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Minutes | Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee

Note: On 10 April 2012, the Board established the New gTLD Program Committee, comprised of all voting members of the Board that are not conflicted with respect to the New gTLD Program. The Committee was granted all of the powers of the Board (subject to the limitations set forth by law, the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws or ICANN's Conflicts of Interest Policy) to exercise Board-level authority for any and all issues that may arise relating to the New gTLD Program. The full scope of the Committee's authority is set forth in its charter at http://www.icann.org/en/groups/board/new-gTLD.

A Regular Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee of the ICANN Board of Directors was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 21 June 2015 at 10:15 local time.

Committee Chairman Cherine Chalaby promptly called the meeting to order.

In addition to the Chair the following Directors participated in all or part of the meeting: Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Fadi Chehadé (President and CEO, ICANN), Steve Crocker (Board Chairman), Chris Disspain, Asha Hemrajani, Markus Kummer, Erika Mann, Gonzalo Navarro, Ray Plzak, George Sadowsky, Mike Silber, and Kuo-Wei Wu.

Bruno Lanvin and Thomas Schneider (GAC Liaison) sent apologies.

Secretary: John Jeffrey (General Counsel and Secretary).

ICANN Executives and Staff in attendance for all or part of the meeting: Akram Atallah (President, Global Domains Division); Megan Bishop (Board Support Coordinator); Michelle Bright (Board Support Content Manager); Allen Grogan (Chief Contract Compliance Officer); Dan Halloran (Deputy General Counsel); Jamie Hedlund (Vice President, Strategic Programs – Global Domains Division); Cyrus Namazi (Vice President, DNS Industry Engagement); Erika Randall (Senior Counsel); Amy Stathos (Deputy General Counsel); and Christine Willett (Vice President, Operations – Global Domains Division).

These are the Minutes of the Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee, which took place on 21 June 2015.

  1. Consent Agenda:
  2. Main Agenda:
    1. GAC Category 2 Safeguard Advice – Exclusive Generic TLDs
    2. Board Governance Committee Recommendation Regarding .doctor
    3. Phasing Out of New gTLD Program Committee
    4. Briefing on 2-letter and country/territory names at the second level
    5. Update on Salesforce matter

 

  1. Consent Agenda:

    The Chair introduced for approval the minutes of the 1 April 2015 and 25 April 2015 meetings. The Committee took the following action by acclamation:

    Resolved (2015.06.21.NG01), the Board New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) approves the minutes of its 1 April 2015 and 25 April 2015 meetings.

    All members of the Committee present voted in favor of Resolution 2015.06.21.NG01. Bruno Lanvin was unavailable to vote on the Resolution. The Resolution carried.

  2. Main Agenda:

    1. GAC Category 2 Safeguard Advice – Exclusive Generic TLDs

      The Committee continued previous discussions about advice issued by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to the Board concerning safeguards for New gTLD applicants who proposed to provide exclusive registry access for generic strings. Chris Disspain and members of the staff presented the options previously explored by the Committee to address the GAC advice, which included a discussion about whether to prohibit exclusive generic TLDs in this round of the New gTLD Program and consult with the GNSO about developing consensus policy for future rounds; or whether a community process should be initiated to develop criteria to be used to evaluate whether an exclusive generic applicant's proposed exclusive registry access serves a public interest goal.

      Committee members expressed their positions on the options under consideration, with a focus on evaluating and balancing the relative merits and complexities of each option. Mike Silber stated that the issue of exclusive generic TLDs raises policy concerns, and in the absence of policy, he suggested that the Committee take a light touch in its plans to move forward. Ray Plzak agreed, and suggested that the matter of exclusive generic TLDs be brought forward to the GNSO so that the bottom-up policy development process could be initiated. Ray also noted that this issue highlights the need for development of a mechanism for the Board to be able create emergency policies, and developing a procedure for how such policies then become institutionalized.

