gTLDs and .XXX – Stalled Again

It’s with a sigh of relief that the latest ICANN meeting came to a close in Cartagena, Colombia. Today, the 39th ICANN meeting has ended with the ICANN Board announcing important decisions with respect to new TLDs, including new gTLDs and the ICM application for .XXX.

After a flurry of objections by rights holders and others over the process and substance of the new gTLD program, it has been further delayed. Currently, the launch of the new gTLD program is still under consideration as the community works hard to reach consensus on the stickier details of its implementation. The latest delay was triggered by objections from the Government Advisory Commission (GAC) who felt that the ICANN Board should consider the four over-arching” issues more carefully.

Specifically the GAC cited their own as well as community objections to the gTLD program. Business and Intellectual Property Constituencies still have questions about the implementation of the program including the negative impact on large brands and these Constituencies clearly have the ear of the GAC. Brand rights holders will likely incur very high costs due to defending their brands from infringement and that assertion was clearly supported by the recent economic study released last Friday. Therefore the community should continue work on the program in order to increase perceived benefits and reduce costs. Furthermore the GAC expressed to the Board that they’d like to see more time to consider comments from the community as well as the impact of the recently published economic study.

Adding to GAC concerns is the process with which the Board has made decisions. For example the GAC cited that the Board had not followed GAC advice nor had they followed precedent when they eliminated the historical prohibition against the integration of registry and registrar (vertical integration) services. Though the Board had stated publically that the prohibition would remain in place lacking any guidance from the community and the GNSO the Board acted differently with the proclamation issued from their last offsite. Citing a lack of transparency the GAC has asked for more background information about these decisions and the rationale behind them.

To that end the GAC and the ICANN Board will meet in February to discuss the outstanding issues and try to reach consensus. Optimistically with this latest delay redrafting of the guidebook subsequent community input adjustments to the program communications plan and with the required outreach program it seems unlikely to expect ICANN to accept applications for new gTLDs before September.

Lastly the Board has not yet approved the ICM application for the .XXX TLD. The Board although indicating that it would like to move forward wanted GAC input before approving the final contract.

It has been an exciting week in Colombia and with the GAC’s support of brand rights holders it brings the program one step closer to reducing costs for brands.”