ICANN, VeriSign .com Agreement Wins DoC Approval - Points of Interest
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I am not a lawyer. I say that right now because I’m skimming the full document, and there are a few things that made me raise an eyebrow. Take the area of consensus policies, for example. There are certain limitations on those – and one of those is that they shall not “prescribe or limit the price of Registry Services.” Perhaps it’s valid that they shouldn’t, since these policies are supposed to pertain to “issues for which uniform or coordinated resolution is reasonably necessary to facilitate interoperability, Security and/or Stability of the Internet or DNS.”
On the other hand, consensus policies are policies which are supposed to come from “a consensus of Internet stakeholders…” VeriSign holds a monopoly on the .com registry. Not a “natural” one, like Microsoft has with operating systems, but a government-enforced one; you literally cannot go somewhere else to get a .com domain name – even if you register with another registrar, that registrar goes to VeriSign. If you don’t like the Windows operating system, there are other operating systems you can use; you can install Linux, buy a Macintosh, or do research and find others. But you can’t do that with .com domain names. Without a market force in place, what’s to insure that VeriSign’s prices stay in line? (Yes, there are other stipulations for that, but this one surprised me a bit).
There is at least a process in place now for proposed registry services. It obligates VeriSign to give ICANN written notification of proposed new registry services; ICANN then has 15 days to make a preliminary determination as to whether the service requires further consideration for potentially raising security, stability, or competition issues. No doubt this section was added because of the brouhaha over VeriSign’s former Site Finder “service” that basically gave VeriSign a monopoly on mistyped domain names.
Other points in the document, if you know what to look for and are familiar with the history behind ICANN’s and VeriSign’s stormy relationship, sound like serious compromise points. For example, one clause states that “Registry Operator shall not be entitled to claim any intellectual property rights in Registry Data.” That has been an issue in the past with VeriSign.
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