      Rinalia Abdul Rahim and Erika Mann made note of the merits and disadvantages of the options under discussion, and commented that on balance, entering into a community process to develop criteria to evaluate exclusive generic TLDs seemed to be a better option. Rinalia also noted that taking such an approach appropriately balances the Applicant Guidebook, the role of the GNSO, the GAC advice, and the ALAC Statement on the matter. The Chair noted that one of the drawbacks of that approach was that it would leave applications open for an indefinite, and potentially long period of time. Akram Atallah suggested some possible refinements to the approach to address the concern noted by the Chair. He suggested that after contention resolution, any prevailing exclusive generic applicants be given a reasonably limited amount of time to submit a change request to no longer be an exclusive generic TLD, or be deferred to the next round of the New gTLD Program to allow time for the GNSO to develop policy advice concerning exclusive generic TLDs.

      The Committee engaged with staff about how other processes in the New gTLD Program may be impacted by choosing a particular course of action, and Akram outlined some of the follow-on steps that would be taken by staff in the event a particular course of action was selected.

      The Committee then took the following action:

      Whereas, the GAC met during the ICANN 46 meeting in Beijing and issued a Communiqué on 11 April 2013 ("Beijing Communiqué" [PDF, 238 KB]).

      Whereas, the GAC advised the ICANN Board in its Beijing Communiqué concerning New gTLD Program matters stating that, "For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal." This item of GAC advice is identified in the GAC Register of Advice as 2013-04-11-Safeguards-Categories-2 (the "Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice").

      Whereas, the GNSO Council is considering requesting an Issue Report to analyze subjects that may lead to changes or adjustments to policy, principles and procedures for subsequent rounds of the New gTLD Program.

      Whereas, the NGPC has concluded its deliberations on how to address the Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice.

      Whereas, the NGPC is undertaking this action pursuant to the authority granted to it by the Board on 10 April 2012, to exercise the ICANN Board's authority for any and all issues that may arise relating to the New gTLD Program.

      Resolved (2015.06.21.NG02), to address the GAC's Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice, the NGPC requests that the GNSO specifically include the issue of exclusive registry access for generic strings serving a public interest goal as part of the policy work it is planning to initiate on subsequent rounds of the New gTLD Program, and inform the Board on a regular basis with regards to the progress on the issue. Also, the NGPC directs the President and CEO, or his designee(s), to proceed as follows:

      1. For the remaining applicants in this round of the New gTLD Program who propose to provide exclusive registry access for a generic string ("Exclusive Generic Applicants"), proceed with initiating other New gTLD Program processes, including, but not limited to:
        1. scheduling auctions for applications for contending strings; and
        2. directing the dispute resolution service provider for the objection proceedings to expeditiously bring to conclusion and publish Expert Determinations for the unresolved proceedings that were stayed pending the NGPC's resolution of the Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice, notwithstanding any agreements by the parties to stay those proceedings.
      2. Advise Exclusive Generic Applicants for non-contended strings, or Exclusive Generic Applicants prevailing in contention resolution that they must elect within a reasonably limited time to either:
        1. submit a change request to no longer be an exclusive generic TLD, and sign the current form of the New gTLD Registry Agreement;
        2. maintain their plan to operate an exclusive generic TLD. As a result, their application will be deferred to the next round of the New gTLD Program, subject to rules developed for the next round, to allow time for the GNSO to develop policy advice concerning exclusive generic TLDs; or
        3. withdraw their application for a refund consistent with the refund schedule in the Applicant Guidebook.
      3. Take other reasonable actions that may be necessary to carry out the intent of this resolution.

      All members of the Committee present voted in favor of Resolution 2015.06.21.NG02. Bruno Lanvin was unavailable to vote on the Resolution. The Resolution carried.

