have been registered in abusive attempts to profit from another's trademark (i.e. cybersquatting and cyberpiracy). In these cases of abusive registration, the complaining party can invoke a special administrative procedure to resolve the dispute. Under this procedure, the dispute will be decided by neutral persons selected from panels established for that purpose. The procedure will be handled in large part online, is designed to take less than 45 days, and is expected to cost about $1000 in fees to be paid to the entities providing the neutral persons. Parties to such disputes will also be able to go to court to resolve their dispute or to contest the outcome of the procedure.
Q: What process was used to formulate the policy?
A: In 1997 and 1998, the U.S. Government, in connection with its formulation of the Green Paper and the White Paper on privatization of management of the Internet domain-name system, received many comments regarding problems that had arisen concerning disputes between holders of domain names and holders of trademarks. At the conclusion of this process, the U.S. Government invited the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to conduct a study of the relationship between domain names and intellectual property and make recommendations to ICANN. After a ten-month process of public consultation, WIPO presented recommendations on dispute resolution on April 30, 1999.
At the May 25-27, 1999 ICANN meeting (held in Berlin), ICANN's Board of Directors endorsed the principle that there should be a uniform dispute-resolution policy for all registrars that register names in the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains, and asked the ICANN Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) to study the issues and make recommendations concerning dispute resolution. In view of the impending introduction of competition by many registrars under the Shared Registry System testbed program, the Board also called on the ICANN-accredited testbed registrars to work together to formulate a model dispute-resolution policy for prompt voluntary adoption.
On August 3, 1999, the DNSO recommended to ICANN's Board that it adopt a uniform dispute-resolution policy for all registrars in the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains. Later in August, a group of about 20 registrars (including testbed registrars, post-testbed registrars, and Network Solutions) presented a model policy they had worked together to prepare. These two proposed policies, which were quite similar in principle, were considered by various groups, including ICANN's Board, at the August 1999 ICANN meeting held in Santiago, Chile.
Q: Was the public given an opportunity to provide input?
A: Yes. Throughout the process, there were many invitations for public comment, both online and at meetings held throughout the world. These invitations started in the U.S. Government's Green and White Paper processes in 1997 and 1998, and continued in the WIPO consultations and in connection with the analysis conducted by ICANN's DNSO. As a result, several thousand comments were received from a broad array of Internet stakeholders. The resulting policy is the collective effort of dozens of individuals who worked to find the best reconciliation of and compromise among all the comments.
Q: Is the policy that was adopted the one that WIPO presented on April 30?
A: In its April 30 report, WIPO recommended several general principles for dispute resolution and presented a written policy and procedures that would implement those principles. Based on the work of the DNSO and the registrars' group, as well as public comment, there was strong general support for most of the WIPO-recommended principles.
However, some groups in the ICANN community, particularly those representing non-commercial organizations and individual domain-name holders, voiced concerns that some aspects of the policy would have unintended consequences or did not adequately meet their concerns regarding individual and non-commercial uses, free speech, rights to court review, and reverse domain-name hijacking. In response, ICANN's Board determined that some clarifications and revisions should be made to address these concerns.
Q: How will the policy be implemented?
A: Every ICANN-accredited registrar has agreed to adhere to the dispute-resolution policies that ICANN adopts under its established consensus procedures. At the Santiago meeting, ICANN's Board directed the ICANN president, working with staff and counsel, to prepare implementation documents. Once those documents are completed and approved by the Board after considering any public comments, the will go into effect as part of registration agreements between registrars and their customers.
Q: How are the implementation documents being prepared?
A: Following guidance in the resolutions passed by ICANN's Board at the Santiago meeting, ICANN's president has established a small drafting committee that will use the model written policy and procedures prepared by the registrars' group as a starting point and make revisions to reflect the clarified and revised principles that were approved by the Board in response to public comment.
Q: What are the clarifications and revisions?
