Summary and Analysis of public comments for the Post-Expiration Domain Name Recovery Initial Report
Disclaimer: This summary is not a full and complete recitation of the relevant comments received. It is an attempt to capture in broad terms the nature and scope of the comments. This summary has been prepared in an effort to highlight key elements of these submissions in an abbreviated format, not to replace them. Every effort has been made to avoid mischaracterizations and to present fairly the views provided. Any failure to do so is unintentional. The comments may be viewed in their entirety at http://forum.icann.org/lists/pednr-initial-report/. Summary and analysis of public comments for the Post Expiration Domain Name Recovery Initial Report Comment period ended: 15 August 2010 Summary published: 23 August 2010 Prepared by: Marika Konings, Policy Director I. BACKGROUND The GNSO Post-Expiration Domain Name Recovery (PEDNR) Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group was tasked to address questions in relation to what extent registrants should be able to renew their domain names after they expire. At issue is whether the current policies of registrars on the renewal, transfer and deletion of expired domain names are adequate. The PEDNR Working Group published its Initial Report on 31 May. In the Initial Report, the WG has reviewed current registrar and ICANN practices regarding domain name expiration, renewal, and post-expiration recovery. Furthermore, in order to assess the views of the WG members and determine where there might be agreement or consensus on a possible approach forward, a survey was conducted amongst the WG membership, details of which are also included in the Initial Report. As prescribed by the ICANN by-laws, a public comment period was opened on the Initial Report. In addition, input could be provided by responding to a short survey. This is the summary and analysis of the public comments and responses received to the survey. II. CONTRIBUTIONS Public Comment Forum Nine (9) community submissions from nine (9) different parties have been made to the public comment forum. The contributors are listed below in alphabetical order (with relevant initials noted in parentheses): At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) Axel van Almsick (AA) Blacknight by Michele Neylon (BN) Commercial & Business Users Constituency by Steve DelBianco (CBUC) George Kirikos (GK) IR (IR) Jothan Frakes (JF) Registrar Stakeholder Group by Clarke Walton (RrSG) Registries Stakeholder Group by David Maher (RySG) Survey Four hundred and twelve (412) responses were received to the survey that ran in conjunction with the public comment period. A summary of the results of the survey can be found in the attached document. In addition, an annex with the detailed responses to the survey has also been attached as a separate document. III. SUMMARY & ANALYSIS One comments (GK) does not relate to the substance of the report or the Charter questions but deals with whether public input is valued by ICANN (GK). General Comments The RrSG is of the view that ‘the unintentional loss of a domain name is not a common occurrence’ noting that there is ‘no data suggesting registrants experience such problems’. The RrSG encourages the WG to ‘balance the expected benefits from those proposals with the RrSG’s position that there is no quantifiable harm at issue and that risks of unintended consequences arise from any policy change’. In its submission, the CBUC has provided its responses to the PEDNR WG survey as included in the Initial Report as well as a chart that aims to demonstrate ‘the inconsistencies Registrants face today’. The RySG notes that as the Initial Report does not provide any recommendations at this stage, it would welcome that once these are agreed upon by the WG and included in the report, an updated version is distributed as well as posted for public comment. Charter Question 1 - Whether adequate opportunity exists for registrants to redeem their expired domain names BN and the RrSG are of the opinion that there is adequate opportunity for registrants to redeem their expired domain names. Charter Question 2 - Whether expiration-related provisions in typical registration agreements are clear and conspicuous enough BN notes that the question should be reformulated to ask whether registrants are aware ‘of what can and will happen to their domain(s) if they don’t renew them?’, noting that this ‘is a matter of education’. The RrSG points out that as part of the requirements under the Expired Domain Deletion Policy, ‘terms and conditions are maintained on registrar web sites’ and that these are clear and conspicuous enough. Charter Question 3 - Whether adequate notice exists to alert registrants of upcoming expirations BN and the RrSG are of the view that there is adequate notices as multiple notifications are sent by most registrars. Charter Question 4 - Whether additional measures need to be implemented to indicate that once a domain name enters the Auto-Renew Grace Period, it has expired (e.g., hold status, a notice on the site with a link to information on how to renew, or other options to be determined) BN supports the notion that ‘some clear indication in WHOIS of a domain’s current status would help avoid confusion’, noting that the ‘exact form and method for implementing this is probably beyond this group’s remit’. In addition, BN notes that if