Coalition For ICANN Transparency

Coalition for ICANN Transparency Sues ICANN and VeriSign to Stop Implementation of Proposed .com Registry Agreement

Coalition For ICANN Transparency

 

San Jose, Calif., Nov. 28, 2005 – The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. (CFIT) filed suit today against VeriSign, Inc. and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) seeking various judicial rulings and an injunction relating to the new .net and proposed .com Registry Agreements.  The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. and will likely dominate the discussion when ICANN convenes later this week in Vancouver, Nov. 30 – Dec. 4.

According to lead lawyer, Jesse Markham Jr., of the San Francisco-based firm of Morrison & Foerster, this is an antitrust action to preserve the status quo in markets related to Internet domain names and to prevent VeriSign from expanding its monopoly control over the .com and .net top-level domain name registries into highly competitive downstream and adjacent markets.

“ICANN has vacated its government-mandated obligation to maintain competition and prevent discrimination in markets related to Internet domain names by succumbing to VeriSign’s strong arm tactic and allowing it to leverage its limited-duration contractual control over .com and .net into a permanent control over those registries and over adjacent markets segments for various domain name services,” said Markham.

The action seeks to enjoin the signing and implementation of a proposed .com agreement announced late last month; an injunction against VeriSign’s monopoly leveraging conduct; an injunction requiring ICANN to adhere to its government mandate to maintain competition and prevent discrimination in the domain marketplace; and an injunction to entertain competing bids for the operation of the .com registry.   The suit notes that if the proposed agreement is signed, it would also create problems that do not now exist including:

  • Erosion of the Internet community’s role in determining policy
  • Locked in price increases adding $1.5 billion to the cost to consumers without economic justification as called for in every other ICANN/registry agreement  (with exception to .net, another VeriSign contract), as compared to the amounts that consumers would likely pay under a competitively bid agreement
  • Expansion of VeriSign’s contractual control to the detriment of competitive segments of the market
  • Permanent control of the .com database granted to VeriSign
  • Reduction in the traditional role of U.S. government oversight

“VeriSign’s conduct makes it abundantly clear that it has no intention of reining in its illegal monopolistic imperialism until it has conquered every market related to Internet domain names. This battle is global,” Markham continued.

In addition to these injunctions, CFIT is alerting the U.S. Department of Justice of the significant anticompetitive issues the proposed .com Registry agreement would provoke.  “We are filing a preliminary complaint with the European Commission detailing similar issues.  It’s now up to the courts to intervene and prevent ICANN and VeriSign from eliminating competition in many markets related to Internet domain names,” said Markham.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency

The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the internet governing body is founded.  More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

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Internet Community Interest Group Launched to Drive ICANN Transparency

 ‘Coalition for ICANN Transparency’ Seeks to Retain Governance

Checks and Balances, Targets Proposed .com Deal with VeriSign

Internet Community Interest Group Launched to Drive ICANN Transparency

 

Washington – Nov. 22, 2005 – Driven by broad objection to the recently proposed .com agreement between ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – and VeriSign, the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) has been launched by a group of individuals, organizations and companies intent on bringing transparency back to the activities and operations of the internet governing body.

The deal, announced on Monday, October 24, as part of an attempt to settle litigation between ICANN and VeriSign, went far beyond the issues before the court. It renewed and extended VeriSign’s control of the .com registry two years before the expiration of the current contract and at rates that added $1.5 billion to the cost to consumers over its seven-year term. It also created a mechanism allowing VeriSign to annex already competitive markets as it reduced traditional oversight.

“All in all, a bad deal,” said John Berard, spokesperson for CFIT. “In a moment, ICANN went from a strong legal argument to agreeing to higher costs for domain name holders, and fixing those costs in perpetuity.”

The sweeping scope and surprise of the announcement was a wake-up call, Berard said. He noted that one of the founding principles of ICANN was a commitment to bottom-up, consensus-driven decision-making. “This deal shot that in its tracks,” he said.

