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Reform of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)

The ongoing turmoil involving RegisterFly, the big US domain registrar which collapsed this year, permeated the event like a nasty, aching hangover.

As El Reg revealed yesterday, ICANN has recently been sued by a RegisterFly customer over its alleged failure to supervise its accredited registrar RegisterFly. Not that ICANN bothered to reveal this information to its stakeholders (i.e., the internet community), a fact that seems to fly in the face of its current claimed emphasis on transparency and better communication with the public.

The RAA guarantees RegisterFly arbitration if ICANN revokes its accreditation, as it did after almost a year of complaints from RegisterFly's customers, which means that this fiasco will continue to simmer nicely. Although ICANN might be able to claim that it has fulfilled its contractual obligations, or in the alternative that the plaintiff is not a third party beneficiary of the contract and thus has no standing to sue in the first place, this is uncharted territory.

If ICANN loses on this one, you can bet the floodgates will open, as ICANN's years of neglect on this issue of supervision will come back to haunt it. ICANN is well aware that there are other potential RegisterFly situations out there, with plenty of other American lawyers eager for class-action status.

Chairman Vint Cerf at the welcoming ceremony continued to dish this one off to other parties, claiming without any apparent irony that the emphasis should be on reporting bad registrars to Better Business Bureau-type organizations (ICANN, like the BBB, allows registrar businesses to post its approved logo on their sites, and yet was completely blindsided when angry RegisterFly customers came to it for help).

Regardless, it’s impossible to see how the fraud alleged in the RegisterFly case will be rectified by a third party like the BBB – when someone like Vint Cerf gets defrauded, he doesn’t call the BBB, he calls his lawyer.

Needless to say, this is the story that just won’t quit.

Regional At-large Organizations (RALOs)

The expansion of the RALO effort, begun at the Sao Paulo conference last year with the establishment of an at-large organization for Latin America, has continued with contracts signed for European and African RALO groups.

These groups are part of an outreach effort by ICANN to allow for more public participation in its decision making, while taking into account the fact that there are at times unique regional issues to be addressed. Just how much accountability these organizations will give to ICANN is highly debatable - and accountability, or lack there of, has been a persistent criticism of ICANN for years, even by those within the organization.

One of the best things to come out of this meeting was a vastly improved website, with, of all things, an actual sitemap.

Considerably more information than ever is available, and in multiple languages. Of course, the latest round of RegisterFly obscurantism (in which ICANN made no mention of a major lawsuit against it) calls into question just how serious ICANN is about transparency and accountability.

Just how the RALOs play out remains to be seen, but it is, if nothing else, representative of the internationalization of the Web itself.

New generic Top Level Domains (gTLD)

Suggestions were tossed about for a special TLD just for financial institutions, though that is in the rumor stage, nothing more. More regional domains, such as .asia, are on the way.

Best of all, that old warhorse of ICANN controversy, the .xxx domain, will be resolved once and for all at a unique (for ICANN) open board meeting.

We’ll be there to cover the debate from start to finish.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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