Archive | June, 2011

ICANN and Human Rights

 

(I sent the following to Rod Beckstrom today)

Rod Beckstrom
Chief Executive Officer
Internet Corporation for Assigned. Names and Numbers
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina del Rey, CA
90292-6601.
USA

[Docket No. 110207099-1319-02]

OPEN LETTER

Dear Rod:

It was good to see you in Singapore, if only fleetingly.

As you were present in San Francisco back on March 17th 2011, you are of course aware that during the Public Forum in San Francisco I made use of the community’s opportunity to ask questions on the main topics at each meeting directly to the Board and in front of the rest of the community, asking the Board about ICANN’s commitment (or not) to fundamental human rights. The full transcript is in the usual place that is available to you, and is reproduced at

http://news.dot-nxt.com/2011/03/17/transcript-public-forum

As you are also aware, I still remain without the benefit of the several-times promised-by-you answer.

Certain current and former Board members have privately expressed their irritation with the form of my question. Notwithstanding this, and regardless of the form of my question (leading or otherwise), this particular question has to be one of the most remarkable as a result ICANN’s shamefully long silence in officially responding to it.

I also understand certain comments were recently made by one or more members of the Board about my question (in my absence) before the entire assembly of the Singapore ccNSO meeting — which is open to both non-members (as we then were) and to members — despite that I was unavoidably unable to be there.

Although this seems to me to be no more than mildly discourteous, I am looking forward to reading the transcript of that meeting to see if it can throw any light on your continued refusal to answer the question.

However I have been given to understand that scuttlebutt has it that the Board might now have decided that it requires further particulars before it would be prepared to answer my question.

I am puzzled mightily by this, if it is true.

If that were the case, surely you should have contacted me in writing some four months ago (my email address is well known to you) or in person.

Back in March I wished to have the answer to this legitimate query in order to be able to respond fully and coherently to the Department of Commerce‘s Notice of Inquiry regarding the IANA function.

I asked the question in March 2011, and I expected a timely answer.

I still expect an answer even though July is almost with us. I shall keep asking for an answer until the organisation which you lead has the courtesy to respond to it.

The ICANN Chairman, Mr Dengate-Thrush, rather optimistically suggested I might get one by the end of the day (i.e by 18th March 2011) in which I asked the question.

Whilst I did not share his well-intentioned optimism, I did expect ICANN to provide an answer to enable me to respond to the Department’s Notice of Inquiry before their 31st March 2011 deadline.

The more so, as I took the trouble to provide my enquiry both to ICANN’s Chairman, and to ICANN’s General Counsel not only in writing but also that same day.

Yet I was to be unsurprisingly disappointed when ICANN studiedly failed to answer the question, despite repeated reminders both to yourself, and to the Chairman, and I was therefore forced to complete my submission to the United States’ Department of Commerce without the benefit of the information asked for.

In that light, and in the subsequent failure to respond at all, it seems to me that ICANN intentionally failed to answer and that failure was motivated by a desire to avoid adverse comment in my submission to the Department.

If, in fact, this was so, (and I hope it was not), this transparent ploy unfortunately had the opposite effect you intended, as I was forced, in my submission to the Department to highlight ICANN’s failure to commit to basic human rights compliance.

A Further Notice of Inquiry has now been issued by the US Government with a deadline of July 29th 2011.

I trust your organisation will not employ the same tactic to inhibit input and comment in response to that?

As you are the figurehead of an international global organisation dealing with rights and obligations world-wide ICANN is in a unique position and you have a unique responsbility.

  • in policy-making ICANN acts as a Legislature for the Domain Name System.
  • in carrying out of the IANA function, ICANN appears to act, in some part, as the DNS Executive Branch, and
  • in making judgments on applications for new Top Level Domains, or changes to existing Top Level Domains, ICANN acts as a Judicial Branch.

In doing all of those things, it seems to me that the values of commonly accepted principles of fundamental rights of civilised nations must always be respected.

Why can you not bring yourself to agree with me on this? It seems self-evident to me.

And it also seems to me these fundamental principles should not apply only to public authorities (such as the GAC) but also to organisations such as ICANN itself, among other things by reason of the Guiding Principles for corporations that was presented to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council by Prof John G Ruggie of Harvard Law School.

See http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/files/business-human-rights/guiding_principles_business_and_hhrr_en.pdf

and, in particular, the Foundational Principles, pp. 13 et seq.

This was also strongly underlined by Commissioner Kroes’ recent public statement on what matters on the Internet (see http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/neelie-kroes/i-propose-a-compact-for-the-internet ) , in particular that :-

“there’s been a lot of discussion recently about principles which do, or should, underpin the network. The G8 recently agreed a few – principles like openness, freedom, non-discrimination and respect for human rights. Other bodies, including the OECD itself, are also developing their own.”

Particularly in this time during the Arab Spring of 2011, where the Internet has become a powerful force for good, for the promotion of democracy and human rights (in Iran, Libya, Syria and elsewhere around the world) I believe it would have been far preferable better that ICANN should grasp the opportunity to proclaim a commitment to fundamental human rights, to set an example to others, and not to be cowering in the shadows as if I’d asked you whether you’d been scrumping apples.

I therefore respectfully request a written or emailed reply to my enquiry of 17th March 2011 by return email.

If you insist on maintaining your current apparent position of procrastination and obfuscation, please provide me with a thorough and reasoned explanation of your decision not to answer the question, the rationale thereof and the sources of data and information on which ICANN relied in making this decision, again by return, so I can assist the Board in its deliberations.