A: The resolutions adopted by ICANN's Board set forth some clarifications and revisions to be made to the policies recommended by WIPO, the DNSO, and the registrars' group. The resolutions reflect both the sentiment expressed at the DNSO General Assembly meeting on August 24, 1999 and various public comments received that a uniform policy should be adopted promptly, but that clarifications and revisions should be made to (a) to tighten up the definition of cybersquatting and cyberpiracy so that legitimate individual, non-commercial, and free-speech activities are not impaired; (b) to give both parties equal rights to challenge administrative decisions in court; and (c) to define, and to minimize use of the policy for, reverse domain-name hijacking.
Q: Who is on the drafting committee?
A: The drafting committee consists of Louis Touton (ICANN counsel), Kathryn A. Kleiman (of the Association for Computing Machinery's Internet Governance Committee, a member of the DNSO Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders' Constituency, and co-founder of the Domain Name Rights Coalition), Steven J. Metalitz (General Counsel of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a member of the DNSO Trademark, Intellectual Property, Anti-counterfeiting Interests Constituency), Rita A. Rodin (of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, retained by America Online, a member of the DNSO Registrars Constituency), A. Michael Froomkin (of the University of Miami School of Law, a former member of the WIPO Panel of Experts), and J. Scott Evans (of the Adams Law Firm P.A., a member of the International Trademark Association's Internet Committee and chair of its DNS subcommittee). These individuals were selected because of their legal drafting abilities and because they represent a diversity of viewpoints that spans individual, non-commercial, business, intellectual property, and registrar concerns and interests.
Q: What is the responsibility of the drafting committee?
A: The drafting committee's charter is not to establish policy, but instead to prepare documents implementing the policies expressed in the resolutions adopted by ICANN's Board at the August 1999 meeting in Santiago. The committee expects to prepare two main implementation documents: a statement of the dispute resolution policy that includes a precise set of criteria for establishing "abusive registration" and a set of procedures to be used for administrative resolution of disputes involving abusive registrations. The Board has asked that the drafting be completed on a schedule that allows the policy to be put into place by mid-October.
Q: Will the public have input on the implementation documents?
A: Yes. Once the drafting committee completes the implementation documents, they will be posted on the www.icann.org website (this is scheduled to occur during the week of September 20) for comment on whether or not they faithfully implement the policies adopted at the August meeting. During the drafting process, any comments on the implementation documents may be sent (preferably by e-mail) to any or all members of the committee.
Q: What will happen after public comment on the implementation documents?
A: After an opportunity for public comment, ICANN's Board will consider whether the documents appropriately reflect the policies it adopted at the Santiago meeting and whether they should be approved. Unless it finds the implementation documents are not consistent with the policy adopted in Santiago, or that they raise other issues requiring further consideration, ICANN's Board will promptly consider approving the implementation documents, probably at a telephone meeting. To the extent that the implementation documents prepared by the drafting committee would or may entail revisions to the policies adopted by the Board, the Board may either require revisions in the implementation documents or consider whether policy revisions are needed. If significant revisions are entailed, the Board may determine that it is appropriate to act on those revisions only after public notice and opportunity to comment, including at a public forum held for that purpose. The next ICANN public forum is currently scheduled for November 3, 1999, in Los Angeles, California.
Q: After the policy is implemented, can it be changed if problems arise?
A: Yes. ICANN's DNSO is responsible on an ongoing basis for studying and making recommendations concerning policies relating to the Internet domain-name system. In presenting its recommendation to ICANN's Board for adoption of a uniform dispute-resolution policy, the DNSO recognized that experience under the policy should be monitored and improvements should be made as appropriate.
(Posted September 13, 1999)
Q: What's the status of ICANN's At Large membership? How and when will ICANN Directors be elected by Internet users?
A: ICANN is working hard to implement an At Large membership structure through which the 9 At Large Directors on the ICANN Board will be elected by the members of the global Internet community. The following paragraphs outline the history of the effort, and the current implementation plan.
