TWO ICANN SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS CREATED; OPERATIONAL RESOLUTIONS PASSED AT BERLIN METING OF ICANN INITIAL BOARD
BERLIN, THURSDAY 27th MAY - At a meeting today in Berlin, the Initial Board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) called its Domain Names Supporting Organisation into being, accepted an application to establish a Protocol Supporting Organisation, considered how to handle some of the intellectual property issues relating to the Internet's Domain Name system, reaffirmed its intention to create a system that will permit individuals to select At-Large Directors as soon as possible and adopted several other operational resolutions.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a new, non-profit, international corporation formed to oversee the Internet's core technical management functions. By September 2000, ICANN will have taken over responsibility for co-ordinating the management of the Domain Name system, the allocation of IP address spaces, the coordination of the adoption of new Internet protocol parameters, and the management of the Internet's root server system.
A global agreement on managing these functions is crucial to the Internet, the network that connects millions of different computers and the people who use them. ICANN is still in its formative stages. Its Initial Board's primary task is to complete the organisation of a system of checks and balances to ensure that the Internet's infrastructure is managed to meet the legitimate needs all parties interested in its development.
ICANN made great progress in this direction during a series of meetings in Berlin from 25th to 27th May. These meetings included the Government Advisory Committee meeting (which issued its own communique), the Membership Advisory Committee meeting (whose task is to make recommendations to the Board on the creation of a representative, global and democratic membership system), and constitutive meetings of ICANN's Domain Names Supporting Organisation (more information on these meetings, including in some cases an audio and a video record, are available on the ICANN web site at www.icann.org). They culminated in the Initial Board meeting on 27th May.
The first significant decision the Initial Board took today was the provisional recognition of six self-organised Constituency Organisations representing parties interested in the management of the Domain Name System from six different perspectives. The constituencies, who will elect the Names Council to act as the governing body of the Domain Name Supporting Organisation (DNSO), are the core of the DNSO. The DNSO is one of the three supporting organisations required by ICANN's bylaws (the others are the Address SO and the Protocol SO).
Like its two siblings, the PSO and the ASO, the DNSO will eventually elect three of the 19 Directors who will constitute ICANN's full Board. The DNSO will also prepare recommendations to the Initial Board regarding ICANN's policy oversight of the Internet's Domain Name System (which translates the Internet's numerical addresses into things humans can understand, like www.icann.org). The issues it will eventually be grappling with include the establishment of dispute settlement mechanisms, reconciling the conflicting interests of various Domain Name holders, and whether, how and when to expand the number of top-level domains (such as .com).
The six recognised constituency organisations represent:
The Initial Board deferred the recognition of the seventh constituency, designed to represent non-commercial Domain Name holders. "Their proposal was not yet mature enough," Dyson said. "The Initial Board asked the groups wishing to set it up to collaborate on a new proposal for us to consider next month."
The Initial Board further asked that the gTLD constituency, which currently has only one member (Network Solutions Inc.), nominate only one member to the Names Council (rather than the three provided in the bylaws for each constituency group).
Organising meetings for all seven would-be constituencies were held on the morning of 25 May. A provisional DNSO General Assembly which met thereafter heard their reports and began a fruitful discussion on some of the substantive issues referred to above. Dennis Jennings, the Chairman of CENTR (the Council of European Top-level Domain Name Registries), was appointed acting Chairman of the DNSO General Assembly by public acclamation. He said "I am delighted with the speed with which the Initial Board recognised the six constituency groups. The Initial Board's decision to create a provisional Names Council finely balances due process with the need to start substantive work. Just as importantly, it accurately reflects the tenor of the public discussions of the past two days."
The constitutive work for a second Supporting Organisation, the Protocol Supporting Organisation, was also sufficiently advanced to be accepted by the Initial Board, which consequently passed a resolution welcoming the PSO's formation and asked its prospective members (Internet standards development organisations such as the IETF, the World Wide Web Consortium, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the International Telecommunications Union) to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding formalising the PSO's status. It is hoped that this memorandum will be ready by the time of the IETF's meeting in Oslo in July.
Two of ICANN's three Supporting Organisations have thus been called into being through today's meeting of the Initial Board. This leaves the Address Supporting Organisation as the last one to be created. "I have high hopes that we will be able to accept the efforts of the groups seeking to constitute an ASO by the time of our next open meeting in Santiago," said Esther Dyson, ICANN's Interim Chairman.
The Initial Board also considered a report of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on Domain Name policy commissioned by the United States Government in the same white paper that launched the process of setting up ICANN. WIPO was asked to consider the intellectual property issues posed by the first-come, first-served system by which Domain Names have traditionally been allocated in the Internet. While designed to enable users to reach Internet resources easily, Domain Names have acquired a further significance as business identifiers and as such have come into conflict with the system of trademarks that exists in the off-line world.
Among others, the Initial Board considered a number of issues dealt with in the WIPO report: how the contact details of Domain Name holders should be treated and payments collected by registrars, payment procedures, dispute settlement mechanisms, the policy on "famous names" and potential new gTLDs.
The Initial Board noted that the report's suggestions concerning customer payments and the way registrars should treat the contact details of Domain Name holders are "closely similar" to what ICANN requires in its accreditation agreement with its accredited registrars, and that it has already scheduled a review of those issues early next year.
The Initial Board noted that a uniform dispute settlement mechanism was a necessary element of a competitive registrar system. The Initial Board noted that the scope of this policy should be wider than the cases of abusive registration with which the WIPO report deals, and ultimately cover all commercial dispute issues linked to Domain Name registrations. To this end, ICANN-accredited registrars are being encouraged to develop and voluntarily adopt a model dispute resolution policy while the DNSO has been asked to consider the relevant chapter of the WIPO report, chapter 3, by 31st July, in time for public comment before the Initial Board's next meeting on 26th August.
The Initial Board also referred two other important issues, how to treat "famous names" and whether, how and when to introduce new gTLDs, to the newly formed DNSO for analysis and recommendations.
One of the most complex tasks ICANN faces is creating a workable mechanism to ensure that individual users of the Internet can participate in the election of nine of ICANN's nineteen directors. As the Membership Advisory Committee, which met on 25th May, made clear in its commentary, the logistical, administrative and financial challenges posed are enormous.
Given ICANN's principal responsibility - first and foremost to preserve the operational stability of the Internet - the Initial Board is approaching this issue with the utmost caution. The Initial Board asked its staff and legal counsel to report to it before its next meeting on the administrative, legal and financial issues thrown up by this challenge.
The Initial Board also passed several other resolutions dealing with operational matters. These included its budget (a global envelope of USD 5.9 million was approved for the fiscal year starting on 1 July 1999), and a resolution through which the Initial Board accepted the principles set forth by its Advisory Committee on Independent Review. The Advisory Committee recommended that ICANN set up an Independent Review Board empowered to consider complaints that decisions by the ICANN Board violate of ICANN's bylaws. Details remain to be worked out and the Advisory Committee on Independent Review has been asked to complete a final report for the Initial Board's consideration by 10th August.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a new, non-profit, international corporation formed to oversee a select number of the Internet's core technical management functions. Between now and September 2000, ICANN is gradually taking over responsibility for co-ordinating Domain Name system management, IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment co-ordination, and root server system management.
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