.Org is Safe!

I wrote some time ago about ICANN, the organization that oversees top-level-domains, was attempting to sell the .org TLD to a private equity firm with a questionable record. Well, today they were finally defeated.

This was a contentous issue with many users, including users like myself who own .org domains. A private equity firm is not exactly the kind of oversight and governance that a non-profit would likely enjoy. The equity firm could charge any sort of pricing they so desired, even hold it over some “less favorable” organizations as leverage.

Additionally, Ethos Capital seems to have wanted the non-profit entitiy that controls the .org TLD so that it could load it up with debts from other controlled subsidies. What a terrible deal. The org domain registry is an organization that actually makes money off of the fees associated with registration.

The sale threatened to bring censorship and increased operating costs to the nonprofit world. As EFF warned, a private equity-owned registry would have a financial incentive to suspend domain names—causing websites to go dark—at the request of powerful corporate interests and governments. 

EFF – From the article

Powerful entities fought for this verdict, including California’s Attorney General, Members of Congress, the UN, The Girl Scouts of America, Wikimedia and more. This is a powerful win for freedom and open access. While this was well deserved, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.

Computers Politics Rants

ICANN-T Believe This

It seems like the copyright train has made it’s way around to ICANN. You know, the guys you (on some level) buy your domains from? Yeah, they’re getting into the copyright enforcement game. Sounds like kismet if I ever saw it.

Oh wait. No.

Cutting to the meat of the EFF’s article on this, is a quote about a provision regarding URS, an accelerated version of the copyright claims “court” for .org TLDs. That means any company who owns a generic (or even specific, I’ll get into that later) enough company can run roughshod over a non-profit who owns a domain, like in this excerpt:

When nonprofit organizations use brand names and other commercial trademarks, it’s often to call out corporations for their misdeeds—a classic First Amendment-protected activity. That means challenges to domain names in .org need more careful, thorough consideration than URS can provide. Adding URS to the .org domain puts nonprofit organizations who strive to hold powerful corporations and governments accountable at risk of losing their domain names, effectively removing those organizations from the Internet until they can register a new name and teach the public how to find it. Losing a domain name means losing search engine placement, breaking every inbound link to the website, and knocking email and other vital services offline.

Beyond URS, the new .org agreement gives Public Interest Registry carte blanche to “implement additional protections of the legal rights of third parties” whenever it chooses to. These aren’t necessarily limited to cases where a court has found a violation of law and orders a domain name suspended. And it could reach beyond disputes over domain names to include challenges to the content of a website, effectively making PIR a censorship bureau.

Mitch Stoltz – EFF – “Opening the Door for Censorship: New Trademark Enforcement Mechanisms Added for Top-Level Domains”

“But Nathan!”, you cry, “why do you care so much? I know you have a .org domain, but ‘degruchy’ is pretty specific.”

Yeah, I thought so, too, for a while. When I registered aeons ago, I was only vaguely aware of, a jeweler in Indonesia. I was wholly unaware (until very recently) of a department store called “Degruchys” on the Isle of Jersey off the coast of France. Both of these companies would be able to make a claim to for any number of reasons. They may not win, but I’m not holding out hope.

The EFF has already asked that they reconsider this contract and change. Which was done behind closed doors. I hope that they are successful in getting ICANN to change their position on this.