[ALAC] Closed generic statement

Alan Greenberg alan.greenberg at mcgill.ca
Thu Feb 28 06:00:24 UTC 2013

At Tuesday's ALAC meeting, Evan presented a statement on closed 
generic word domains that gave the two opposing positions that had 
been expressed by various ALAC and At-Large people. I suggested that 
the ALAC not vote for or against that statement, but each member say 
with side they supported. As the discussion evolved, there was some 
discomfort about simply giving a tally of the two sides, and 
moreover, that it ignored a third option that allowed some parts of 
both sides to be supported. I volunteered to work with Evan to create 
a new version.

I did create such a 3rd "in between" option. As we were reviewing it, 
and partially guided by a message from Roberto Gaetano, Evan 
suggested that this in-between option, with some enhancements, could 
be a single statement that most or all of the ALAC could support.

What you see here is an evolution of that statement. Thanks to 
Olivier and Rinalia who identified a number of problems with earlier versions.

The comment period closes on March 7th, so a vote will need to be 
completed by March 6th. I believe that Olivier would like to start a 
vote relatively quickly, so if you have any problems with what you 
see here, please speak up quickly.

This new statement is also posted on the wiki - 



On the whole, the ALAC does not believe that closed generics provide 
public benefit and would prefer that TLDs -- especially for strings 
representing categories -- were not allocated in a way that would 
lock out broad access to sub-domains. Some members of At-Large 
believe, on principle, that all closed generics are harmful to the 
public good. Others believe that, while not necessarily being 
beneficial to end users, closed gTLDs should be allowed as simply 
being consistent with existing practise for lower-level domains.

However, in developing this response to the Board's request, the ALAC 
found the issue to be far more nuanced than the above hard positions 
would suggest. We can foresee innovative business models that might 
allow a closed TLD to be in the public interest. An example might be 
a registry that makes 2nd level names available at no cost to anyone, 
but retains legal control over them. This is similar to the model 
used by Facebook and many blog hosting sites. Allowance should be 
made for applicants interested in widespread sub-domain distribution 
that do not require domain-name sales as a source of revenue, or for 
other forms of sub-domain allocation.

Whether a generic-word string is used with its generic meaning or in 
some other context may also be relevant. The fictitious but famous 
computer manufacturer, Orange Computers Inc. using the TLD ".orange" 
might be acceptable, while the same string used as a closed TLD by a 
California Orange Growers Cooperative (and not allowing access to 
orange producers from Florida or Mediterranean and South American 
countries) might well be considered unacceptable.

Allowing this nuanced approach would likely involve a case by case 
review of how a TLD will be used and how its sub-domains will be 
allocated. Moreover, it would require a contractual commitment to not 
change that model once the TLD is delegated.

In summary, the ALAC believes that completely uncontrolled use of 
generic words as TLDs is not something that ICANN should be 
supporting. However, some instances of generic word TLDs could be 
both reasonable and have very strong benefits of just the sort that 
ICANN was seeking when the TLD space was opened. Such uses should not 
be excluded.

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