|Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility|
Domain Name Resolutions:
CPSR Proposals for the new Corporation
June 30, 1998
Defining the public interest: the people who really matter on the InternetThe formation of a non-profit corporation as specified in the Clinton Administration's "White Paper" presents a unique challenge and opportunity for the Internet community. Numerous parties, representing a range of interests, have come forward to participate in one or more of at least three separate efforts aimed at building the new corporation.
The interests of Internet service providers, trademark holders, and would-be providers of DNS services will be well-represented at these events. However, these discussions will not be fully successful if they fail to consider the interests and concerns of countless Internet users who see the Internet as more than just a medium for electronic commerce.
While the current Internet is undoubtedly commercial and privately owned, today's Internet users owe a great debt of thanks to the non-commercial efforts that built the foundation that we take for granted every day. From large commercial information providers that began as informal efforts such as Yahoo! to free-ware like the Apache web server, non-commercial and independent efforts have made countless contributions to today's Internet. Without the invaluable collective wisdom of this community, the Internet would be a poorer place.
The wider community of non-commercial Internet "end-users" also contributes to the vitality of the Internet, and therefore deserves a seat at the table. Millions of people who use the Internet to communicate with friends and family, do school work, or play games. If the new entity does not provide meaningful consideration for the needs of this large community, the consumer end of the electronic commerce revolution may never come to pass.
The White Paper calls for the creation of a new corporation that
is governed on the basis of a sound and transparent decision-making process, which protects against capture by a self-interested faction, and which provides for robust, professional management of the new corporation.
CPSR strongly believes that the future growth, vitality, and openness of the Internet is dependent upon meaningful and sincere efforts to achieve these goals, and upon the precedents set by the new corporation. CPSR offers the following recommendations for efforts aimed at formulating this new entity.
CPSR proposals for the New Corporation
The corporation's board should include public interest representation,
in the form of members who do not have direct financial stakes in
the issues being addressed by the corporation.
The 15 members of the interim and permanent Board of Directories will implement the principles outlined in the White Paper. However, the process for choosing Board members has not been specified, and it is our concern that various well-funded groups with large investments in particular strategies will gain effective control of the Board and use it as a ground for exploiting the (as yet hardly tangible) advantages of the domain name space.
The White Paper recognizes the importance of representing the public through such injunctions as "representative of the functional and geographic diversity of the Internet"; "preserve, as much as possible, the tradition of bottom-up governance of the Internet"; and "protects against capture by a self-interested faction."
Towards that end, the board should include representation from both advocacy and user groups. Specifically, the board should include at least three members who represent the "Internet community" at large. In order to avoid possible conflicts of interest, these representatives should be free from direct financial interests in registrars, registries, or large trademark holders.
The operations of the new corporation should be open, transparent,
The new corporation should actively work to fulfill the goals outlined in the White Paper. Specifically, the organization should have open decision-making processes that include adequate opportunities for comment and review before policies are finalized, balanced representation, and widely publicized schedules for important actions such as addition of new TLDs.
The new corporation should have an ombudsperson.
The corporation should have an explicit mechanism for accepting feedback, complaints, and suggestions from Internet users. A person or persons with their ear out to the general public can help the corporation listen to concerns from small Internet users, and perhaps provide a solution for disagreements that are not worth taking to the courts.
The corporation should not create policy that extends the already
considerable rights of large trademark holders.
The legitimate rights of trademark holders are well-protected by existing laws. The White Paper specifically constrains the scope of any dispute resolution mechanism:
It should be clear that whatever dispute resolution mechanism is put in place by the new corporation, that mechanism should be directed toward disputes about cybersquatting and cyberpiracy and not to settling the disputes between two parties with legitimate competing interests in a particular mark. Where legitimate competing rights are concerned,disputes are rightly settled in an appropriate court.
The new corporation should limit the participation of WIPO to the areas specifically mentioned in the White Paper. Furthermore, the corporation should not establish any procedures or rules that amount to extensions of the rights of trademark holders.
IP number allocation should be equitable.
According to the White Paper, the new Corporation will be responsible for allocation of IP numbers. Working with the three regional IP number authorities (APNIC, RIPE, and ARIN), the new corporation should work to insure equitable utilization of this increasingly scarce resource.
If necessary, existing allocations should be re-examined and redistributed in order to promote more effective distribution and routing. The new corporation should also work with the regional authorities and ISPs to avoid routing problems caused by inefficient number allocation.
While the coming deployment of IPv6 and its expanded address space may ease concerns over IP number allocation, the transition to the new protocols will not be instantaneous. The new corporation should be prepared to deal with equitable allocation of IPv4 numbers, while planning for a smooth transition to IPv6.
The corporation should work to promote the operation of DNS as an
The new corporation should work with registrars, registries, registrants, users, and the IETF to promote investment in research and development aimed at improving the functioning of DNS. Development of appropriate hardware, software, protocols, and procedures can improve the reliability,performance, and stability of DNS.
The corporation should take explicit actions to minimize the adverse
effects that expansion of the domain name space could have on end
The creation and widespread deployment of new TLDs may lead to increased confusion and frustration for Internet users. Before expanding the TLD space, the corporation should take pro-active measures to minimize these negative impacts. These measures include, but are not limited to:
- Developing educational materials that would help users understand the changes and their implications.
- Promoting public discussion and a public process of determining which TLDs will be added and when.
- Encouraging the development of usable and accessible directories that assist users in finding the information that they want to find, free from commercial considerations.
The new corporation should promote cooperation and collaboration in
Internet Governance issues.
The debates over DNS reform illustrated the dynamics of today's Internet. With the perception of large profits at stake, potential registrars and registrants staked out positions aimed at defending their financial interests, while trademark holders relentlessly pursued perceived violations of their intellectual property rights.
However, these disputes are based in falsely constructed perceptions of scarcity: even in areas like DNS, the Internet is not determined by limited resources. With appropriate cooperation, DNS and other aspects of the Internet can be managed to the mutual benefit of all participants.
This approach to problem solving would draw upon the best traditions of the Internet. Just as innovations like Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) have been used to avoid routing problems, creative development work may be used to "route around" current domain name problems.
However, this will not happen if major players are focused solely on competitive advantage and short-term commercial gain. For the good of Internet users past and present, the new corporation should work with standards groups, ISPs, users, and any interested parties to promote cooperative and collaborative efforts aimed at solving these problems.
This document is available on the Web at http://www.cpsr.org/dns/dns_resolutions.html. The document was written by Harry Hochheiser, CPSR At-Large Board member, with help from Andy Oram, Karen Coyle, and Glenn Manishin. Comments and questions can be directed to:
c/o Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94302-0717
Phone: (609) 497-9167
Created before October 2004