Last Monday saw the 10th anniversary of Reveal Day, the event in London where ICANN officially revealed the 1,930 new gTLD applications submitted earlier in 2012 to a crowd of excited applicants and media.
Dozens of those applications were for closed generics — where the registry operator is the sole registrant, but the string isn’t a trademark — but now, a decade later, the ICANN community still hasn’t decided what to do about that type of gTLD.
At ICANN 74 last week, the Generic Names Supporting Organization and Governmental Advisory Committee inched closer to agreeing the rules of engagement for forthcoming talks on how closed generics should be regulated.
The GNSO’s working group on new gTLDs — known as SubPro — had failed to come to a consensus on whether closed generics should even be allowed, failing even to agree on whether the status quo was the thousand-year-old earlier GNSO policy recommendations that permitted them or the later GAC-influenced ICANN retconning that banned them.
But ever since SubPro delivered its final report, the GAC has been reminding ICANN of its 2013 Beijing communique advice, which stated: “For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.”
At the time, this amounted to an effective ban, but today it’s become an enabler.
ICANN has for the last several months been coaxing the GNSO and the GAC to the negotiating table to help bring the SubPro stalemate into line with the Beijing communique, and the rules of engagement pretty much guarantee that closed generics will be permitted, as least in principle, in the next application round.
GAC chair Manal Ismail told ICANN (pdf) back in April:
discussion should focus on a compromise to allow closed generics only if they serve a public interest goal and that the two “edge outcomes” (i.e. allowing closed generics without restrictions/limitations, and prohibiting closed generics under any circumstance) are unlikely to achieve consensus, and should therefore be considered out of scope for this dialogue.
Remarkably, the GNSO agreed to these terms with little complaint, essentially allowing the GAC to set at least the fundamentals of the policy.
Last week, talks centered on how these bilateral negotiations — or trilateral, as the At-Large Advisory Committee is now also getting a seat at the table — will be proceed.
The rules of engagement were framed by ICANN (pdf) back in March, with the idea that talks would begin before ICANN 74, a deadline that has clearly been missed.
The GNSO convened a small team of members to consider ICANN’s proposals and issued its report (pdf) last week, which now seems to have been agreed upon by the Council.
Both GNSO and GAC are keen that the talks will be facilitated by an independent, non-conflicted, knowledgeable expert, and have conceded that they may have to hire a professional facilitator from outside the community.
That person hasn’t been picked yet, and until he/she has taken their seat no talks are going to happen.
ICANN said a few months ago that it did not expect the closed generics issue to delay the SubPro Operational Design Phase, which is scheduled to wind up in October, but the longer the GAC, GNSO and ICANN dawdle, the more likely that becomes.
All that has to happen is for a group of 14-16 community members to agree on what “public interest” means, and that should be easy, right? Right?