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opinions from the head lemur
[Posted] Saturday, August 11, 2001

An Open Letter to ICANN At Large Study Group

From: Alan Herrell (aka the head lemur) Ex-Candidate for North America
To: ICANN At Large Study Committee
Subject: At Large Representation

I would like to preface my remarks by acknowledging the work that ICANN has done to this point, offer some observations and perhaps point towards a direction in keeping with the nature of what it really is that you are attempting to do.

The Internet has been called the world's largest democracy by virtue of the number of participants. The democratic nature of the internet can be amply displayed by following any group of random links. The low cost of entry has created an outpouring of information, views and opinions never before seen in history. The global accessibility of this information has created a number of profound changes on social, economic and legal landscapes around the world.

I will start my remarks with two passages from the ICANN Fact Sheet[1]. The opening paragraph recounts the formation of ICANN.

Formed in October 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit, private-sector corporation formed by a broad coalition of the Internet's business, technical, academic, and user communities. ICANN has been recognized by the U.S. and other governments as the global consensus entity to coordinate the technical management of the Internet's domain name system, the allocation of IP address space, the assignment of protocol parameters, and the management of the root server system.

The only missing representation was the user communities. It was through a small group of users on Internet that sufficient pressure was applied to bring the election of the At Large Directors to fruition. The last paragraph of the fact sheet is this:

As a technical coordinating body, ICANN's mandate is not to "run the Internet." Rather, it is to oversee the management of only those specific technical managerial and policy development tasks that require central coordination: the assignment of the Internet's unique name and number identifiers.

Had ICANN understood their technical managerial and policy development role, and confined themselves to it, I would not be addressing you today. But with the adoption of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy on 24 October 1999[2] as referenced in the original White Paper[3], you stepped out of the technical management and into "running the internet". Prior to the Internet, trademark disputes were a local issue that were governed on a national level and the white paper specifically pointed out the applicability of existing laws in this area. Since you took on this role, a comment about this policy and its abuses is needed.

The whole point of this policy was to level the playing field between individuals and large corporations whose use of current trademark law is giving them a key to every word in every language on the planet. This is an area of law that needs to be rewritten and seriously overhauled. No ICANN is not responsible for trademark law. This is merely a demonstration of just what sort of mess ICANN created with the UDRP.

There have been so many abuses of this policy by corporate trademark holders that this policy is not serving the user community but is punishing them. A 14 year old girl should not be threatened or dragged into court because her website uses the word Jaguar and the site is about animals and not about automobiles.

The current resolution policy is defective that during these disputes the defendants domain alone is removed. A much better method would be to "unplug" both domains during these proceedings.

If you are serious about participation by users, I will certainly help you here.

I would now like to address the published consensus building efforts of the At Large Group. The Discussion Paper 1 [4]sets out the following "Views" and solicits comments.

Fulfill ICANN's mission of acting in the public's interest in its administration of the Internet's technical name and numbering infrastructure, and balance the commercial and institutional interests that are already well represented within the organization.

I have a problem here with no mention of the users group.

Ensure that ICANN operates in a manner that is stable, accountable, transparent, and predictable.
Increase the likelihood of voluntary compliance by fulfilling ICANN's goal of having its decisions supported by a broad and documented consensus among affected parties.
Engender knowledge within, and support from, interested communities by giving them a demonstrable way of participating and affecting policy.
Inject the necessary public interest perspectives into coordination of relevant ICANN issues. This includes bringing non-technical considerations to bear on technical decisions, as well as providing ICANN with advance warning of issues that have the potential of being critical or controversial in the "non-technical" world.
Encourage both the "non-technical" and "technical" communities to explain their concerns and the impact of their work more effectively to the broader public.

The fastest and best way to ensure this is to operate on the Internet. Not in closed door meetings, executive session, hotel rooms in places that no matter where you pick and the requirements you outline for holding meetings will dis-enfranchise the very people you are attempting to reach. If you think about it for just a moment, the Internet is the one place we can All meet.

The Internet is a truly horizontal global structure. You can have discussions, achieve consensus, discover new ideas, and resolve conflicts faster through the Internet than any other medium in history.

A robust Web Based Bulletin Board system and a few computers to run it will cost you a hell of a lot less than an outing to Montevideo. The IANA, DSO, and the other current supporting organizations can certainly act as moderators for specific discussion groups.

I categorically reject the options represented in the Option Template[5]

All of the options you outline ultimately will result in a top down vertical hierarchy that will not work on the web. You are attempting to wag the dog.

On the Internet we are all equal.

Thank you for your time.


[1] ICANN Fact Sheet

[2] Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy on 24 October 1999

[3] White Paper

[4] Discussion Paper 1

[5] Option Template

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