Thursday, June 26, 2008

Radical changes in internet governance approved by ICANN

From the BBC, we learn that "a complete overhaul in the way that people navigate the internet" has been approved by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) during its recent meeting in Paris. The previously strict rules limiting the number of "top-level domain names", such as ".com" or "", are to be relaxed, paving the way for more specific suffixes such as, for example ".sport" or ".nyc".

This will create opportunities and risks in equal measure, particularly with regard intellectual property rights. While companies will be able to fully incorporate their brand names within their web addresses, the possibilities for "cybersquatting" - the practice of unfairly registering domain names in order to make money - will be vastly increased. As the Guardian reports, however, the current move will not create anything like a free-for-all; some domain names could cost as much as ₤250,000, and all applications will have to be approved by ICANN.

Increased will of necessity create increased administrative discretion for ICANN; and the increased stakes in play will in turn mean that demands for accountability and transparency from all relevant stakeholders will only grow stronger. Perhaps it was with this in mind that ICANN published, in January of this year, a document detailing its "Frameworks and Principles on Accountability and Transparency". This document is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it confronts ICANN's dual role as a private company fulfilling a public governance function, and the ways in which different stakeholders' expectations of accountability can conflict on that basis. In any event, this is clearly of great importance from a GAL-perspective, and deserves detailed attention in its own right; I will blog on it in more detail later in the week.

1 comment:

James Willstrop said...

Quite interesting! Especially for what happened today.

See this link: