Written by Ahnaf Sadat Zakaria (Edited by Jenna Fung)
ICANN stands for ‘The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number’. ICANN is an American multi stakeholder group and nonprofit organization (ICANN, 2019). It is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet. Its primary objective is to ensure the network’s stable and secure operation. ICANN Policies are essential to internet governance.
In our daily use of the internet, we must use domain names. Domain names are converted into IP addresses through Domain Naming System (DNS). The DNS process has a hierarchy tree, where the root is at the top of the tree. ICANN is responsible for maintaining the root of the hierarchy Tree hierarchy. For example, TLDs (top level domain) are one of the highest level domains in this hierarchical tree (Postel, 1994). However, the numbers of TLDs are growing dramatically (Verisign, 2020); these new TLDs are approved by ICANN. ICANN Does this through a process called ‘Objection and Dispute Resolution.’
‘Objection and Dispute Resolution’ is meant to protect certain interests and rights. It considers formal objections for gTLD applications. A panel of qualified and relevant experts can consider these objections.
There are different cases of objections (ICANN, n.d.) They include:
- String confusion objection
- Legal right objection
- Limited public interest objection
- Community objection
The objections are resolved through a step-by-step process. First the object is filled with a dispute resolution service provider on different grounds. Then the Dispute Resolution Service Provider (DRSP) posts online notices of objections. After that, these objections to the filing deadline are closed. ICANN posts online notice to all objectives. DRSP notifies applicants of any objections received and the time applicants must respond. There is an Expert panel appointed to resolve the issue. The panel consists of members who are expert in their fields. Expert panel determines the outcome of the objection. Then finally the issue is resolved.
To understand this better, we can observe the case of Amazon. Amazon had an objection from Brazil and Peru for its name (Pimenta, 2019). The objections included the problem that the Amazon forest played a vital role in the two countries. The name amazon should not be used as a domain name for the company. It should be on the ISO list — a list of names which cannot be used as domain names because they are heritage regional names.
If Amazon used that, the two countries could not use the domain name for the public interest. As a result, the government’s efforts to congregate web pages around the region would be hindered. Amazon countered the objections through a series of rational arguments. They firstly stated that amazon should be allowed to register a domain name according to its trademark. Secondly, the region Amazon is not a part of the ISO list. So, there is no issue with the ISO list. Finally, Amazon is not related to the Amazon forest. It is in no way related to the regional area. This is how objections and disputes are resolved through the step-by-step process mentioned.
The ICANN plays a vital role in managing such issues related to Naming. However, the organization isn’t always able to come to a solution. The dispute regarding the name of Amazon has not been able to come to a resolution. However, this does not undermine the important role ICANN plays in internet governance. It ensures that the rights of various stakeholders are looked after.
ICANN plays a vital role, through its policies to govern the internet space. They ensure that the internet is a more inclusive place where multi-stakeholders issues are heard. It has played a vital role in resolving disputes and it will continue to do so.
ICANN. (n.d.). ICANN. https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/odr
ICANN. (2019, November 28). ARTICLE 1 MISSION, COMMITMENTS AND CORE VALUES. ICANN. https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/governance/bylaws-en
Pimenta, M. (2019, May 8). Domain name dispute: who gets to keep Amazon? Lexology. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=85594134-7b40-436c-b5ac-a807d98d1b56
Postel, J. (1994, March). Domain Name System Structure and Delegation. IETF. https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1591
Verisign. (2020). The Domain Name Industry Brief. Verisign. https://www.verisign.com/en_US/domain-names/dnib/index.xhtml