Held virtually in July 2021, ICANN 71 featured policy-focused presentations and cross-organizational sessions. The policies discussed were particularly community oriented, with an emphasis on the improvement of communications and user experiences while focusing on maintaining and improving security measures.

Find some of our key takeaways below:

Legal vs. Natural Persons: EPDP Phase 2A Weighs in with Initial Report

The Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP) addresses data access requirements, policies for a centralized system of registration data disclosure, and provisions for the recognition of individual domain owners in light of the GDPR. Phase 2A recently added a clearer definition of the data privacy that will be available to individuals and organizations, with important implications on the ability to contact domain registrants which will prove useful to individuals and organizations that own domains.

The EPDP Team recently released its Initial Report and is welcoming input from the community, especially in areas where the team may not have considered a topic. Preliminary Recommendation #4 is particularly relevant, recommending that registrars and registries who choose to differentiate legal vs. natural persons (a distinction referring to large organizations and individuals, respectively) should guarantee that the data of natural persons is redacted from publication unless the individual has given consent, or if a distinct legal reason necessitates its publication. This implies that companies and other organizations will see their WHOIS data published in the public registration system, while individual registrants will still be able to retain a higher level of anonymity. As a result, once registries and registrars make this distinction, brand owners will be able to pull additional WHOIS information related to domains of interest.

New gTLD Applications: GAC Seeks Clarity on Potential Roadblocks before Next gTLD Application Round

ICANN’s GAC serves as the voice of governments and IGOs and provides advice on issues of public policy where ICANN activities interact with national laws and agreements. GAC recommendations which are likely to receive an emphasis include a response to DNS Abuse, closed generic TLDs, and equal opportunities in TLD applications.

A holistic approach to the mitigation of DNS Abuse has been identified as a crucial area to address before the next round of gTLDs is launched. GAC members noted that any further delay to address this issue will allow malicious actors to continue to proliferate. Industry leaders are working to ensure that a coordinated response to abuse will enable all domain stakeholders to work together to reduce malicious activity in this sector.

The GAC is upholding its opposition to applications for closed generics, which are general terms registered as a TLD where the owner has the power to decide whether an individual or organization can register an associated domain. Closed applications currently exist for .BRAND TLDs, but concerns have been expressed that closed generics could give the owners too much control over specific terms, like “data” or “winery”. These forms of TLDs are currently banned until rules can be developed to ensure that they can be implemented under fair conditions.

The GAC expressed a desire to reduce or eliminate ICANN registry fees, noting the importance of fostering applications from a diverse range of TLD candidates. Additionally, while private auctions of TLDs are allowed under the current bylaws, the GAC plans to take steps to disincentivize these processes, especially in cases where nonprofit organizations are forced to bid against commercial entities. These measures will drive down costs for all participants in the new gTLD program, and will enable smaller organizations to pursue their desired TLDs.

In light of these concerns, the GAC asked the ICANN Board to provide a comprehensive overview and periodic updates on the issues that must be addressed before the next round of gTLD applications. The response to DNS Abuse in particular will dictate this timeframe, as GAC members have stated on multiple occasions that it must be addressed before new gTLD applications are initiated.

Evaluating the Future of Domain Transfer Policy

The DNS Transfer Policy covers ICANN’s procedures and requirements for registrants to transfer their domain names from one registrar to another. Starting in May 2021, a working group within ICANN has been conducting a holistic review of the policy to determine if changes are needed to improve the ease, security, and efficacy of inter-registrar and inter-registrant transfers.

Stakeholders believe that the objectives of the Transfer Policy should remain consistent with the original version from 2004, including the protection of consumer choice and competition, prevention of fraudulent domain transfers, and the upholding of policies which can be consistently interpreted and applied. The latest discussions have identified a new goal to define guidelines for DNS transfers when domains are moved between registrars, because it will ensure that registrars will provide additional assistance for registrants during the transfer process, reducing the time required for this important and often necessary procedure.

Stakeholders are additionally reviewing the technical operations principles for DNS Transfer Policy. They are requesting clearer definitions of the “transfer process” in order to set practical boundaries around the timelines for the procedure. Additionally, they’d like to allow registrars to conduct data transfers including personal data as long as they follow the appropriate laws and requirements. This addition may not be consistent with the limitation set forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so additional discussion is required.

The work on DNS Transfer Policy is in the early phases, but these initial discussions on guiding principles will shape the final policies. It is expected that ICANN will develop a consensus policy that benefits domain registrants by more clearly defining transfer procedures and requiring registrars to provide additional assistance throughout the process. This will result in an environment where registrants will be able to devote less time to data transfers, and will be able to follow a more coherent and efficient process to ensure that their DNS transfers are successfully accomplished.

Looking Ahead

The ICANN community is continuing policy discussions and procedures, but based on discussions, it is clear DNS Abuse is a major topic of conversation since it impacts stakeholders, policies, and Internet users. Stay tuned for further developments. If you have any questions or comments on ICANN 71 takeaways, please reach out – we want to hear from you.

FairWinds Partners Team
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