Internet governance has made headlines recently with the future of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and net neutrality currently being debated by the U.S. Congress. It might be news to the masses outside the domain industry, but it is another reminder why Sedo helped found Internet Commerce Association (ICA) nearly 8 years ago and why all domain investors should become involved.
The headlines may have changed since ICA was established but the purpose of the organization has remained unchanged: advocate for, and protect the rights of domain owners. Eight years later, while domain owners pay the fees that support ICANN’s budget, ICA remains the only organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of domain registrants.
For Sedo, supporting the ICA was a simple and clear cut decision. Without the free trade of domain names on marketplaces such as Sedo, much of the innovation and economic development we’ve seen since the start of the internet age would not have been possible. While some of the ICA’s work involves nuances of policy, without its oversight the slow chipping away of registrant rights will snowball over time, diminishing value and limiting legitimate use.
One example of ICA’s work includes being the only organization to urge the U.S. Department of Commerce to freeze .com pricing when the VeriSign registry contract was up for renewal in 2012, the end result being pricing that is now frozen through 2018. ICA counsel, Phil Corwin, has developed productive working relationships within ICANN and represents the ICA on its Business Constituency (BC). This has allowed Corwin to build a consensus around other ICA positions, leading to the BC’s stance on requiring standard contracts for all UDRP/URS providers to provide better consistency of decisions to strip registrants of their domains.
In D.C., the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) is seeking support for a bill intended to increase financial penalties under the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) and create secondary liability for registrars, parking companies, secondary markets, and other domain service providers. In partnership with other advocacy groups, the ICA is the only organization that can be relied upon to lead the opposition against such initiatives. Assisting with these efforts, the ICA has established strong connections within D.C. and the national press as a trusted source on domain issues which helps the ICA communicate a vision of domain owners that is not defined by the generalization of cybersquatting.
Significant challenges still remain and 2014 could be a historic year in the course of internet governance. Domain investors will face multiple unknowns over the coming months due to the uncertainty resulting from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announcement on the U.S. relinquishing control over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). This combined with any potential fallout from the new gTLD program might result in Congress choosing to become more involved. If that happens, the ICA may be a domain owner’s best hope against convoluted or short-sighted legislation.
For more information on the ICA and how you can get involved, please visit www.InternetCommerce.org and follow the ICA on Twitter at @ICADomains.
Jeremiah Johnston is Sedo’s General Counsel and represents the company as its representative on the ICA board of directors.