Under terms of the agreement:

  • The proposed contact would set prices for a seven year period at a level $750 million higher than the current contract and $1.5 billion higher than a contract competitively bid. This “tax” will be borne by consumers
  • The .com registry is being given to VeriSign in perpetuity by including a presumptive renewal clause in the new contract.
  • The checks-and-balances engrained in the current contract are removed
  • Innovation and competition in the .com sphere are undermined by a liberal definition of new “registry services”

It was into this breach that CFIT arose. “We are not trying to set aside a settlement for ICANN, we are trying to set aside this settlement,” said Berard. CFIT proposes what is wrong with the deal can be fixed without stopping a deal. It proposes:

  • The agencies tasked under the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding with review of ICANN decisions, confirm and carry-out their intention to do so
  • ICANN set aside the proposed .com agreement and let the current .com contract run its term through November 2007
  • ICANN prepare to and then bid the .com contract so as to ensure the best prices for consumers and the most competitive market

“It’s essential that we protect and promote competition throughout the Internet community,” Berard continued. “We will present a united front on this issue at the Vancouver ICANN meeting and encourage comments from the community at large that can help with our cause.  Let’s keep .com competitive.”

Public comment can be submitted on CFIT’s Web site found at www.cfit.info.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency

The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the internet governing body is founded. More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

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Legal

Legal

U.S. Actions

On November 28, 2005, CFIT filed an anti-trust action against VeriSign, Inc. and ICANN in the United States District Court Northern District of California San Jose Division. To see a copy of the complaint as filed, click here.

A request made of U.S. District Court for the Nothern District of California by CFIT on November 28, 2005 when it filed papers seeking a restraining order preventing the contract from being signed in the interim has been transformed by the court into a petition for preliminary injunction. A hearing date of February 10, 2006 has been set. To see a copy of the order, click here.

In those papers, ICANN confirmed that the settlement agreement would not be put to a vote during the ICANN Vancouver conference (though the Board might decide at its December 4 meeting to determine the timing of such a vote) and that no futher Board meetings were scheduled for this year. On the basis of ICANN’s representations, the imminent threat of signing the new deal appears to have been removed, allowing the judge to convert CFIT’s call into application for a preliminary injunction.

Here are the documents that were filed during the proceedings seeking to stop the signing of the settlement agreement in the short term:

EU Actions

On November 29, CFIT formally asked the European Commission to begin an investigation into anti-competitive behavior of VeriSign and ICANN. The focus of that investigation will be the pending .com proposal and the already signed .net registry agreement. The letter to European Commissioner Cecilio Madero Villarejo, who heads the Information Industries, Internet and Consumer Electronics unit, makes this key point:

“There is no doubt that the European Commission is the competition authority in Europe best placed to investigate this anti-competitive behaviour. Internet-related services are of concern to all European businesses and consumers, and any attempt to monopolize Internet-related services knows no national borders.”

‘NO SCHEDULED VOTE’ BY ICANN ON .COM DEAL UNTIL 2006 LEADS COURT TO SET HEARING DATE ON LONGER-TERM INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

‘NO SCHEDULED VOTE’ BY ICANN ON .COM DEAL UNTIL 2006 LEADS COURT TO SET HEARING DATE ON LONGER-TERM INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

Preliminary Injunction Hearing Set for February 10, 2006 in San Jose, Calif.

San Jose, Calif – Nov. 30, 2005 – The request for temporary relief from the proposed .com deal between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and VeriSign sought by the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) has been transformed by the court into a request for a preliminary injunction.  A hearing date of February 10, 2006 in San Jose has been set.

The move came after lawyers for ICANN filed papers with the court stating that the board will not vote on the matter at its meeting this week in Vancouver and that no meeting is scheduled for the rest of the year.

“We sincerely hope that ICANN and VeriSign will take the opportunity here in Vancouver and in the period leading to the hearing on February 10 to listen to the concerns of the Internet community and resolve this matter within ICANN’s own policy-making and oversight mechanisms,” said John Berard, spokesperson for CFIT.

In its filings, ICANN states:

“The agenda (at the ICANN meeting in Vancouver now underway) does not, however, state that the ICANN Board will take action on the settlement or the .com Registry Agreement this week.  There are no other Board meetings scheduled this year.”

According to Jesse Markham of the San Francisco law firm Morrison and Foerster and lead attorney for CFIT, “It seems that the court is accepting as true ICANN’s suggestion that no action will be taken on the .com deal until next year eliminating the urgent need to act.”

