ICANN Meeting San Francisco: Reactions to the Opening Ceremony

Representatives from CADNA are attending the ICANN meeting in San Francisco and will be blogging about their observations. Check back here for updates, and follow our tweets @CADNA.

This morning, attendees gathered for the Welcome Ceremony, where ICANN leaders Peter Dengate Thrush and Rod Beckstrom, along with Ira Magaziner, Vint Cerf, Larry Strickling and Andrew McLaughlin spoke on the evolution of the Internet and ICANN, and their visions of the organization’s future role in the continuing development of Internet technologies.

The overarching theme of this morning’s ceremony was the commitment to ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model. As the Chair of the ICANN Board Peter Dengate Thrush pointed out, ICANN’s primary function is to preserve the security and stability of the Internet; promote competition as appropriate; and develop policies from the bottom-up. All these functions, according to the speakers, are better achieved through a multi-stakeholder model.

Throughout the history of the Internet and leading up to the development of ICANN, various governments have clashed over Internet-related issues. Ira Magaziner, policy advisor to President Clinton and one of the architects of ICANN, stressed that allowing Internet governance to be controlled by an intergovernmental body would stifle innovation and creativity, because it would become bogged down in bureaucracy.

As an interesting counterpoint, Larry Strickling, Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (INTA) supported the multi-stakeholder model, but also emphasized that ICANN needs to work more cooperatively with governments. In order for the reality of ICANN to meet its vision, a great deal of work remains to be done. While he offered his support of ICANN’s progress, Strickling made it clear that there was still plenty of room for improvement, particularly in terms of implementing the recommendations made by the Accountability and Transparency Review Team and working towards the political stability of the Internet.

ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom wrapped up the ceremony and, unsurprisingly, took a very optimistic perspective toward ICANN’s progress thus far and what it can accomplish in the future. In particular, he recalled the recent meeting between the ICANN Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee as a success in accountability and transparency, as well as cooperation between the two groups. This somewhat rosy hindsight view of the meeting may seem surprising to members of the intellectual property community, as one of the biggest outstanding issues – trademark protection in new gTLDs – was completely omitted from those discussions. But on the other hand, Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, insisted that IP protection does not actually fall under ICANN’s purview.

This is news to us. As the chief Internet governor, ICANN is ideally positioned to protect IP rights in the domain name space. In one very prominent example, trademark protections feature prominently in every version of the Applicant Guidebook for new gTLDs (albeit imperfectly). It should be interesting to see what other surprising facts are revealed over the course of the meeting here in San Francisco.

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