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31 January 2020



ALAC Advice

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20 January 2020

30 January 2020

30 January 2020

31 January 2020

31 January 2020

Board Ops Team & At-Large Staff


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CLOSED FOR COMMENT: Google Doc for ALAC Advice on ISOC/PIR Issue (Jan 2020)


ALAC Advice to the ICANN Board on ISOC/PIR Issue


The proposed sale of PIR to Ethos Capital has, understandably, created quite a stir, prompting commentary from many perspectives within the ICANN community. As a member of that community, the At-Large generally, and the ALAC specifically, join with others in expressing our frustration with the manner with which the proposed transaction came to light, the complexity and opacity of the transaction and the optics inherent in both the timing and individuals involved. We applaud the efforts by the ICANN Board to clarify and make transparent, as much as possible, the process regarding the deal and to take the time to encourage the best possible result.

However, as the representative of the interests of individual end users of the DNS, the At-Large must focus our commentary and advice on the practical implications of the deal and make recommendations designed to best safeguard the interests of those individual end users. The most significant implications for individual end users are the security of and trust in the .ORG TLD. This suggests that we need to focus less on the characteristics of the eventual registry and more on the characteristics of the eventual registrants of .ORG second level domains and the best place to safeguard the interests of individual end users is in the Registry Agreement.

Approval of the transaction, by the ICANN board, must be conditioned on amendments to the .ORG contract designed to capture, as much as possible, the intentions of the original RFP which awarded the contract to ISOC in the first place and encourage the predominant makeup of the .ORG space to remain the most trusted TLD for non-profit entities and individuals. While disapproval of the transaction by the ICANN Board would be problematic, the Board should be prepared to block the transfer of ownership of the registry on the basis of the public interest, absent significant changes to the .ORG contract because those changes are the only real way to safeguard the long term interests of not only individual end users but nonprofits as well, regardless of the entity to which the registry contract is delegated.


  1. The ICANN Board has a “reasonable” basis to withhold approval of the sale.
    The original RFP provides explicit expectations about the intended characteristics of a .ORG registry and a requirement to serve the nonprofit community. 
  2. The .ORG TLD now has history
    At the time of the original award to ISOC, it was only possible to express intentions for the domain in the most vague terms. There is now a record of activity within the domain to form the basis of more specific public interest requirements for the domain. In addition, the board has recently announced a framework from within which to consider the public interest.


  1. The Registry for .ORG must be organized as either a charitable non-profit (501c(3) in the US) or a “benefit corporation.”
    Additionally, the Registry must receive and maintain B Corporation certification.
  2. One-third of the Registry Corporate Board must be representatives of charitable nonprofits.
    The designation of such nonprofits in the US is 501c(3) but a list of similar designations internationally should be generated.
  3. One board member selected by the ALAC
    Ideally, at least one member or small group of members of the corporate board should have the explicit mandate to focus on the overall public interest and specifically the interests of individual end users.
  4. The Registry Corporation must enshrine in its bylaws that the principal focus of the domain is nonprofits and individuals and not commercial interests.
  5. The Registry Corporation must enshrine in its bylaws a commitment to free speech and a resistance to takedown demands with a political basis.
  6. The Registry must provide 6 months notice of a change in wholesale price and the option of a 20-year renewal at the current price.
  7. The Registry Agreement must enshrine PIR prohibited practices such a bulk sales to commercial registrars.
  8. The Registry Agreement must establish a “DNS Abuse Ceiling”
    The RA should contain both a reference to an ICANN community established definition of DNS Abuse as well as an explicit ceiling in terms of a percentage of of second level domains engaged in DNS Abuse. Failure to address DNS Abuse above this ceiling will constitute an explicit basis for re-delegation of .ORG by ICANN.

The ALAC respectfully submits that .ORG is a special domain that requires unique requirements or enforceable Public interest Commitments (PICs) within the registry agreement. It is only through explicit requirements in the RA that .ORG has the best hope of maintaining the public trust it has largely earned since the original RFP. Maintaining a top level domain devoted primarily to nonprofits and individuals is critical to the internet community and the board should be prepared, however reluctantly, to block the sale of PIR to Ethos Capital, absent substantial changes to the Registry Agreement under which Ethos, or any future entity, must manage the domain.

The ALAC appreciate the opportunity to comment on this process and look forward to further discussions on this historic transaction.


  1. I agree that its a matter of trust with the whole issue went and I support the fact that we need to give a statement from the above draft.  

  2. Olivier Crepin Leblond

    Just a thought, historically, when the DotMobi TLD was created, a formal DotMobi liaison with At-Large was mandated. Others will have details.