      Rationale for Resolution 2015.06.21.NG02

      The NGPC's action today addresses an open item of advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) concerning the New gTLD Program. This action is part of the ICANN Board's role to address advice put to the Board by the GAC. Article XI, Section 2.1 of the ICANN Bylaws permits the GAC to "put issues to the Board directly, either by way of comment or prior advice, or by way of specifically recommending action or new policy development or revision to existing policies." The ICANN Bylaws require the Board to take into account the GAC's advice on public policy matters in the formulation and adoption of the polices. If the Board decides to take an action that is not consistent with the GAC advice, it must inform the GAC and state the reasons why it decided not to follow the advice. The Board and the GAC will then try in good faith to find a mutually acceptable solution. If no solution can be found, the Board will state in its final decision why the GAC advice was not followed.

      The GAC issued advice to the Board on the New gTLD Program through its Beijing Communiqué dated 11 April 2013. In the Beijing Communiqué, the GAC advised the Board that, "For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal" (the "Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice"). The GAC identified a non-exhaustive list of strings in the current round of the New gTLD Program that it considers to be generic terms where the applicant is proposing to provide exclusive registry access.

      ICANN solicited responses from 186 applicants for the strings identified by the GAC's Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice asking whether they planned to operate the applied-for TLDs as exclusive access registries (defined as a registry restricted to a single person or entity and/or that person's or entity's "Affiliates" (as defined in Section 2.9c of the Registry Agreement)). Out of those 186 applicants, currently there remain five applications where the applicant has indicated that it intends to provide exclusive registry access for its applied-for generic string.

      The NGPC's action today addresses the GAC's Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice and creates a path forward for the remaining applicants in this round of the New gTLD Program who propose to provide exclusive registry access for a generic string ("Exclusive Generic Applicants"). The NGPC's action acknowledges that exclusive registry access for generic strings may raise policy considerations that require input from the GNSO through the bottom-up policy development process.

      More specifically, the NGPC is directing the President and CEO to proceed with initiating or restarting, as applicable, other New gTLD Program processes that were put on hold for the Exclusive Generic Applicants until the NGPC addressed the GAC's Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice. For example, there are some applications that are the subject of objection proceedings (pursuant to Module 3 of the Applicant Guidebook), which have been stayed by the parties or the dispute resolution provider pending the outcome of the NGPC's resolution of the GAC's Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice. As a result of the NGPC's action, the dispute resolution service provider for the objection proceedings will be directed to expeditiously bring to conclusion and publish Expert Determinations for the unresolved proceedings that were stayed pending the NGPC's resolution of the Category 2.2 Safeguard Advice, notwithstanding any agreements by the parties to stay those proceedings. Additionally, ICANN will move forward with scheduling auctions for applications for contending strings (.DATA, .FOOD, and .PHONE).

      The NGPC is also requesting that the GNSO specifically include the issue of exclusive registry access for generic strings serving a public interest goal as part of the policy work it is planning to initiate on subsequent rounds of the New gTLD Program, and inform the Board on a regular basis with regards to the progress on the issue. The President and CEO should provide the GNSO with information needed to support this request.

      Additionally, the President and CEO is being directed to advise Exclusive Generic Applicants for non-contended strings, or Exclusive Generic Applicants prevailing in contention resolution regarding their options for executing Registry Agreements with ICANN. Such Exclusive Generic Applicants must elect within a reasonably limited time to do one of the following:

      1. Submit a change request to no longer be an exclusive generic TLD, and sign the current form of the New gTLD Registry Agreement, which includes the standard Public Interest Commitment (PIC) prohibiting exclusive generic TLDs ("Registry Operator of a 'Generic String' TLD may not impose eligibility criteria for registering names in the TLD that limit registrations exclusively to a single person or entity and/or that person's or entity's 'Affiliates' [as defined in Section 2.9(c) of the Registry Agreement]. 'Generic String' means a string consisting of a word or term that denominates or describes a general class of goods, services, groups, organizations or things, as opposed to distinguishing a specific brand of goods, services, groups, organizations or things from those of others").
      2. Maintain their plan to operate an exclusive generic TLD. As a result of this action, their application will be deferred to the next round of the New gTLD Program, subject to rules developed for the next round, to allow time for the GNSO to develop policy advice concerning exclusive generic TLDs.
      3. Withdraw their application for a refund consistent with the refund schedule in the Applicant Guidebook.

