ICANN Open Meeting
May 25 & 26, 1999, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Hotel Adlon, Berlin, Germany
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Constituency Groups | DNSO General Assembly | GAC Open Meeting | ICANN Open Meeting

GAC Open Meeting

Paul Toomey

I.   Concern that a representative of a country was denied access to the GAC.
   A.   Some question expressed of whether or not the country in question is really a country.
       1.   A: Only national governments can be admitted. This entity is not a country.
       2.   A: Moldova. A private company was asked to represent the country re ccTLD issues. Some concern re conflict of interest - private company's interests might not be the same as that of the citizens of the country it purported to represent. Issue discussed at length by committee.
II.   Is there a relevant international law or precedent to say that countries may "own" their two-letter codes in the root zone file? Would new three-letter country codes be similarly claimed?
   A.   See RFC 1591
III.   Could meetings be opened for the entire day rather than only at the end? Particularly if committee is only advisory, what's the need for such secrecy?
   A.   Closedness is practical. Governments treat open meetings as "press days." Keeping the GAC meetings closed makes it easier to get past prior differences (wars, etc.). Being closed means discussions can be more substantive, direct, effective. Pragmatically, governments wouldn't be willing to have frank discussions in a public forum.
   B.   That said, agenda should be open, and public meetings (like this one) play an important role.
   C.   GAC is only one of six advisory committees. Plenty of other forums in which to provide input to ICANN.
IV.   Rule changes about who can attend meetings. How do economies participate if not national governments?
   A.   Not a rule change, just a clarification of expectations.
   B.   The wording of the eligibility rule has been changed to "distinct economy" rather than "government" to avoid issues of high politics.
V.   Hans K: Does openness and transparency mean that every meeting and forum should be completely open? Perhaps it's OK that governments - which solely give advice, don't have any direct powers - express their positions in a closed forum. Private interests have other ways of expressing their positions.
VI.   RFC 1591 tried to address problems of what is a country (addressed by ISO 3166), conflicting demands from units of the same government. RFC 1591 says that the administrative contact of a domain has to reside in the country; that way, a country can compel the administrator of its ccTLD through normal legal process of that country.
   A.   Hans K.: GAC is independent of ICANN. The committee is valuable, as voice of governments; should not become a ccTLD arena.
   B.   Agreed, ICANN just needs to make sure it does not have to decide what's a country.
   C.   A: GAC can offer expertise in this area.
VII.   How do China and India figure on the committee?
   A.   Committee would be delighted by their participation.
VIII.   Rumor of proposal to tax domain names and give revenues to ICANN, ccTLDs? GAC should take this up.
   A.   Can't speak to proposal, don't know of it.
   B.   Rational economic principles should apply to the Internet. "User pays" may make sense.
IX.   Does the communiqué mean to suggest that the GAC may be in the business of reassigning ccTLDs when it believes that the delegate of a ccTLD does not have the support of the relevant public authority or government?
   A.   GAC wouldn't ask ICANN to act on a single letter, but given the proper evidence it might make what it felt was an appropriate action.
X.   Agreed that governments sometimes need closed-door meetings. GAC may give advice. But is it prepared to accept it from others?
   A.   GAC is open to dialogue with SOs and others. That already takes place to some extent.
XI.   Tension and hostility among audience. Many feel betrayed by the way the GAC operates and by its very existence. ICANN was supposed to be an alternative to regulation of the Internet by governments. "What can you say to someone who sees the GAC as the dead hand of government trying to close its grip?…" "Just an advisory committee" isn't persuasive. Recommendations of GAC don't seem like they're intended to benefit users, rather to extend power of governments.
   A.   Governments want the Internet too, and they want ICANN to succeed.
   B.   Governments represent consumer interests.
   C.   Governments respect the economic benefits of the Internet, want to do their part to help.
XII.   Communiqué does not make clear who has control over the root.
   A.   Twomey: It's fluid, I can't answer that.
   B.   Becky Burr: Currently operated by NSI under authority of USG.
XIII.   Who owns the ccTLDs?
   A.   We didn't discuss that.
XIV.   Did GAC consider petition asking for more process before WIPO recommendations are acted on by the board?