With all good wishes

Nigel

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What’s in a (domain) name?

 

Once I explain what it is I do for a living, people, particularly here locally in the Channel Islands often say to me “But which domain extension should my business or organisation be using for best effect?”.

What is interesting, is that the approach people have on the subject appears to be influenced by their age, length of time on the Internet and the locations where their business is targetting.

The thing to always bear in mind, is that a major (although not the only) use of a domain name, is as a brand.

A brand for a business, organisation or for a particular topic. You can see the thinking behind my choice of the nigel.je brand here.

Because of the Crown Dependencies’ close links, both geographic, constitutional and economic, with the United Kingdom, before 1996 it was very common for those few Channel Island organisations that were on the Internet at the time, to use .UK domain names, and as what we now call “gTLD” names. (Usually .NET since the .COM usually belonged to an American company).

15 years ago, when we created the Channel Islands’ domain registry, there were only two ISPs (GUERNSEY.NET in Guernsey, and SuperNet (ITL.NET) in Jersey

Back then, even the Islands’ governments used to use .GOV.UK or X.400. (In fact we still maintain a legacy registration of the name GUERNSEY.GOV.UK with JA.NET on behalf of the States). Also, despite Guernsey not being part of the UK, because of the integration with the UK forces, the police continue to use GUERNSEY.POLICE.UK as well as various .GG names for other purposes.

(It’s perhaps worth noting that to some people outside, the message which the use of that brand appears to send out is that despite the Islands’ complete domestic autonomy from the UK, the forces of law and order are under significant influence if not control from London.)

Following the creation of the .GG,  .JE and .IM country codes on the Internet in 1996, and adoption by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) as official territorial two-letter ISO codes in 2006, Guernsey and Jersey (and the Isle of Man) has started to appear in drop down lists on websites as options. If you don’t see Guernse, Jersey and the Isle of Man, the website developer is almost certainly using out-of-date libraries.

This is all part of what our politicians rightly call “the emerging international personality of the jurisdiction”.

Publicity sticker for Guernésiais language bro...

Image via Wikipedia

What Montenegro did in a couple of years, we take 800 or so years to do!).

In general, this is A Very Good Thing.

But it’s left quite an interesting approach to using domain names.

Anyone who was at school after about 1998 naturally understands immediately that .GG  = Guernsey, and .JE = Jersey as they will have been familiar with .sch.gg and .sch.je email addresses.

However anyone older than that may be subscribe to have the school of thought that was common in the early days after the Internet arrived in the Islands and took the pragmatic view that “we aren’t part of the UK, the .COM is in use by an American company. so let’s use .NET”. An example of that, already mentions, is guernsey.net (now owned by Wave Telecom).

Furthermore people who came onto the internet around in the dotCOM boom (and bust!) think that .COM is the be-all and end all when it comes to online businesses.

And then of course, there are the deliberate branding exercises.

Some companies want to be seen to be a global enterprise. They feel they have to  use .COM (if they can find one available or more likely,  are forced to buy one in the ‘secondary market’)..

Surprising to some of us, but some companies want to downplay their Channel Island connections.

After all, we have UK +44 telephone numbers. We have Royal Mail standard postcodes and even though we have our own Postal Administrations, our mail, from outside the British Islands is addressed to the UK.

Therefore it’s understandable  enough that some Channel Island companies, particularly those taking advantage of using Low Value Consignment Relief, may not want to highlight, or even may wish to obscure their Channel Island connections. A .CO.UK domain name is the natural choice for companies who want to pretend to be in the UK.

But a choice of domain name can have major implications. In a little know ruling, the European Court of Justice ruled that what domain name a company used for its website, and even whether it put its phone number on that website in internationa (e.g. +44) rather than national dialling code format, could have an effect on whether it was considered to be targeting customers abroad.
So I guess it’s only a matter of time before the UK Inland Revenue decides that a conscious choice to use .CO.UK is one factor leading to a UK tax bill of some sort.

And using overseas domains has all sorts of jurisdictional risks. I’ve written already about the risks of using unstable countries’ domains (BIT.LY etc).
And Alderney-based Full Tilt Poker found itself in some difficulty when they realised that the fact that the registry for all .COM domains is the the US made their domain subject to seizure.

At the end of the day, local companies should be proud of their origin, and for practical reasons as well as sentiment, should use the local domain.

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Presidential Candidates Confirmed

At 4 pm yesterday, Alderney time, the nominations closed for the popular election of the Island’s next President.

The candidates are confirmed as follows

Bill Simpson – businessman, writer and previously Wing-Commander in the RAF

Stuart Trought – renewable energy expert

Paul Arditti – UK solicitor and States member since January

All three of the candidates are professional men.

All three have made promises that they had a contribution to make to the future welfare of the Island.

I am pleased to note that this election is not only contested, but even better by people of this calibre. At the last election, no one even bothered to contest it, thereby depriving the People of the chance to affirm their choice of the island’s First Citizen.

It seems to me that the choice of President can only be the candidate that can best represent the Island, keep the occasionally fractious States Meetings politely but firmly in line and carries no controversy or baggage that might interfere with those duties.

And although I have a relatively firm preference for one of them (and that is where my vote is going), I am not going to recommend which one you vote for, if you have a vote. (If you were to ask me privately, I would be happy to tell you.)

But do vote for whichever candidate you think has shown best their qualities, and  commitment to the role of First Citizen and your public representative.

And do make sure to express your preference by casting your own vote at the Island Hall on Saturday, the 11th June.

 

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