      As part of its consideration of the GAC advice, ICANN posted the GAC advice and officially notified applicants of the advice, triggering the 21-day applicant response period pursuant to the Applicant Guidebook Module 3.1. The Beijing GAC advice was posted on 18 April 2013. The complete set of applicant responses is provided at: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/gac-advice/. In addition, on 23 April 2013, ICANN initiated a public comment forum to solicit input on how the NGPC should address Beijing GAC advice regarding safeguards applicable to broad categories of new gTLD strings.

      The NGPC has deliberated on the GAC's advice concerning exclusive registry access for generic strings at more than ten of its meetings over the last two years. In formulating its response, the NGPC considered all material and relevant facts and information, including applicant responses and community feedback on how ICANN could implement the GAC's safeguard advice in the Beijing Communiqué. Each of the NGPC members exercised independent judgment in taking this decision, was not conflicted on this matter, and believes that this decision is in the best interests of the ICANN. The comments from the community express a diversity of views on how, and whether the NGPC should implement the GAC's advice. Some of the significant themes raised by community comments, and considered by the NGPC in taking this action, are as follows:

      • A Policy Development Process with respect to operating exclusive generic strings in the "public interest" should be undertaken by the community. Policy issues on "closed generic" TLDs should be resolved through the multistakeholder process.
      • The public interest goal requirement as stated is too general and requires greater specificity for enforceability. The NGPC should add relevant meaning to the "public interest" concept by applying the GNSO rationales regarding the promotion of competition, consumer choice, market differentiation, and geographical and service provider diversity as standards for such affirmative objective showings and findings.
      • Safeguards are important when applicants have chosen to apply for closed control of a generic term designating a particular industry where the applicant is engaged in the conduct of business activities in that industry.
      • Requiring applicants to demonstrate some additional public interest goal in the context of exclusive registry access for generic strings would reverse the deliberate choices made by the ICANN community in its bottom-up process and impose new evaluation criteria.
      • The status quo as set out in the Applicant Guidebook should apply so that both "open" and "closed" registry access for generic strings should continue to be allowed in this first application round, but both should be subject to significant scrutiny after launch by ICANN to ensure that the interests of rights owners and consumers are protected.

      The community and applicant comments highlight the complexity of the issue, which the NGPC has taken into account in response to the GAC's advice. These themes are also reflected in a previous public comment period on the issue of "closed generic" gTLD applications, as reported in the Report of Public Comments [PDF, 407 KB] dated 8 July 2013. As part of this public comment period, the NGPC requested the GNSO to provide guidance on the matter. Given the short timeframe to respond to the request the GNSO Council [PDF, 249 KB] noted that it was not in a position to provide formal policy guidance on the issue at that time. The GNSO Council stated that, "although the GNSO did not explicitly consider the issue of 'closed generic' TLDs as part of the new gTLD PDP, we recall that the issue of restricting new gTLDs was, in general, considered and discussed. At that time, it was the view within the GNSO that it should not be the responsibility of ICANN to restrict the use of gTLDs in any manner, but instead to let new gTLD applicants propose various models; open or closed, generic or not."

      As part of its deliberations, the NGPC reviewed various materials, including, but not limited to, the following materials and documents:

      The adoption of the GAC advice will have a positive impact on the community because it will assist with resolving the GAC advice concerning the New gTLD Program. There are no foreseen fiscal impacts associated with the adoption of this resolution. Approval of the resolution will not impact security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the DNS. As part of ICANN's organizational administrative function, ICANN posted the Beijing Communiqué and officially notified applicants of the advice on 18 April 2013. This triggered the 21-day applicant response period pursuant to the Applicant Guidebook Module 3.1.

