Overview of GAC Advice ("The Beijing Communique")

May 13, 2013 - On 11 April 2013, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) provided advice on new Global Top Level Domains (gTLDs). This article provides a summary of that advice.

Why is the GAC issueing advice at this time?

As part of the application process for new Top Level Domains, ICANN has created a process to accept advice from the GAC on applications received by ICANN for new Top Level Domains. According to the Applicant Guidebook (which, for those of you new to this process, is the guidebook that outlines the application process for new Top Level Domains), if GAC Advice is based on a consensus of the GAC, it will create a strong presumption that the application should not be approved. If the ICANN Board does not act in accordance with this GAC advice, it must provide rationale for doing so. The GAC was supposed to submit their advise by the end of the objection filing period in order for its advice to be considered. (Applicant Guidebook section 1.1.2.7) While the GAC is actually late in issueing their advice, the GAC may issue advice to the ICANN board at any time, on any matter, (see ICANN's bylaws), so a deadline is really a moot point.

The GAC was invited to provide three specific types of advice as part of the TLD application process:

  1. a recommendation that an application should be denied

  2. a recommendation that the GAC had concerns about an application

  3. a recommendation that the GAC felt that an application should be amended.

On April 11, 2013, the GAC issued its advice on new TLDs in the so-called "Beijing Communique". The GAC’s advice went well beyond the requested scope of advice and provided broad advice on a host of issues. As a result, ICANN has recently opened a public comment period asking for feedback from the public on the best response to GAC advice on new Top Level Domains.

Summary of the GAC’s Advice

GAC Opposes Approval of .africa and .gcc


The GAC advised against the approval of the two applications below:

  1. .africa (Application number 1-1165-42560)

  2. .gcc (Application number 1-1936-2101)

As a result of ICANN’s advice against these two strings, it is likely that they will not be approved.

Concerns over Lack of Community Support


The GAC raised concerns about the applications below due to a lack of community support.  The GAC recommends that these two applications should not proceed.

  1. .halal

  2. .islam

The applicant for both of these strings was Asia Green IT System Bilgisayar San. ve Tic. Ltd. Sti.

Further Consideration Needed: Do Not Proceed


The GAC advised ICANN not to proceed beyond Initial Evaluation for the strings below in order to allow time for additional consideration:

  1. .shenzen (IDN in Chinese)

  2. .persiangulf

  3. .guangzhou (IDN in Chinese)

  4. .amazon (and IDNs in Japanese and Chinese)

  5. .patagonia

  6. .date

  7. .spa

  8. .yun

  9. .thai

  10. .zulu

  11. .wine

  12. .vin

No explanation was given as to why these particular strings were selected.

GAC Request Written Brief on Ability to change the String Applied for


The GAC has requested a written briefing about the ability of an applicant to change the string applied for. This is a highly unusual request from the GAC since the Applicant Guidebook clearly states that applicants cannot change the string that they applied for. There was a lot of discussion about this topic before the buidebook was finalized, and it was decided - with input from the community - that applicants should not be able to change the string that they applied for afer the application round closed due to concerns about gaming the system.

The GAC may be pushing this issue now because, despite that the guidebook stated that changes to the application would not be allowed after the application round closed, ICANN did actually allow a few applicants to change their application after the application round had closed. So perhaps the GAC is hoping that ICANN will take that a step further and allow applicants to go so far as to change the string that they applied for.

Despite the GAC's request, it would be highly unlikely for ICANN to allow applicants to change the string that they applied for, because such a step would derail the entire application process. Such a step would necessitate a review of contention sets, and the window to file objections to other applications would have to be re-opened. In other words, the application process would have to take two steps back in order to accomodate this request.

Heed Community Opposition


The GAC advises ICANN that in cases where a community that is clearly impacted by a gTLD application in contention has clearly expressed an opinion on the applicants, that ICANN should take the community's opinion into consideration during the application process. It's unclear which TLD that this advise is aimed at, but community support is already a factor that ICANN is required to take into consideration as part of any dispute filed and as part of any contention set. It's unclear why the GAC felt the need to re-state this opinion.

The GAC is Against Plural and Singular TLDs Co-existing


The GAC recommended that singular and plural versions of the same string could cause consumer confusion. (It seems that the GAC felt that these strings should have been placed in a contention set). ICANN has already stated its intention of allowing singular and plural versions of the same string to exist.

More Protection for IGOs


The GAC asked again for additional protection at the top level for Intergovernmental Organizations.

Finalize the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)


The board recommended that the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement should be finalized before any new TLD contracts are appvoed. A Registrar is a company that distributes or sells domain names to the public. For example, GoDady.com is the largest Registrar today. The GAC would like to recommend that all new TLD operators be required to sign on only those Registrars who have signed the 2013 RAA. The reason that the GAC is so keen on the 2013 RAA is the RAA incorporates new Law Enforcement recommendations made by the GAC back in 2009.

Whois services


The GAC urges the Directory Services Expert Working group to take into account the GAC's recommended principals regarding gTLD WHOIS services, approved in 2007.

International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent


The GAC again urges ICANN to add special protections for the IOC and the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

Public Interest Committments


The GAC had previously asked applicants to file so called "public interest commitments" as an optional additional statement assuring that each prospective TLD operator would commit to operate its TLD in the public interest. The GAC had threatened to vote against operators who failed to file these committments. The GAC would now like to ensure that those applicants who did file public interest commitments will be required to abide by them.