Background. In July, 1997, the Clinton Administration published an executive order calling for privatization of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) and began an open and consultative policy development process which lead to the publication of a document entitled "Management of Internet Names and Addresses," commonly known as the White Paper, in June, 1998 . The White Paper stated the desire of the U.S. Government that a private, non-profit corporation be formed to assume responsibility for the Domain Name and IP addressing systems and certain related functions, and called for proposals to be submitted to accomplish this goal.
White Paper Position on Representation in new DNS Corporation. With respect to representation, the White Paper stated,
"The new corporation should operate as a private entity for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole. The development of sound, fair, and widely accepted policies for the management of DNS will depend on input from the broad and growing community of Internet users. Management structures should reflect the functional and geographic diversity of the Internet and its users. Mechanisms should be established to ensure international participation in decision making."
Speaking further to actions to be taken by the Board of Directors of the new corporation, the White Paper proposed that the entity's organizational documents:
"2) direct the Interim Board to establish a system for electing a Board of Directors for the new corporation that insures that the new corporation's Board of Directors reflects the geographical and functional diversity of the Internet, and is sufficiently flexible to permit evolution to reflect changes in the constituency of Internet stakeholders. Nominations to the Board of Directors should preserve, as much as possible, the tradition of bottom-up governance of the Internet, and Board Members should be elected from membership or other associations open to all or through other mechanisms that ensure broad representation and participation in the election process."
Department of Commerce Requirement concerning ICANN Membership. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) recognized ICANN -- the corporation proposed by Dr. Jon Postel in September, 1998 -- in a Memorandum of Understanding/Joint Project Agreement dated November 25, 1998. With regard to membership, the MOU specified that ICANN and DOC would, "8. Collaborate on the design, development, and testing of appropriate membership mechanisms that foster accountability to and representation of the global and functional diversity of the Internet and its users, within the structure of the private-sector DNS management organization."
ICANN Membership Advisory Committee. The ICANN Bylaws provide for four organizational units having membership attributes. Three of the units are named "Supporting Organizations" (SO) and are designed to provide specific mechanisms for the participation of business and technical interests in the policy development and consensus mechanisms of ICANN. The fourth is an At Large membership designed to ensure adequate representation, on a worldwide basis, of the interests of all Internet users. Each SO names three ICANN Directors, while the At Large membership names nine, for a total of eighteen elected Directors and an ex officio voting Chief Executive Officer. Consistent with both Internet tradition and the guidance of the White Paper, the ICANN Board has worked closely with the Internet community to support bottom-up and self-organizing efforts for all four of its membership entities. As of August, 1999, constituents of each of the Supporting Organizations had submitted and received approval of proposals for their creation and self-administration.
Seeking advice from the community on the complex issues associated with creation of an At Large membership, ICANN created a Membership Advisory Committee (MAC) in January, 1999, and asked for its recommendations on a range of membership policy and procedural issues. To assist the MAC with its work, ICANN commissioned a study by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The MAC's interim report was given to the Board at its meeting in Singapore in March, 1999 and a final report and commentary was delivered at its meeting in Berlin, in May, 1999.
ICANN Board Actions to Create At Large Membership. By resolution at its Berlin meeting, the ICANN Board asked staff to review the Membership Advisory Committee (MAC) report and commentary and make recommendations to the Board, for consideration at its Santiago, Chile, meeting in August, 1999, on an implementation plan that was responsive to the MAC's suggestions.
Also in Berlin, the Board adopted four general principles to guide the creation of an At Large membership for ICANN:
1. "Members" should be individuals, and only "members" should vote for At Large Directors.
2. The election process for At Large Directors should take place in stages, to allow for adjustments in the process based on experience.
3. At Large Directors should be geographically diverse and broadly representative of the Internet user community.
4. The costs of At Large membership should be borne by the At Large members.
Two staff reports on At Large membership were prepared for the Santiago meeting, one dealing with analysis and recommendations on an implementation plan, and the other dealing with legal questions concerning membership provisions in California non-profit corporation statutes.
