Wednesday, 10 November 2010

No Cross Owner Ship Restrictions for ICANN Registrars - Free Choice of Registry Service Provider

One of the open issues remaining in ICANN's new gTLD Program (as defined in the various Draft Applicant Guidebooks) has been the question whether ICANN registrars were allowed to apply for their own new gTLD, and whether ICANN registrars were allowed to deliver Registry Services to new gTLD Registries such as a brand owner or a city.

Over the last year a working group under ICANN has struggled and finally failed to reach consensus on formulating a proposed policy on this socalled "Vertical Integration or Cross Ownership" issue.

As a result the ICANN board on November 5th took upon them to decide on this policy issue and has now decided to ask ICANN staff to implement a policy for new gTLDs with NO CROSS OWNERSHIP restrictions.

To brand owners, who consider applying for and operating a new dotBRAND gTLD, this in my view is good news. Brand owners will now be able to choose freely between both current registry backend providers and new registry backend providers including registrars and ccTLD registries. In addition, if I interpret the intention of the ICANN Board correctly, Brand Owners will be allowed to act as a Registry, Registrar, and Registrant in their own dotBRAND TLD. Anything else, would also have made little sense, IMHO.

Please note that we are still to see the final wording in the "Proposed Final Version" of the Applicant Guidebook expected to be published within a few days, and not least, we are to see the final wording of the AGB (Actual Final Version so to speak), which ICANN plans to release mid January 2011.

As always, one should not be surprised, if the multistakeholder organization of ICANN will change position or adjust the policy on the cross ownership issue. My take is, however, that the wish of ICANN board and ICANN Staff to foster free competition and innovation within the gTLD name space, and not least the eager to finally roll out the new gTLD program, is so strong that we should only expect very few additional restrictions in the final AGB, if any at all. (I.e. that registry operators are only allowed to register in their own TLD, until it reaches say 100,000 registrations...)

No doubt ICANN Board, GAC, ICANN Staff can expect a thunder storm of comments from those players in the market who have argued for cross ownership policies that would not allow registry operators to also act as registrars and registrants in their own TLD and - maybe more importantly - would now allow registrars to offer any registry services at all.

We look forward to a no doubt hot debate at the next ICANN Meeting in Cartagena, Columbia at the beginning of December.

See the ICANN Board Resolution here:
http://www.icann.org/en/minutes/resolutions-05nov10-en.htm

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