New Safeguards for All New TLDs


The GAC recomends that the following six safeguards should be required of all new TLDs and should be subject to contractual oversight, meaning that the GAC would like to see these standards as requirements in the Registry Contract signed by new TLD operators. Every TLD operator must sign a Registry Contract with ICANN before their TLD can be operational. The Registry Contract us renewed on a periodic basis, usually every ten years. Standard elements of the agreement in the past have included a requirement of 99.999% uptime, an agreement on quarterly fees payable to ICANN, and a stated contract duration.

The GAC recommended the six improvements below to the Registry agreement.

  1. WHOIS verification and checks (aka Registrant Identity Check) - The GAC wants Registries to act as a quasi online police force, with Registry operators required to conduct checks on a statistically significant basis to identify registrations in its gTLD with deliberately false or incomplete WHOIS data

  2. Mitigating abuse activity - Registry operators will ensure that terms of use for registrants include prohibitions against the distribution of malware, operation of botnets, phishing, piracy, trademark or copyright infringement, fraudulent or deceptive practices, counterfeiting or otherwise engaging in activity contrary to applicable law. This all seems well and good, however, these activities are already against the law. By making every person who buys a domain name agree to these specificatons, the GAC is putting Registries in the position of having to enforce these laws, which will certainly raise domain name costs for everyone.

  3. Security Checks - Registry operators will periodically conduct a technical analysis to assess whether domains in its gTLD are being used to perpetrate security checks.

  4. Documentation - Registry operators will maintain statistical reports that provide the number of inaccurate WHOIS records or security threats identified and actions taken as a result of its periodic WHOIS and security checks.

  5. Making and Handling Complaints - Registry operators will ensure there is a way to make complaints to the registry operator that the WHOIS information is inaccurate or that the domain name is being used for malware, botnets, phishing, piracy, trademark or copyright infringement, fraudulent or deceptive practices, counterfeiting or other illegal activities

  6. Consequences - Registry operators should ensure that there are immediate consequences for false WHOIS information or illegal practices on the domain name. These consequences should include suspension of the domain name.

Consumer Protection for "Sensitive" strings and Regulated Markets


The GAC would like to see additional requirements put in place by ICANN for the operators of TLDs in certain categories. The additional requirements for that the GAC would like to see put in place for these categories are as follows:

  1. Registry operators should include in their acceptable use policy that registrants comply with all applicable laws, including those that relate to privacy, data collection, consumer protection, fair lending, debt collection, organic farming, disclosure of data and finacial disclosures

  2. Registry operators will require registrars at the time of registration to notify registrants of this requirement

  3. Registry operators should require that registrants who collect and maintain sensitive health and financial data implement reasonable and appropriate security measures commensurate with the offering of those services

  4. Establish a working relationship with the relevant regulatory or industry self-regulatory bodies, including developing a strategy to mitigate as much as possible the risks of fraudulent and other illegal services

  5. Registrants must be required by the registry operators to provide a single point of contact which must be kept up-to-date, for the notification of complaints or reports of registration abuse, as well as the contact details of the relevant regulatory or industry self-regulatory bodies in their main place of business

Below are the categories of domain names that the GAC would like to apply the above standards to as well as the specific strings in this application round that the above standards would apply to. According to the GAC, this is a "non-exhaustive" list:

  1. Children:
  2. .kid, .kids, .kinder, .game, .games, .juegos, .play, .school, .schule, .toys


  3. Environmental:
  4. .earth, .eco, .green, .bio, .organic


  5. Health and Fitness:
  6. .care, .diet, .fit, .fitness, .health, .healthcare, .heart, .hiv, .hospital, .med, .medical, .organic, .pharmacy, .rehab, .surgery, .clinic, .healthy (IDN Chinese), .dental, .dentist, .doctor, .dds, .physio


  7. Financial:
  8. .capital, .cash, .cashbackbonus, .broker, .brokers, .claims, .exchange, .finance, .financial, .financialaid, .forex, .fund, .investments, .lease, .loan, .loans, .market, .markets, .money, .pay, .payu, .retirement, .save, .trading, .autoinsurance, .bank, .banque, .carinsurance, .credit, .creditcard, .creditunion, .insurance, .insure, .ira, .lifeinsurance, .mortgage, .mutualfunds, .mutuelle, .netbank, .reit, .tax, .travelerinsurance, .vermogensberater, .vermogensberatung and .vesicherung


  9. Gambling:
  10. .bet, .bingo, .lotto, .poker, .spreadbetting and .casino


  11. Charity:
  12. .care, .gives, .giving, .charity (and ICN Chinese equivalent)


  13. Education:
  14. .degree, .mba, .university


  15. Intellectual Property:
  16. .audio, .book (and IDN equivalent), .broadway, .film, .game, .games, .juegos, .movie, .music, .software, .song, .tunes, .fashion (and IDN equivalent), .video, .app, .art, .author, .band, .beats, .cloud (and IDN equivalent), .data, .design, .digital, .download, .entertainment, .fan, .fans, .free, .gratis, discount, .sale, .hiphop, .media, .news, .online, .pictures, .radio, .rip, .show, .theater, .theatre, .tour, .tours, .tvs, .video, .zip


  17. Professional Services:
  18. .abogado, .accountant, .accountants, .architect, .associates, .attorney, .broker, .brokers, .cpa, .doctor, .dentist, .dds, .engineer, .lawyer, .legal, .realtor, .realty, .vet


  19. Carpet Identifiers:
  20. .corp, .gmbh, .inc, .limited, .llc, .llp, .ltda, .ltd, .sarl, .srl, .sal


  21. Generic Geographic Terms
  22. .town, .city, .capital


  23. Inherently Governmental Functions
  24. .army, .navy, .airforce


  25. In addition, applicants for the following strings should develop clear policies and processes to minimize the risk of cyber bullying / harassment
  26. .fail, .gripe, .sucks, .wtf






 

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