The suit, brought by the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, was filed on Nov. 28, 2005.  It asserts that the .com deal would:

  • Continue to erode the Internet community’s role in determining policy,
  • Lock in price increases without economic justification,
  • Allow a monopoly to annex competitive segments of the market
  • Grant permanent control of the .com database to VeriSign, and
  • Reduce the traditional role of U.S. government oversight.

In a declaration filed yesterday with the court, Markham confirmed the ICANN lawyer’s commitment.  He stated in a letter filed with the court that based on discussion he has had with counsel for ICANN, that ICANN’s counsel said there will not be a vote of the ICANN board on the .com proposal this week and there are no other Board meetings scheduled for this year.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency

The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the Internet governing body is founded.  More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

Mission & Goals

Mission

CFIT is provoked by the recently proposed .com agreement. It is the latest proof that ICANN continues to demonstrate it cannot operate fairly on behalf of consumers and other intranet stakeholders. The proposed assignment of the .com registry to Verisign, offered two years before the expiration date on the current contract and done outside an open bidding process, reinforces four forces detrimental to the internet:

  • A lack of transparency
  • A continued erosion of checks-and-balances
  • Imposition of unilateral price increases that run counter to market logic
  • Unchecked expansion of the .com registrys natural monopoly into competitive areas

The mission of the organization, spelled out in this issue paper can be summarized in these four points:

  • Protect the internet communities decisive role in and ensure the public view of ICANN activities and operations
  • Support the explicit and necessary checks-and-balances that have provided valuable oversight since ICANNs founding
  • Define the appropriate limits of natural monopoly registry services
  • Promote a competitive environment that will ensure the stability of the internet, continue to spur innovation, encourage improved customer service and drive lower costs to consumers.

Goals

Our goals are both strategic and tactical.

Strategically, ICANN can better ensure its place in the world by letting the world in on its activities.

Tactically, the current .com contract should remain in-force until its expiration in November 2007 and the contract rebid at that time.

Together we can make a difference.

Preliminary Complaint Lodged at European Commission to Open Anti-Competition Discussions on .net Registry Agreement and Proposed .com Deal 

Preliminary Complaint Lodged at European Commission to Open Anti-Competition Discussions on .net Registry Agreement and Proposed .com Deal 

 

Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) Sees Significant EU Impact

Brussels, Belgium – Dec 1, 2005 – This week, the Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. (CFIT) filed a preliminary complaint with the Competition Directorate of the European Commission to open discussions with the European Commission regarding the anti-competitive nature of the new .net and proposed .com Registry Agreements between VeriSign, Inc and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

This action was taken simultaneously with the filing of CFIT’s lawsuit against VeriSign and ICANN filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California on Monday, Nov. 28 and an approach to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In its letter to the Competition Directorate, CFIT states that the two registry agreements “will have significant anti-competitive effects in markets for domain name registration and for related Internet services which depend on these domain registrations.”  CFIT states the deals are in breach of Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty and applicable antitrust laws in the United States. Article 81 prohibits agreements that reduce consumer welfare by giving undertakings the ability to raise prices, reduce quality or choice of services or reduce innovation.

Specifically, the complaint notes that the agreements will allow VeriSign:

  • To make its monopoly for .com and .net domain name registrations long lasting (if not permanent);
  • To extend its monopoly and preclude competition in downstream services such as the auction/registration of expiring domain names or domain name directory assistance;
  • To charge higher prices;

all to the detriment of Internet users including those located in Europe.

The complaint also stated that “Internet-related services are of concern to all European businesses and consumers, and any attempt to monopolize Internet-related services knows no national borders.  Moreover, given the importance of the Internet to (cross-border) trade and economic growth in Europe, CFIT believes that any serious attempt to monopolize segments of the Internet industry should be Community interest and warrant priority action.”

