[At-Large] IGO names: is this worth war?

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Tue Nov 1 12:00:41 UTC 2016

Hello everyone,

As the Hyderabad meeting gets underway, we have a potential for a conflict
that, according to some, is a source of utter panic and a critical-enough
battle that it is worth threatening ICANN's stability... and people still
haven't yet fully recovered from the transition and the Ted Cruz scare.

I am speaking of the Governmental Advisory Commitee (GAC) wanting to
reserve about 230 names and acronyms of inter-governmental organizations
 (IGOs), and its threat to pull out of ICANN entirely and take its issues
to the ITU Standardization Assembly.

The whole story can be found in a post at DomainIncite
that contains both profanity and apocalyptic tones.

At the threat of being an ICANN heretic (and it wouldn't be the first
time), I'm on the side of the governments here.

[ Disclosure: I currently work at an agency that would be among the
protected IGOs. However I have been involved in this issue, at the ICANN
working group level, for many years, and my position is no different now
than it was then. ]

While it is overkill to give a blanket ban on every IGO, I would rather
give protection to a handful of organizations that don't need it, in return
for protecting a number of organizations that would be critically impacted
if their names were not protected. I am speaking specifically regarding
organizations that do significant public fundraising in the public good --
the Red Cross (+ Red Crescent, etc), UNICEF, UNHCR, and others

I was involved when the issue first came up in 2011; there was a working
group that was proposing to reserve names for the Red Cross and Olympics in
all gTLDs. Most in the group were either all-for or all-against; I was
split, opposing the Olympic reservations but strongly supporting
reservations of any Red Cross related names or translations.

I still believe that the ICRC needs protection more than the IOC, but given
the choice of protecting both or protecting neither I would absolutely come
down on the side of "both". *There most absolutely is a public interest in
the reservation of names related to the Red Cross, United Nations and other
IGOs, especially those that are engaged in public information or

It matters far more to me that a scammer is prevented before-the-fact from
registering "redcross-italy-earthquake.xyz" than that the domain industry
is free to sell "UNDP.whatever" to a speculator. By the time a URS claim
could be filed against the scammer and adjudicated, the damage is done and
the scammer moves on.

IMO it is not in the interest of the At-Large community to support the
unfettered entitlement of the domain industry to sell whatever it wants
without consideration of consequences. It is in our interests to keep the
public from being harmed through the actions of the DNS. And, *on the
balance*, this means that reserving the names of IGOs serves the public

The domain industry's main counter-argument is that it should be entitled
to sell whatever it wants. It believes that that WHO, the acronym for the
World Health Organization but also a dictionary word, should be fair game
to be sold as a domain to an ageing rock band or anyone else.

But I am concerned that a scammer -- or others with bad intent -- could use
the WHO.something domain to present themselves as the World Health
Organization and either present misinformation or engage in scamming
fundraising. In a public-health context such misuse could have horrible
aftermath.The harm to the domain community by blocking WHO.everything is
less, IMO, than the harm to the public from letting that go to the highest
bidder. (Of course the WHO is always within its ability to permit
who.something to point to the rock band, etc)

​If the counter is that ICANN's MSM process does not allow for this kind of
accommodation -- that the GNSO demands for wide open domains do not provide
for this kind of exception -- then the process is broken. It must be
remembered that -- pre-transition or post- -- ICANN is not itself an IGO.
Sovereign states are not treaty-bound to honor GNSO policy decrees, they do
so through trust and goodwill. If that goodwill is damaged then, ICANN will
pay a heavy and possibly irreversible price.

There are many good places to take a principled stand in support of the MSM
and against dictatorial control of the DNS. But reserving IGO names is not
one of those good places. As much as I abhor the reserving of the string
"olympic", that speaks more to my personal belief in the corruption of the
IOC than principled opposition to the concept.

If the ALAC is consulted on this issue -- or if it considers issuing advice
on its own initiative -- I simply ask that it asserts the point of view of
the public interest, which is not always in selling the maximum number of
domains for the maximum obtainable price.

Thank you.
Evan Leibovitch
Toronto / Geneva
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