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Internet and Society 1999
The Technologies and Politics of Control
Scribes Notes -- Lecture 2: ICANN Part II


I.          The List (“names”)

A.      Filter your boring ICANN/class mail into its own folder…

II.       Questions about ICANN?

A.      Relationship between ISOC and ICANN?

1.       Some people say ICANN is a front for ISOC.  This view to be presented on mailing list.

2.       No formal strings between the two.

3.       ICANN has three Supporting Organizations (Addresses, Protocols, Domain Names) which jointly elect half of the board, while the At-Large Membership elects the other half.  Three SOs map to three roles of Jon Postel.

B.      Relationship between IETF and ISOC?

1.       One answer: New organizations created as decoys to prevent capture by big companies.  IETF is techies without much formality.  ISOC is a real corporation with dues, chapters, members, corporate structure.

2.       IETF is going to be (part of?) the PSO of ICANN.

C.     Readings didn’t put sufficient emphasis on commercial interests?

1.       Commercial interests are well-represented in the process.  Results tend to be surprisingly similar to what the commercial interests want.  But commercial interests may not openly state their true positions – sending only observers, etc., not so comfortable with “big open meetings with scribes” because they’re used to exerting their influence in other ways.  Trade associations sometimes more vocal.

2.       McLaughlin: When business began to move onto the web, got worried that the ‘net’s infrastructure wasn’t managed the way as other resources important to the businesses.  (i.e. lobby the zoning board to get changes as desired.)  But the Internet architecture (as it was before ICANN) had Postel making comparable decisions, and ICANN is supposed to be a place where businesses (and others!) can come to make their opinions known in a more formal, structured process.  So far, all commercial interests seem to support ICANN, save for NSI.

III.    Present today: Andrew McLaughlin: Corporate Secretary, Vice President for Policy, … of ICANN, and fellow of the Berkman Center.

IV.   Scribing. 

A.      Handy at “unruly” meetings.  Students wanted to scribe future classes – instead of final paper.  

B.      Correcting the record is OK.  This record of the class is important.

V.      Bigger Questions:

A.      ICANN ?= Internet Governance

1.       McLaughlin: “ICANN does technical coordination, not Internet governance.”  That’s the party line.  But the truth is that technical coordination is in some ways a lot like governance.

2.       Ultimately, it depends what governance means.

·     If governance means making decisions about a resource to be managed in the public interest, well, maybe. 

·     If it means being a global democracy, then no. 

3.       But ICANN has a limited mandate and has a “precarious perch.”  Supposed to concentrate on unique assignment of numbers & names as necessary and that the system runs smoothly.  But don’t want ICANN to be in the content “regulation” business. 

·     Tricky, though, with borderline questions like trademarks.  ICANN thinks this is important to keep the DNS system running smoothly, while others argue that this is going too far.  What about, say, shutting down web sites that have violations of copyright law?  That’d be going too far, clearly, but it’s technically possible.  Have to hope procedural safeguards are adequate to present as much.

B.      Zittrain: So is it true or false or the wrong question to be asking? 

1.       Q to Miguel Danielson: What’s the worst thing ICANN could do if it ran completely amok?

·     Out of control – policies would not correspond with what constituencies wanted.

·     Zittrain: Worst thing ICANN can do is to deny someone a domain name?  But ICANN doesn’t run the database that actually controls where, say, CNN.COM goes; that’s NSI’s job as the registry for .COM.  But ICANN has (rather, will soon have) a contract with NSI; ICANN could set policy binding NSI or other registries.

2.       Q: NSI already does this?  A [McLaughlin]: NSI has an ad hoc policy to avoid getting sued.  But policy was unpopular.  ICANN’s new policy is “do nothing unless a court tells you to except if: the challenger has a trademark, the holder has no legitimate interest in the name, and there’s bad faith.”  What ICANN actually has is “joint custody” over a file [the root zone] which is actually located at NSI; in about two weeks the file will be moved to an ICANN server in California.

