ICANN ICANN Email List Archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Should ICANN repeal free speech?

  • To: comments-igo-ingo-final-20sep13@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Should ICANN repeal free speech?
  • From: Joseph Peterson <outsidecharleston@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2013 12:37:02 -0600

I'll begin less formally than others have done but with the same
thanks for the opportunity to comment publicly on this draft report.
Of course, that opportunity and these comments -- though nominally
public -- will be virtually unknown to the actual public, even though
the policy being debated threatens the rights of every member of the
general public without exception.

To some extent, most important policies are decided by some minority
and imposed on the majority.  Frequently that minority stands to
profit most from drastic policy changes, which explains its interest
in framing the outcome.  This isn't always sinister, but it may
nevertheless rob the majority of long-held rights or set a dangerous
precedent for doing so.  In this case, the precedent is very dangerous

Others have compared domain name rights to land rights.  Well, it is
not unheard of for governments to seize land from underneath the feet
of lawful owners when the purpose seems beneficent enough to those in
power.  But policies permitting such actions should not be entered
upon lightly.  Restricting new expansion into areas not previously
owned -- such as National Forests -- is much less controversial than
confiscating privately held property.  Choking off an owner's ability
to transfer an asset is effectively the same thing, since it compels
loss of value or loss of rights sooner or later.  Perhaps the proposal
to "use a carrot and stick approach ... for removing the names from
existing holders" could be compared to similar inducements used to
assemble lands for the National Parks here in the United States.  But,
in fact, that's a spurious analogy.  All U.S. citizens benefit from
the preservation of National Parks and are afforded meaningful access
to them.  The same would not be true if domain names currently owned
by private individuals, companies, or nonprofits were forcibly
transferred to a few privileged groups.  Those groups would use them
for their own aims -- which, though laudable perhaps, would not be
truly public.

Domains are property; and, as such, existing ownership rights ought to
be honored without diminution unless there is some clearcut violation
of the law.  Forced transfer from an individual to some group with
arbitrary privileges -- or from one organization to another
organization with more vigorous lobbyists -- is not justified.  It
seems obvious to me that the rights of existing property owners ought
not to be dismantled retroactively.  Whether or not new GTLDs are
subject to new requirements, domains registered already in existing
GTLDs should be governed under the current laws.

Domains are property, yes.  However, I'd like to stress a point that
hasn't been raised yet to my knowledge.  We are not simply advocating
for property rights.  Domain names are *language*.  Ultimately, this
draft report threatens, not just property rights, but free speech.
Confiscating a domain deprives not only its owner but also its
audience of a publicly understood form of meaningful speech.  In
effect, ICANN would be dictating what a term *must* mean.

Here ICANN ought to tread very lightly because the general public has
historically been somewhat attached to its right of free speech.  That
has included naming themselves and assembling in public places.
Domain names are public places -- unless, of course, ICANN sets the
opposite precedent, as seems to be the suggestion before us.

Should ICANN repeal free speech simply in order to confiscate private
property for the benefit of an arbitrarily defined group of special
organizations?  No.

Joseph Peterson

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Cookies Policy