    2. Board Governance Committee Recommendation Regarding .doctor

      The Committee continued its discussions concerning a recommendation from the Board Governance Committee (BGC) that "the NGPC again review the proposed implementation of a public interest commitment for the .DOCTOR TLD, and to re-evaluate the NGPC's 12 February 2015 determination." The BGC's recommendation was in response to Reconsideration Request 15-3 filed by Brice Trail, LLC (an entity related to Donuts Inc.) – one of the contending applicants for the .DOCTOR TLD. Chris Disspain provided an overview of the timeline of events leading up to the BGC's recommendation.

      Erika Randall presented some potential options to respond to the BGC's recommendation. Some of the options included: requiring that the Registry Agreement for the .DOCTOR TLD exclude the proposed Public Interest Commitment (PIC) drafted to ensure that domains in the TLD are ascribed exclusively to legitimate medical practitioners; and adopting the solution suggested in Brice Trail's Reconsideration Request to require a registrant to demonstrate "legitimate medical practitioner" status only if the registrant holds itself out as a medical practitioner. Rinalia Abdul Rahim asked about the status of the other contending applications for the .DOCTOR TLD.

      The Committee analyzed the text of the GAC's advice from Buenos Aires (November 2013) with respect to .DOCTOR, and discussed different interpretations of the advice. As part of the discussion, Committee members exchanged views on how to implement the GAC's advice in a way that also recognizes that the semantic use of term "doctor" is not exclusive to medical practitioners. George Sadowsky commented that the Committee should focus on developing a solution that recognizes that the term "doctor" is not limited to medical doctors, and also recognizes that the GAC has consumer trust and protection concerns about who is permitted to register names in the .DOCTOR TLD. To this end, George suggested that a possible way forward would be to allow all registrations to take place, and require some sort of ex-post validation for registrants claiming to be medical doctors.

      Steve Crocker suggested that perhaps the concept of "truth in labeling" could be leveraged in this case to alert consumers that the .DOCTOR TLD is not limited to medical doctors. Mike Silber commented that such a solution may take ICANN beyond its limited technical remit since it may touch upon issues of content.

      Mike also noted that ICANN's overall contractual model is a complaint-based system. As a result, Mike suggested that the Committee should discuss whether redress mechanisms for addressing complaints are robust enough as opposed to focusing on ex-ante validation of credentials. Erika Mann agreed, and considered whether take-down methods of redress in other contexts may have some applicability to the case at hand.

      Gonazlo Navarro described the current registration process for registering domain names, and noted some possible challenges if a validation requirement were imposed.

      The Committee decided to further discuss this matter at a subsequent meeting.

    3. Phasing Out of New gTLD Program Committee

      The Committee discussed whether it was time to begin planning for an eventual phasing out as a Board committee. Jamie Hedlund provided a briefing of the Committee's purpose as defined in its Charter, which is to make strategic and financial decisions relating to the New gTLD Program for the current round of the Program and as related to the Applicant Guidebook.

      The Committee received an update from staff summarizing the remaining matters that may require action by the Committee, and possible timeframes to consider those matters. Ray Plzak and Mike Silber asked how conflicts of interest could be dealt with if certain matters were referred to the Board for consideration, and requested additional guidance on this matter.

      The Committee agreed to discuss this matter further at a subsequent meeting.

    4. Briefing on 2-letter and country/territory names at the second level

      This item was removed from the agenda.

    5. Update on Salesforce matter

      Christine Willett provided the Committee with an update on its investigation into a data exposure issue in the New gTLD Applicant and Global Domains Division portals. The update focused on the steps taken to disclose to affected users the identity of any users that viewed their information without authorization. Christine reported that staff notified the users whose credentials were used to access information that did not appear to belong to them, and requested these users provide an explanation of their activity. Staff also requested these users to certify that they would delete or destroy the information obtained.

      As part of the update, Christine reported that ICANN had deployed further enhancements to harden the Salesforce environment, and would continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed.

      The Chair called the meeting to a close.

Published on 24 August 2015

Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."