After considering the staff reports and hearing public comment, the Board took a series of actions on At Large membership at the recent Santiago meeting. Together with its Berlin resolutions and the recommendations of the MAC, these decisions establish the basic structure for an ICANN At Large Membership.
In addition, to give some sustainable momentum to the planning and implementation of a large and globally diverse membership, the ICANN Board authorized the creation of a Membership Implementation Task Force, whose members will initially focus on membership outreach.
ICANN At Large Membership Structure. After considering a range of issues affecting structure, the ICANN Directors have adopted an indirect representation mechanism in which an At Large membership of a minimum size of 5000 individuals will elect an At Large Council composed of up to eighteen members. The At Large Council will in turn select nine individuals to become the At Large Directors of ICANN. Up to ten members of the At Large Council will be elected from each of the five geographic regions into which ICANN is currently divided, with no two regional members coming from the same country. The remaining up to eight members will be elected from a single global pool of candidates, with no restrictions on geographic origin.
Balancing a desire to encourage wide participation in ICANN membership on a worldwide basis with the need to protect against election fraud, the minimum requirements for an individual to become an At Large member will be (a) completion of an online membership application, including a statement of a commitment to participate in ICANN's activities; (b) a working Internet email address; and (c) a single physical residence verified by a postal mail address.
At Large Membership Implementation. The initial appointed At Large Directors of ICANN wish to proceed expeditiously with implementation of the At Large membership so that their elected successors may take office as soon as possible. However, translation of the membership structure that has been adopted by the Board into detailed plans and procedures that can operate faultlessly in a worldwide, interactive Internet environment requires significant staff and technical resources.
The membership implementation plan, which is being developed under the direction of interim President/CEO Mike Roberts, has six program elements, which will proceed in a parallel but coordinated manner.
(1) Identify a funding source sufficient to meet the minimum expenditure requirements of the initial phase of the At Large membership program. An estimated budget of $100,000 has been adopted.
(2) Engage staff to manage and implement the program for at least the next six months. A membership program manager position has been defined and created. A search for qualified applicants will begin as soon as funding is assured.
(3) Complete plans for the creation of an At Large membership component of ICANN. The membership program manager will be responsible for development of detailed plans, resource requirements and timing. The plan will be based on previous work by the MAC and ICANN staff, Board membership resolutions, and assistance from the new Membership Implementation Task Force.
(4) Obtain necessary computer and network resources to support the membership database and applications. The membership database and online server will be located at the ICANN administrative headquarters in Marina del Rey, California, using ICANN computer facilities and under the supervision of ICANN technical staff. Design, development, installation and testing of membership software and hardware will be contracted to a qualified technical services firm.
(5) Provide administrative and logistic support for the new Membership Implementation Task Force. The membership program manager will be primary liaison to the task force, whose intended functions include carrying out a worldwide outreach program to recruit At Large members, reviewing specifications for membership computer programs, assisting with organization of the At Large Council, providing independent oversight of the initial At Large Council election, and proposing a permanent funding mechanism for the At Large Membership.
(6) Specify, develop and test necessary processes and procedures and hold the first At Large Council election. Depending on progress toward meeting the minimum At Large membership threshold requirement of 5000 individual members, the ICANN Board is expected to approve election procedures and set a date for the first election of members of the At Large Council at its first meeting in the year 2000, currently expected to be the first week in March. Prior to approving the election date, the membership staff, working with the task force, will have completed and tested the required computer programs and related fraud protection provisions of the election procedures.
(Posted September 13, 1999)
Q: When will ICANN create new generic top level domains, such as .arts, .shop, .store, .news, .sex, etc.?
A: ICANN and its constituent organizations have recently begun the process of considering whether, how, and when to add new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to the domain name system. In recent years, a number of plans have been proposed to create new gTLDs, such as .firm, .store, .law, and .arts., and some companies have even taken orders for them. ICANN, which administers the domain name system, has not yet made a decision for or against the addition of new generic top-level domains. The ICANN process provides for the development of consensus-based policies (such as policies concerning new names) in an open, transparent and bottom-up manner in which interested individuals have an opportunity to participate and comment.