   A.   GAC was conscious of the amount of time and money WIPO put into the study, and was supportive of the outcome.
XV.   The GAC is terrifying. We don't think it should exist.
XVI.   Is Taiwan a national government and in attendance today?
   A.   An observer, as was Hong Kong. They're "distinct economies as recognized in international fora."
XVII.   Rationale for GAC: If ICANN's process is so transparent and everyone can participate and contribute, why can't governments work that way too? If it works for the common man, why can't it work for governments? Why do governments need something special?
XVIII.   Even WIPO's own experts oppose some of its recommendations. Given such opposition, why should the process go forward?
   A.   Communiqué discusses a narrow portion of the WIPO report.
XIX.   ICANN shouldn't have to answer to governments.
XX.   Who was attending?
   A.   A long list…
   B.   Invitations went out to lots of countries.
XXI.   WIPO report makes broad prescriptions for international law.
   A.   WIPO report could be thought of as a call for harmonization of laws among nations.
   B.   Want to make sure the GAC doesn't become a forum for discussing issues already discussed elsewhere. GAC to remain focused on pragmatic issues.
XXII.   Level of governments participation - too low?
   A.   More this time than in Singapore.
XXIII.   Who's on the GAC?
   A.   Invitations went to policy people at governments, the heads of appropriate departments.
XXIV.   A ccTLD for Scotland?
   A.   Only ISO can say who's on the country code list.
XXV.   ICANN and GAC are about real property rights - how to operate a communications system, not nuclear war. "Sunshine is a powerful healer" while closedness causes ill will, other problems.
   A.   American history: Wilson opposed secret treaties, but he didn't advocate open negotiation, just that the text of the treaties would be known to all. Open negotiations might be more likely to collapse.
   B.   Not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.
   C.   Governments put a lot of effort into assuring that ICANN "happened." But they talked quietly, because if governments made public criticisms of the US Green Paper, the US would have said "go away" and the process would have collapsed. So perhaps the "quiet" ("closed") negotiations between governments were more effective than complete openness would have been. You may find the alternatives - intergovernmental organizations or treaties - to ICANN even worse than you may think.
   D.   Governments know that often it's best for them to do nothing.
XXVI.   "Upon request" in the context of transferring a ccTLD - what does that wording mean?
   A.   What it says, not yet defined precisely, just a recommendation.
XXVII.   Make a recommendation to governments like France that they allow individuals to register domain names?
   A.   Can't make a recommendation for the actions of a particular government.
   B.   Other SOs can raise this issue just as effectively as the GAC.
XXVIII.   Expressing appreciation of the GAC. Diversity of opinion in the room. Many in the room and elsewhere participated in the WIPO process, many think the WIPO recommendations are acceptable.
   A.   GAC is conscious that many people made their views known.
XXIX.   Is GAC recommendation that each government should have jurisdiction over its ccTLD, be able to take it from the administrator on demand?
   A.   No. Just that there should be some evidence that the ccTLD is being administered by someone with the support of the community.
XXX.   It seems that GAC is ahead of other bodies that might make recommendations to the board. It wouldn't be good if GAC was organized enough to send a recommendation while the DNSO was still in the formation process.
   A.   Agreed in that that would be a bad thing. But the board knows what it's doing.
XXXI.   Concern that the closed-door meetings are where the real power is - like the staff recommendations that are generally adopted by the official decision-makers.
   A.   Agreed that GAC should reexamine its role on an ongoing basis.
XXXII.   Governments have legitimate roles as representatives of interests of citizens. But some worry of incompetence in representatives.
   A.   Perhaps infrastructure already in place to keep government representatives in line, qualified. If dissatisfied, contact country in question.
XXXIII.   Intellectual property protection for the purpose of rewarding companies that make investment, protecting consumers.
XXXIV.   Does the GAC endorse RFC 1591?
   A.   No statement of endorsement. Wanted to assure that resolution of difficulties is possible relatively quickly, concerned that RFC 1591 might hinder rapid resolution of tricky issues.
XXXV.   Does GAC only give advice or also receive?
   A.   Happy to enter into a dialogue when it makes sense.

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