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ICANN shrugs off dotcom lawsuits

But legal threats point to wider malaise

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Internet overseeing organisation ICANN has dimissed two lawsuits against it as "attempts to manipulate the public comment process" over future ownership of all dotcoms.

General Counsel for ICANN John Jeffrey told us that the "underlying motivation" of the legal threats was clear in that they stemmed from "specific sectors of the registrar market place". Such groups had brought lawsuits before and it was "not surprising" that they would do so again at this point, he said.

However, the lead lawyer for one of the groups, sat outside the main meeting room at ICANN's Vancouver conference today, told us that they were following a public service remit and were aiming to aid consumers and protect the public interest by highlighting problems with the current agreement.

At staked is ownership of the internet's biggest and most important piece of real estate - the dotcom registry. Every dotcom domain - and there are 32 million of them - that is bought or renewed has to go through the registry owner, and the registry owner currently takes $6 each time for adminstrative charges.

VeriSign's contract to run dotcoms expires next year but as part of a wider deal, ICANN announced last month that it would extend VeriSign's contract, give it effective permanent ownership of dotcom, and allow it to increases prices by seven per cent each year. In return, VeriSign would withdraw its crippling legal complaints against ICANN and accept ICANN as the de facto internet authority.

From both organisations' perspectives it is a great deal. And, it could be argued, any deal that finally prevented the two titans at the top of the internet tree from fighting each other would be good for the internet.

That's what you think

But it has met with widespread criticism and condemnation from the internet community. Not to mention the two lawsuits.

Both the World Association of Domain Name Developers (WADND), and the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) have sued in Californian courts this week claiming that the deal infringes competition law, and that ICANN has broken its own bylaws. An early attempt to get a temporary restraining order was dismissed by a judge following a successful plea by ICANN's lawyers.

Nevertheless, the deal struck with VeriSign raises some very intriguing questions that go to the heart of current problems with how the internet is currently run.

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