Internet governance

This article offers insight into why geographic domain names remain problematic more than two decades after these issues first arose, identifies trends in DNS policy respecting geographic names and highlights the impact on various Internet stakeholders of current policy and decisions.

In June 2008, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) embarked upon an ambitious program of expansion at the top-level of the DNS. The policy underpinning expansion is notable for its adoption of new mechanisms that target the unauthorised use in new gTLDs of names the subject of legal ? in particular trademark ? rights. This article examines the rights protection mechanisms which emerged at the end of 2012, and the ICANN organisational structure and operational processes.

2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the United Nations? World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Although neither a forum focussed exclusively on ?Internet governance? nor the first discussion of the topic, WSIS marked the start of a global, decade-long debate on how the Internet is, and should be, managed. A decade later, the Internet has grown exponentially, bringing about massive cultural, social and economic change. And yet, many of the political and policy issues around its governance largely remain the same and are regularly debated in a wide range of fora. This article draws upon historical experiences in the Internet governance debate to explain and assess current discussions and to cast a wary eye into the future.

.cat, the generic top level domain (gTLD) designed to fulfil the needs of the worldwide Catalan speaking community on the Internet, has been praised as a success in the Internet domain name sector after seven years of operation. So much so that some long established TLDs have started to develop a similar community approach and use language as a market segmentation tool to engage new registrants. It has been also an inspiration for new geographical and community based gTLD applications. This paper discusses what led to .cat?s success, including its governance arrangements, and how some new gTLDs that will soon be delegated by ICANN could benefit from its business strategy.

This article evaluates ICANN?s claims to legitimacy by means of a case study of the process for approving the controversial .XXX gTLD. An analysis of the disputes involving .XXX reveals flaws with ICANN?s structural and procedural safeguards. As this article argues, however, ICANN?s weak claims to legitimacy do not necessarily mean that DNS management and policy-making should be transferred to an international treaty-based organisation.

In March 2014 the US Government announced its intent to transition away from the current system of oversight of core Internet functions, and move the obligations of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) over to the international multi-stakeholder community. The current contract is set to expire on 30 September 2015, and thenceforth a new globalised model has the opportunity to come into being. This article describes the current Internet governance model, and the process towards a future mode of operation.

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