·     Zittrain: ICANN could point TLDs from where they “belong” to wherever they wanted?  McLaughlin: But then the twelve mirror root server operators would decide not to take orders from ICANN anymore. 

3.       Q: Does the Internet need a domain name system?  Couldn’t we just have Yahoo-like directories mapping names to IPs?

·     Yes, strictly speaking.  Demo of getting to a web site by IP address.  But is there a need for memorable addressing systems that work across the network?

4.       A: Cybersquatting, as with gwbush.com.  What if there were no “good” domain names available?

·     McLaughlin: The URL itself is not a form of expression, rather just an addressing / routing mechanism.  Worth noting the fundamental differences between trademarks, domain name system – can have multiple companies with the same trademark bounded by geography and/or industry.  Note also that gwbush.com can’t be trademarked (because not a product or service), so the new ICANN policy can’t protect as much.

C.     How to find out if a domain name is taken?  Either just try it and see if it works, or check the WHOIS database.

D.     The registry-registrar system

1.       Registry is the actual list.

2.       Registrar is the middle-man that actually does business with the customer. 

E.      Q: Changes to be made to eliminate the anti-competitive threats posed by NSI as registry for .COM?

1.       McLaughlin: Negotiations in progress.  But that’s not how ICANN plans to proceed.

F.      Q: When new TLDs?

1.       McLaughlin: One of the four top priorities of the USG.  Committees / working groups discussing this have had trouble moving forward.  This board will consider the question before leaving in September 2000.

G.    Q: Timeline?

1.       McLaughlin: Cooperative agreement between ICANN and USG, NSI-USG Cooperative Agreement Amendment 11, ICANN By-laws.  Working on contractual relationships with appropriate parties on varied timetables.

H.     Q: Couldn’t root server operators throw a coup? 

1.       McLaughlin: Absolutely, but it’s actually trickier than that as a result of mirroring / caching.  But coups aren’t supposed to happen in the first place since ICANN is supposed to reflect consensus.

I.           Zittrain: Finishing up the “what’s the worst thing that ICANN could do” question – it seems to be taking away a domain name.  Also censorship – like the old NSI “no seven dirty words” policy.

1.       McLaughlin: But remember that there are procedural limitations blocking such abuses – would have to write a contract to accomplish the abuse, and that would require a public comment period.  Perhaps openness stops these worries from being so serious.

VI.   Worst case if no ICANN?  Do we really need ICANN at all?

A.      Demo of asking IE for cars and getting carpoint.com.

B.      To be discussed in the listserv.  Ask the experts & principals on the list what they think.

VII.     “Consensus organization” – what does that mean?  How do you design such an organization if that’s what your client wants?

A.      Michael Richardson: Include the points of view of all Internet users; any Internet user can vote.

B.      Ariel Greenberg: Want to avoid votes by people who aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable.

1.       “Some pigs are more equal than others.”

C.     Zittrain: We still don’t know what “consensus” means.  Have come to understand about “reasonable doubt” etc., but no such understanding here.

D.     McLaughlin: Why should consensus be the standard anyway?  No American consensus about abortion, for example, yet policy is & must be made.  For technical questions, there is a right answer that can be found by trying some alternatives, then we use consensus.  But for non-technical questions, perhaps consensus isn’t the right way to (try to) solve the problem.

E.      Q: Consensus must mean something different than majority or unanimity.  How about “no one ‘significant’ ‘significantly’ dissents”?

F.      Q: What about all the people who aren’t (yet) using the Internet?  Need to represent their interests too.

G.    McLaughlin: It’s not consensus when the NC (chosen by a relatively obscure process) takes and proceeds according to a majority vote.

H.     Matthew Anestis: To ask the list the question of why it would be so bad if ICANN weren’t around.

VIII.  The Pitch – McLaughlin

A.      Need people to help with a few projects at ICANN.  Committees that need staff work – monitoring discussions, doing research.  Funding (ten people from around the world), future of numbering in connection with mobile telephone networks, etc.  For clinical credit

IX.   Administrative Stuff

Ben Edelman

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