    Well that is certainly forcing our hand to take some action. But with arrows flying in all sorts of directions it has been difficult to know which one to follow, and I note there has been a break in the conversations on this topic.

    Interesting and very timely that Roberto raised the .org issue again in an earlier email today. I started a response until JZ reminded us that the thread was about .com 

    I agree with Roberto's approach  - that we should focus on our role as the voice of At-Large end-users and offer some creative advice on how we might influence the behaviour of PIR and any future decisions they make that will impact on .org end-users. PIR/Ethos already presented a webinar and said all the right things.. but how can we be assured that they will stick to what they said that they would do in the future? Who will monitor this on behalf of ordinary end-users? Who will be represented on the Stewardship Council?

    At the same time we may also need to advise the ICANN Board about how they might deal with the ICANN-PIR/Ethos contract - especially Roberto's recommendation of some commitment from ICANN that ethical behaviour towards .org end-users will be built into it.

    We are aware that the Board is looking into every legal issue relating to how they can deal with matters that are being raised by letters that are flowing their way. We don't need to add more of the same.

    While i think it might be seen to be a simplistic approach, I believe that we should stick to what our job is and focus on advice to the Board and to PIR- but lets try to be creative about how we advise them, looking at the impacts on end-users from all perspectives.

    My 2c

  4. Jonathan Zuck

    Thanks Maureen. Jacob has quickly fallen into the clutches of Godwin's Law. Reductio ad Nazium. The At-Large mandate is specifically NOT to represent organizations but instead individual end users. There is, in fact, an entity within the ICANN community which DOES represent the interests of not for profit organizations, NPOC. I had a long and involved conversation with Jacob, at Evan's behest and was coming around to some of his points and and we concluded he would make other introductions. Comparing us sticking to our remit to being antisemitic is beyond the pale! 

    We need to find our own way on this, with a focus on individual end users, and perhaps some concerns over organizational practices, but we owe SAVEDOTORG absolutely nothing and, after that op-ed, we should tell them to go to Hell. Just my two cents. 

  5. PIR Advisory Committee had an ALAC Liaison  - it was Michel Tchonang from the Cameroon. Are you suggesting we have a PIR or a DotOrg liaison on our ALT+ team - to keep us in the loop WRT PIR activities? That's a thought. 

  6. Alberto Soto

    Two mistakes the author of the article: thinks that Maureen is the one who makes the decisions, does not know how ALAC works, and puts all the responsibility to her before the world. Think that we represent the interests of organizations and not end users.

    This does not mean that we discuss and if there is consensus, an opinion of ALAC on the subject is issued.

  7. Alan Greenberg

    In my view, Jacob has always had a problem understanding what ICANN and particularly At-Large is about.

    Way back in 2007, Jacob was on ICANN staff and was recruiting ALSes into At-Large.

    Here is an extract from a much longer 2007 e-mail. The first line quoted is from Jean Armor Polly (who was just recently inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, and then a just-departed ALAC member). The 2nd is from Jacob.

    >> You need to know that ICANN has a very narrow, rather geeky, mission.

    I thought that ICANN's mission was what the Internet Community wants it
    to be. I also think people need to move beyond discouraging
    participation on the basis of a restricted mission.

    I won't quote the response (from John Levine, also a just departed ALAC member) quoting the Bylaws and pointing out that we CANNOT make the mission whatever we want it to be.

    In this case, I believe he has strongly mis-characterized what At-Large is about.

  8. Roberto Gaetano

    Hi Maureen.
    I have been thinking further about this, and came to the conclusion that our proposal would be not to have a representative on the Stewardship Council but on the PIR Board.
    Here is the rationale for that.
    The Stewardship Council will play the role that was previously of the Advisory Council. Its purpose was to get multiple voices from different part of the user community, and in particular the NGOs, ensuring diversity of opinions. This body was advisory to a Board that had already built-in the fundamental non-profit, user-community DNA, because it was selected by ISOC.
    With the changed situation, we can safely assume that the new PIR Board will be selected by Ethos to take care of the interests of the investors, and there is no guarantee that the public interest is being taken care of.
    This will be a good option for Ethos as well, because it would show in a concrete way the commitment to the public interest beyond mere verbal expression of intents. On the other hand, Ethos and the investors would keep a solid majority that will ensure that their interests are protected.
    We should remember that while the Advisory Council was surely empowered to provide advice, and was surely listened to, a Director would have access to more information and definitively better opportunities to discuss different ideas and approaches with his/her fellow Directors, therefore presenting the point of view of the public interest more effectively.
    In short, this person wold play a role that is similar to the one that León plays in ICANN: committed to the fiduciary responsibility to the corporation but able to be a strong voice to the discussion.
    I think that we should not be shy, all in remaining reasonable with our proposals. I believe that this one is a win-win, bringing the voice of the user community in PIR and being a good opportunity for Ethos to show a commitment while still remaining in control of PIR.

