WASHINGTON, May 4, 2011 – Republican and Democrat members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet came together on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, to ask critical questions of ICANN during the “ICANN Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Oversight Hearing.” Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) especially engaged the ICANN representative in heated questioning of the gTLD policy for the duration of the hearing. In a time of such partisan division on a majority of issues, the bi-partisan agreement and concern voiced by Subcommittee members throughout the hearing highlights the broad relevance of the gTLD policy issue.
CADNA figured prominently during the hearing, with President Josh Bourne serving as a witness. “It is encouraging to see majority and minority members of the Subcommittee coming together over this important issue,” Bourne reflected. “Concern over the ICANN gTLD policy presents a great opportunity to work together regardless of party lines. The leadership shown by Subcommittee members during today’s hearing is exactly what we need to protect intellectual property rights.”
Bourne had several frank exchanges with Subcommittee members about the new gTLD program, but also stressed the importance of Congress looking past this particular program and into ICANN as an organization. In response to a question posed by Rep. Conyers, Bourne stated, “You have to think about where the gTLD policy came from. More controversial policies like this one will come out of ICANN unless we take the time to thoroughly examine the organization as a whole…All of this is just a band-aid on a larger problem. We need to fix ICANN.”
Bi-partisan concerns with the gTLD program and ICANN itself ranged from budget issues and ICANN salary information to the IANA functions contract, through which the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) grants ICANN the responsibility of administering the technical functions of the domain name system. In his opening statement, Chairman Goodlatte pointed out that the discussions that took place during today’s hearing would serve as valuable background information for future conversations between ICANN and the DOC about the renewal of the IANA contract, which is set to expire in September.
Ultimately, the Subcommittee asked that ICANN postpone the launch of new gTLDs in order for Congress to look further into the rollout and how it will impact Internet users and businesses. Both majority and minority members were particularly concerned that small businesses and start-ups may not have the budget to protect their brands across potentially hundreds of new gTLDs. Various members also requested Chairman Goodlatte convene additional hearings on this matter.
The outcome of this hearing, namely the Subcommittee’s high level of interest in exploring the new gTLD program and ICANN’s policy making, is extremely encouraging to CADNA. The Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with members of Congress, as well as representatives from the Executive Branch to raise awareness of and eventually take meaningful action in regards to these issues.
The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the systemic domain name abuses that plague the Internet today. For more information, please visit www.cadna.org.