There are many arguments both for and against new gTLDs: for example, those in favor argue that new gTLDs are technically easy to create, will help relieve perceived scarcities in existing name spaces, and are consistent with a general push towards consumer choice and diversity of options; those opposed point to greater possibilities for consumer confusion, the risk of increased trademark infringement, cybersquatting and cyberpiracy.
ICANN's Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) has primary responsibility for making a recommendation on new gTLDs to the ICANN Board. On May 27, 1999, the ICANN Board of Directors referred to the DNSO a set of recommendations on new gTLDs submitted by the World Intellectual Property Organization; the DNSO's provisional Names Council responded by creating a Working Group to review the issue. Any individual interested in participating in the DNSO's Working Group on the creation of new gTLDs should visit <http://www.dnso.org/listsdnso.html>.
For more on the DNSO and its working groups, click here.
For background on ICANN's role in this area, see the U.S. Department of Commerce's White Paper , which called upon ICANN to "develop policies for the addition of TLDs, and establish the qualifications for domain name registries and domain name registrars within the system."
For the WIPO recommendations on new gTLDs, click here.
(Posted September 13, 1999)
Q: How can my company apply for accreditation to sell domain name registrations in the .com, .net, and .org domains?
A: Click here for the registrar accreditation application, together with instructions and a range of background materials.
Q: Is there a deadline for registrar accreditation applications?
A: No. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. ICANN endeavors to make accreditation decisions within 30 days of receiving applications.
Q: Which companies have already been accredited as registrars for the .com, .net, and .org domains.
A: Click here for the list of accredited companies; click here for descriptions and contact information for those companies.
Q: What happened at ICANN's meetings in Santiago?
A: Click here for the resolutions adopted by the Board. Click here for the multimedia archives of various meetings, including the ICANN Public Forum, the meeting of the Initial Board of Directors, the Governmental Advisory Committee's public forum, and the meetings of the DNSO General Assembly and the DNSO Names Council.
Q: What happened at ICANN's meetings in Berlin?
A: Click here for the resolutions adopted by the Board. Click here for the multimedia archives of various meetings, including the ICANN Public Forum, the Governmental Advisory Committee's public forum, and the meeting of the DNSO General Assembly.
Q: What happened at ICANN's meetings in Singapore?
A: ICANN held a series of meetings in Singapore March 2-4: Committee meetings for the Governmental Advisory Committee, DNS Root Server System Advisory Committee, and Advisory Committee on Membership; a public forum at which potential ICANN action items were discussed; and an ICANN Board of Directors meeting.
The multimedia archive of the meetings is available at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/icann/singapore-0399/archive/. A communique generated at the Governmental Advisory Committee meeting is posted at http://www.icann.org/gac-comm-02mar99.html.
A summary of the Board meeting results is available at http://www.icann.org/statement.html, and the draft meeting minutes are posted at http://www.icann.org/minutes/minutes-4mar99.html. Among other important actions, the Board of Directors determined the requirements for accreditation of domain name registrars in the .com, .net and .org top-level domains (TLDs); and determined the structure for ICANNs Domain Name Supporting Organization.
(Posted December 2, 1998)
Q. Will ICANN reimburse expenses for participants in advisory committees, including the Membership Advisory Committee?
A. Pending the identification of an ICANN funding mechanism and the actual receipt of funds, ICANN's resources to support meeting and travel expenses of its committees is very limited. We ask that committee members assist us by assuming personal responsibility for their travel expenses, if possible. ICANN will consider reimbursing reasonable expenses, but since we have no money yet, we cannot guarantee complete reimbursement. To reduce travel costs, committees will conduct much of their business via phone and the Internet, and ICANN will facilitate phone participation in face-to-face meetings as necessary.
For those committee participants for whom self-funding is impossible, ICANN will make every effort to either provide funding or assist participants in identifying outside funding sources.