  9. Excellent points Roberto.
    Your experience on the PIR Board is invaluable in this regard. and your recommendations noted.

  10. Vanda Scartezini

    Dear friends. I have worked with PIR back in time for 3 years and totally agree with Roberto’s rationale.  Thanks Roberto for these meaningful thoughts!

  11. Carlos Raúl Gutiérrez

    We should have more than a single liaison: a small group that reads all submissions already filed to the and the ICANN Board and is ready to draft, once legal gets the additional information requested from ISOC and Ethos. We should be ready as it will move forward rather fast.

  12. Roberto Gaetano comments on the CPWG mailing list 05 January 2020:

    My second comment is that we may be focusing too much to financial aspects and financial strategy, and take the risk of missing the point of what really was (or maybe still could be) .org. Incidentally, even from a financial point of view I have serious issues with the black or white alternatives suggested by the author.
    My third, and to my personal opinion more important comment, is that we need to find out a way where we can influence the future behaviour of Public Interest Registry rather than fight the transfer of ownership.
    I have already provided some comments of mine on this list, but it is maybe time to come with more focused suggestions, based on these guidelines:

    • to ICANN, was the redelegation of .org to a non-profit a historic move that changed the marketplace and one of the great successes of ICANN (I would even go as far as saying “one of the reasons for ICANN to exist”)? If so, notwithstanding the obvious difficulties - including the risk of a gigantic lawsuit - is there room for ensuring, if not the form of non-profit, at least the commitment to an ethical behaviour built in the ICANN-PIR/Ethos contract?
    • to PIR/Ethos, what are the ways in which the non-profit (I would say the at-large user community) can influence the decisions about .org (but also .ngo/.ong and the .og IDNs) and the future decisions about presence in the domain name market? PIR had an Advisory Council - how can that evolve? PIR Board members were selected by a reputed non-profit like ISOC - how is the presence of the voice of the users guaranteed on the PIR Board? The latter issue is quite urgent, terms for 2 PIR Board members come to an end in few months.
    • to ISOC - but I believe that this should be a matter for ISOC Chapters rather than for the whole community - how does its presence in matters related to domain name policy change after the transfer of PIR? Assuming that the money that will come from the PIR sale will be invested, who has any influence in ensuring that the investment are done in the best interest of the Internet community?

    My worry is that we lose momentum in initiatives that are not focused enough. While now we can put pressures, in a few months we will be irrelevant.

  13. On 07.01.2020, at 02:13, Greg Shatan <> wrote:

    Maureen and all,

    I agree with Roberto, and would perhaps go even further.  The best solution would be to have a voting seat on the PIR board, rather than a non-voting liaison.  I'm not sure which Roberto was suggesting. To my mind, true "representation" comes with a vote..

    I also agree with everything Jonathan Zuck said -- about the mission, about Malthouse, about that "editorial." Nasty stuff.  An appropriate response needs to be considered, but I'm not sure what that might be.  It might be a message from someone else in At Large, pointing out that in a bottom-up organization, it's not the Chair's job to go flying into battle on their own impetus.  Or maybe it can come from a bunch of somebodies....

    However, I'm concerned that if ALAC and At-large do not speak for themselves, the "record" is going to be the garbage that is being thrown at us.

    We have ALAC's "superpower" -- the mandate to provide formal advice to the Board.  (Not quite as "super" as GAC advice, but it's what we've got, and if it is exercised properly, it will grow in strength, like a muscle.)


    Roberto Gaetano

    Indeed, full voting.
    We went through this discussion a dozen years ago about ICANN voting director.

    Moreover, currently PIR Board has only voting members, except for the ISOC CEO ex-officio.

    Remember that for public records it could be important to show how the ALAC Director has voted.
    About the rest, I would drop completely discussions that would distract us from the main topics and avoid responding to personal attacks and other amenities. As former chair of the DNSO GA, I have witnessed how quickly this can become disruptive and lead to irrelevance of the discussions.

  14. Carlos Raúl Gutiérrez (@Greg Shatan)

    >>>However, I'm concerned that if ALAC and At-large do not speak for themselves, the "record" is going to be the garbage that is being thrown at us.<<<


    >>>We have ALAC's "superpower" -- the mandate to provide formal advice to the Board.  (Not quite as "super" as GAC advice, but it's what we've got, and if it is exercised properly, it will grow in strength, like a muscle.)<<<


    Let's get ready to follow up an respond to ICANN evaluation for approval of the deal NOW

    Thanks! Carlos