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Beyond the Contract: Partnering to Strengthen Business and Consumer Protections

9 April 2015

Allen Grogan

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Recently ICANN received a formal letter [PDF, 238 KB] from Gregory Shatan, President of ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC), on behalf of the IPC, asking us to halt the rollout of .SUCKS, a new gTLD operated by Vox Populi Registry Inc. In the letter, the IPC described the proposed business practices and actions of Vox Populi as "illicit" and "predatory, exploitive and coercive." As responsible stewards of the Internet, we take these allegations seriously.

ICANN's enforcement ability lies within a contractual framework. We can enforce the terms and conditions of our contracts with registries, but it is the responsibility of governmental regulatory agencies, law enforcement and the courts to police illegal activity. ICANN is not a regulator and we have limited expertise or authority to assess the legality of Vox Populi's activities.

Due to the serious nature of the allegations, we have sent letters [PDF, 742 KB] to both the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and, because Vox Populi is a Canadian enterprise, Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) asking them to consider assessing and determining whether or not Vox Populi is violating any of the laws or regulations those agencies enforce. ICANN is currently evaluating remedies available to us under the registry agreement. As we noted in those letters, if Vox Populi is not complying with all applicable laws, it may also be in breach of its registry agreement. ICANN could then act consistently with its public interest goals and consumer and business protections to change these practices through our contractual relationship with the registry.

When I was appointed to the position of Chief Contract Compliance Officer last October, I made a commitment to look for ways that ICANN can help safeguard Internet users and registrants that may go beyond the contractual enforcement tasks for which we are responsible. Asking the FTC and OCA for their assistance in this matter is one example of how we can work with others to strengthen our consumer and business protections and enhance our ability to meet public interest goals. Let's continue to work together as a multistakeholder community to build trust and advance the reputation of our industry.

Allen Grogan