Rationale for Requested Amendment
Request to Amend Registry Agreement
Rationale for Requested Amendment
The Global Name Registry Limited (the "GNR Registry" or the "Registry") operates the .name top-level domain (TLD) under an agreement with ICANN dated August 1, 2001 (the "Registry Agreement"). The Registry Agreement authorizes the GNR Registry to, among other things, undertake proof-of-concept testing to evaluate consumer demand for a personal name space in the domain name system ("DNS"). The GNR Registry now seeks the ICANN Board's approval of a proposed amendment to the Registry Agreement to facilitate further testing of the personal name space product based on its experience operating the .name TLD over the last eighteen (18) months.
This memorandum is intended to articulate the operational and policy context in which this request arises, and is offered to assist the Board in its consideration of the matter.
Global Name Registry's Vision
In 2000, the GNR Registry sought and received ICANN's approval to create a top-level domain for individuals. The .name space was designed to allow consumers to address themselves as individuals, in a crowded space where the distinction between company names and individual names has become blurred. The Registry offered end-users both an email address and a web address in a personal namespace. Initially, as set forth in its TLD application (the "Application"), the Registry sought to test consumer interest in personal name registrations at the third level, allowing names on the second level to be shared among the largest number of different registrants.
Current Product and Service Offerings
Various sections of the Registry Agreement obligate the Registry to limit registrations in .name to registrations at the third level. The Registry Agreement appendices establish the format for domain name registrations as <one name>.<another name>.name and <one name>@<another name>.name for email addresses.1 As discussed above, these provisions reflected the Registry's plans for the first phase of the .name product launch, in which the Registry offered 3rd level domain names and 2nd level email forwarding services.
Results of Testing to Date
Proof of concept testing to date continues to support the proposition that consumers would like a differentiated name space reserved for registration by individuals only. These products are unique in the gTLD world, however, and consumer uptake has been slower than anticipated. The GNR Registry believes that two principle reasons account for the limited success of the proof of concept testing to date.
First, some consumers prefer shorter, more familiar, 2nd level registrations.
Second, 3rd level registrations have proved difficult for registrars and resellers to provision to end-users. Thus, distribution of .name products through ICANN accredited registrars has proved to be a challenge. In fact, a number of ICANN accredited registrars have elected not to modify their procedures to accommodate 3rd level registrations, and simply do not offer .name registration services.
Proposed Extension of Proof of Concept Testing
Based on its experience to date, the GNR Registry believes that additional testing is required before the proof of concept testing for a personal name space in the DNS can be considered complete.
To improve distribution into the .name space, the GNR Registry proposes to add a 2nd level domain .name product for individuals. This new product will complement its existing 3rd level domain and 2nd level email products, existing alongside them without interfering. It will be provisioned and function similarly to other 2nd level gTLD services. Registrars and resellers will easily adapt their existing systems to it, bringing the .name space more in reach of consumers.
By extending the personal name space to include 2nd level domain registrations, the Registry hopes to:
Today, .name products are not readily available to most individuals due to lack of support in the distribution channel. The addition of a 2nd level domain product will enable existing and new registrars and resellers to offer .name products within their normal domain name product line, and will make it easier to integrate GNR Registry products with third party offerings that are already tailored to 2nd level domains. With this change, the GNR Registry believes that many individuals will learn about .name for the first time.
The GNR Registry proposes to amend relevant portions of the Registry Agreement, modify the format of the domain product,2 and to take such steps as are necessary to notify ICANN Accredited Registrars of, and to implement, the revised Eligibility Requirements in accordance with the provisions of the Registry/Registrar Agreement.
Safeguards and Testing Controls
The GNR Registry continues to believe that ultimately there will be strong consumer demand for 3rd level registrations. The proposed extension of its proof of concept testing will include several controls to ensure that (1) the nature of the name space remains consistent with its original application, (2) the extension of proof of concept testing to 2nd level registrations does not interfere with either existing or prospective registrations at the 3rd level, and (3) intellectual property rights holders will continue to be protected in the same manner that they are today. These safeguards are discussed below:
The .name namespace is only intended for strings that reference individuals. An individual can only register his/her personal name. GNR Registry proposes to preserve all of the fundamental .name Eligibility Requirements and to extend them to cover second level registrations.
The Eligibility Requirements currently permit an individual to (1) register his or her own personal name, (2) register the personal name of a fictional character in which the registrant has rights, and (3) register a domain name containing numeric characters to the beginning or the end of their personal name so as to differentiate it from other personal names. For example, in the event that John Smith unsuccessfully attempts to register john.smith.name, he may seek to register an alternative, such as john.smith1955.name or john1955.smith.name. The GNR Registry's new service would simply permit Mr. Smith to eliminate a "dot" and register johnsmith.name or johnsmith1955.name if he so desired. All other Eligibility Requirements would remain in place.
2. GNR Registry Will Take Steps to Avoid Interference with Existing and Prospective Third Level Registrations in .name
The GNR Registry proposes to use several strategies in parallel to protect existing 3rd level products and the continued sharing of common names.
First, GNR Registry will reserve at the 2nd level a set of commonly used names in various countries for 3rd level registrations and will post a list of reserved names on a publicly available website, which it will update from time to time. GNR Registry has solicited input from governments on (1) name distribution patterns within their countries and (2) suggestions relating to common names that might appropriately be reserved on the 2nd level.3 This input will be validated and may then be used to make 2nd level reservations to help ensure that 3rd level registrations are available for the most common names in a particular region or country. If no 3rd level is registered on a given 2nd level reservation within a fixed period of time, the reservation will expire. The reservation period would vary, e.g., it would be longer for common names relating to populations in countries or regions where Internet penetration and usage is currently low.