The complaint is the first step in CFIT’s discussion process with the European Commission. Depending on the nature of discussion that results from this complaint, CFIT plans to file a formal complaint against these registry agreements.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency
The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the internet governing body is founded.  More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

 

Media Contact:
Marcie Hatch
Zeno Group for CFIT
marcie.hatch@zenogroup.com
415.369.8120

Intellectual Property Expert, Lawyer Dr. John Berryhill Joins Coalition for ICANN Transparency Board Of Directors

Intellectual Property Expert, Lawyer Dr. John Berryhill Joins
Coalition for ICANN Transparency Board Of Directors

Washington, D.C. – Dec 2, 2005 – Internationally recognized intellectual property attorney, Dr. John Berryhill, has joined the Board of Directors of a recently organized group urging the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to recommit to its founding principles of open, bottom-up, consensus decision-making.

The group – the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) – was formed in an attempt to organize the broad, Internet community opposition to recent ICANN actions that have ignored those principles.

According to CFIT spokesperson, John Berard, Berryhill’s background makes him a perfect point-person for the effort.

“Trained as an electrical engineer as well as a lawyer, John’s work in patent, copyright and trademark matters; his long-standing participation in the business of the Internet; and memberships in many ICANN task forces and working groups gives him a powerful perspective,” Berard said.

Dr. Berryhill was admitted to practice in patent matters before the U.S. Patent Office in 1992. He is currently in solo practice, with a primary focus on Internet legal issues.  This grew out of 13 years with an intellectual property boutique firm in Philadelphia where he represented plaintiffs and defendants in patent, copyright, and trademark matters, including dozens of disputes under the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

“When ICANN approved the assignment of the .net registry and revealed its proposed .com registry agreement – both with VeriSign – it confirmed a wholesale departure from its founding principles,” Berryhill said.  “ICANN has traded its governance role for the betterment of the Internet community for a revenue-based partnership with VeriSign.”

In addition to Berryhill, the CFIT board includes:

  • Howard Neu, a Florida-based lawyer and Certified Public Accountant, represents domainers in Domain Defense Litigation.  He is a solo practitioner who also escrows funds and prepares contracts for the transfer of domains.
  • Jason Eberstein, a Washington, D.C. registered lobbyist with the firm of Trammell and Associates, who helps guide corporations, institutions and individuals in their relationships with Congress and the Administration.
  • Jennifer Ross-Carriere, the Ottawa-based general counsel of Momentous.ca, a holding company of domain name and Internet-based businesses.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency
The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the Internet governing body is founded.  More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

Media Contact:
Marcie Hatch
Zeno Group for CFIT
marcie.hatch@zenogroup.com
415.369.8120

FOIA Request Made to U.S. Department of Commerce for Materials Linked to ICANN .Net, .Com Agreements

FOIA Request Made to U.S. Department of Commerce
for Materials Linked to ICANN .Net, .Com Agreements

Request Seeks to Define Scope and Intent of Discussions `Out of Public View’

Washington, D.C. – Dec 3, 2005 – The Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Commerce for materials related to discussions, memos and meetings and related contact that the government agency has had with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on matters relating to the .net and .com registry agreements. The request, filed Dec. 1, covers the period from Jan. 1, 2004.

According to John Berard, spokesperson for CFIT, conflicting comments and reports from Commerce and ICANN, led to the request.

“The day ICANN announced the .com deal with VeriSign, news reports were already quoting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Michael Gallagher endorsing it, yet reports from the agency since that time suggest the deal is still to be seen, let alone endorsed,” said Berard.

CFIT received confirmation of receipt of the request yesterday afternoon.

The FOIA request specifically asks for “all memoranda, policy papers, emails, correspondence, notes, speeches or any other documents (electronic or printed) between (to or from) any agents or staff of the Department of Commerce, including but not limited to the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and his office, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, including but not limited to the Office of the Chief Counsel and her office, VeriSign Inc., and the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the Department of Justice, including but not limited to the Antitrust Division, related to or connected with the “.Net registry agreement” and the current and proposed “.Com registry agreement,” between January 1, 2004 to December 1, 2005.”

“It is clear too much has happened out of public view and contrary to the bottom-up, consensus-driven decision-making that is a founding principle of ICANN,” said Berard.

About The Coalition for ICANN Transparency
The Coalition for ICANN Transparency Inc. – CFIT – is a not for profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the Internet governing body is founded.  More information on CFIT is located at www.cfit.info.

Media Contact:
Marcie Hatch
Zeno Group for CFIT
marcie.hatch@zenogroup.com
415.369.8120