Second, the GNR Registry will ensure that all 2nd level names ending in a particular string, or set of strings, would be reserved on the second level by default, and only 3rd level registrations would be allowed on such 2nd levels. Strings to be used as post-fixes could include, for example, "family" and translations of "family" to different languages, e.g. "famille", "rodzina", "familie", "familia", "famiglia", etc. This list will also be posted on a publicly available website, to be updated from time to time.
3. Proposed Amendments Will Not Impact Existing Registrations or Rightsholders
Based on materials presented by the GNR Registry, the addition of 2nd level registrations will not affect existing registrations on the 3rd level.
Further, registrations at the 2nd level will not undermine the functionality of existing Defensive Registrations. Existing Defensive Registrations currently blocking registrations of Third Level Domains would equally apply to block registrations of Second Level domains. Thus, there will be no action needed from existing registrants of Defensive Registrations to get protection from registration of Second Level Domains.
Current policies with respect to Whois availability and dispute resolution will continue to apply at the 3rd level and will be extended to the 2nd level.
The GNR Registry submitted a formal request to amend the Registry Agreement to ICANN on 18 June 2003. This request was posted for comment by ICANN the following day. To date, ICANN has received one comment on this request, as well as a response to that comment by Mr. Rasmussen.4
The GNR Registry sought input from a wide variety of participants at ICANN's recent Montreal meeting. For example, Geir Rasmussen of the Global Name Registry made a presentation regarding this request at the Public Forum in Montreal. In addition, representatives of the Registry made presentations to the Registry Constituency and at the Cross-Constituency meeting in Montreal5. Representatives of the GNR Registry discussed this proposal individually with a large number ICANN Registrars. I forwarded this request to the Secretariat of the Governmental Advisory Committee on 18 June 2003, and invited the GAC or members of the GAC to provide input with respect to common names in their respective countries and to make the opportunity to provide this input known to other governments that might not participate in the GAC. Although the GAC's schedule precluded a formal meeting with the GAC, I met with the GAC chair and reiterated the GNR Registry's interest in GAC input.
In introducing the Public Forum discussion on this request in Montreal, Chief Registry Liaison Tina Dam specifically requested the input of any member of the ICANN community who believed that they would be harmed by the proposed changes.
Both GNR Registry and ICANN have solicited input from the ICANN community about the proposed addition of 2nd level registrations to the Registry's offerings. No substantive expressions of concern have issued, however. In Montreal, ICANN staff specifically solicited expressions of concern from the community. One email was submitted in response, and it appears that the concerns expressed were based on a misunderstanding of the proposal. This confirms the conclusion of the GNR Registry that no legitimate interests of a third party are in danger of being harmed.
The GNR Registry requests that the ICANN Board authorize the GNR Registry to undertake further proof of concept testing consistent with its Application by approving the proposed amendment to the Registry Agreement. Consistent with past practices, we urge the Board to approve the proposed amendment without additional policy development.6
1 The eligibility rules for registration in the .name TLD entitle an individual to register his or her personal "name" - meaning, as is clear from the Agreement, his or her legal name, nickname, or other name by which the individual is commonly known. The appendices literally refer to <first name>.<last name>.name and <first name>@last name>.name, which is potentially misleading to the extent it suggests that registrants must use their "legal name." The Agreement clearly contemplates that individuals may use any combination of names by which they are commonly known. To clarify any potential confusion, the GNR Registry has adopted the <one name>.<another name>.name and <onename>@<another name>.name conventions to refer to strings currently available for registration in .name. Back
3 The Registry notified the Governmental Advisory Committee Secretariat of this request to amend the Registry Agreement on 18 June 2003, and sought this input. The Registry will follow-up with the GAC following consideration by the ICANN Board. Back
4 On 25 June 2003, Marcus Faure expressed his concern that an existing registration would be "suddenly worth much less when a reservation on a 2nd becomes available. This is especially true for those who have bought a 10-year-email-forwarding service that they needed in the context of the 2nd-level mail structure, but is now of course unnecessary now." Geir Rasmussen responded to M. Faure's concern on 1 July 2003, explaining that "Rather, the existing second level email forwarding and third level domain products will coexist with the second level domain product, giving users more choice... The second level email forwarding service will continue to be a necessary product even after the introduction of a second level domain offering." Back
5 In addition, prior to the Montreal meeting we notified the leadership of the Intellectual Property Constituency, the Commercial and Business Users Constituency, the Registry Constituency, and the Registrars Constituency about the proposed amendment, and offered to address their membership in Montreal. None of these groups felt it was necessary to meet. Back
6 See, e.g., Board approval of GNR Request for Amendment 2 December 2002 and General Counsel's analysis of GNR request. "..where a registry operator requests amendment of its registry agreement to introduce an innovative way of meeting the basic requirements of the applicable existing ICANN policy, the Board should not simply refer the matter to the (potentially protracted) consensus-development process, but should instead conduct a preliminary 'quick-look' evaluation to determine whether it is plausible that the legitimate interests of others could be harmed by the proposed amendment. Only if a third party's legitimate interest appears in danger of being significantly harmed should formal resort to the policy-development process be made; otherwise a streamlined procedure for approval should be followed." General Counsel's Analysis of GNR's Request for Amendment to Registry Agreement (26 November 2002). Back
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