a holding page is used following expiration, it should contain a notice that the registration has expired and information on how the registration can be renewed. The RySG would also support a clarification of WHOIS output in relation to renewal, suggesting in addition that: ‘1) because this issue applies to both thick and thin gTLDs, the WG may want to consider not restricting its focus in this regard to only thick registries; 2) a technical point to keep in mind is that 'Auto renewed and in grace period' is not an EPP status so if it is reported in Whois output it should not be shown as a status; 3) if this is recommended, it may be worthwhile to consider recommending that the same be done for other similar periods; 4) if it is recommended that registries do this, it should also be recommended that registrars do so as well’. The RrSG is of the opinion that no additional measures are needed as sufficient notice is already provided. The RrSG does recognize the potential confusion caused by WHOIS output in relation to renewal and notes it intends to work with the RySG ‘to further examine this potential problem and propose possible solutions’. Charter Question 5 - Whether to allow the transfer of a domain name during the RGP. BN is of the view that no transfer should be allowed during the RGP. The RySG points out that currently there is ‘no guarantee that the Registrant of record during the RGP process is indeed the initiating (original) Registrant of the domain registration’ which raises a number of questions such as: ‘who has the right to redeem the registration during RGP (current registrant on record or originating registrant or some interim holder of the registrant record), who has the right to initiate the transfer, how can a registry identify the initiating/original Registrant if they are not the current registrant of record and which Registrant (the one on record or initiating) would a transfer be reversed to following the restoration of a name in RGP if the transfer was successfully contended?’. As a result, the RySG would support to keep the RGP and transfer ‘separated and serial in execution’. The RrSG notes that this is a complex issue and ‘may be more appropriate for examination by a future Working Group assembled to address this specific issue’. Desired Outcomes ALAC notes that ‘a level of predictability and security’ must be provided to gTLD registrants and would support the following outcomes of the PDP: ‘1. Consensus policy requiring that all registrars must allow renewal of domain names for a reasonable amount of time after expiration. 2. Consensus policy explicitly stating the minimum requirements for pre-expiration notices. 3. Consensus policy requiring clarity of how messages will be sent. 4. Consensus policy requiring that WHOIS contents to make it clear that a domain name has expired and has not yet been renewed by the registrant. 5. Consensus policy requiring that notice(s) be sent after expiration. 6. Consensus policy requiring that web sites (port 80) no longer can resolve to the original web site after expiration 7. Consensus policy requiring that other uses of the domain name (e-mail, FTP, etc.) no longer function after expiration. 8. Consensus policy requiring clarity in the expiration terms and fees offered by registrars. 9. Consensus policy requiring that the Redemption Grace Period be offered by all registries (including future gTLDs) and by all registrars.’ ALAC recognizes that there might be a need for some limited exceptions to the above outcomes and also notes the role best practices may play above this minimum set of requirements. JF notes that the obvious solution to avoiding post-expiration issues is to avoid expiration by paying the renewal fee in time. He would welcome an outcome of ‘some best practices and/or consensus policies that would reflect some minimum responsible baseline of conduct surrounding expiration of a domain name, from which a consistent baseline structure of expectation can be formed and then socialized to the community’. The RySG also emphasizes the importance of consistency and transparency, noting that ‘the general idea of Registrars displaying explicit information around their domain expiration processes is helpful for registrants’. IR argues that ‘the drop recovery policy is unfair’ and would prefer a system whereby expired domain name registrations are allotted ‘on a random basis’. The CBUC ‘takes the position that Consensus Policy changes are required to correct issues within the domain expiration process’ in order to ‘achieve the openness, transparency, and predictability’ as current inconsistencies ‘lead to market confusion and in some cases create unfair market conditions’. Education / Information JF points to the importance of education as there is a lot of misunderstanding among registrants when it comes to the life cycle of a domain name registration and suggests that, once the WG has finalized its recommendations, a diagram and narrative ‘making clear the expectations and process surrounding the expiry of a domain name’ would be developed. In addition, he notes that ‘reduction in inconsistency will also help reduce trouble areas or perceptions’ (e.g by standardizing timing of notices, how these are sent, what happens if a domain name expires). JF points out that the comment submitted by AA is an example of one of the misunderstandings that seems to exist ‘that a trademark is somehow an exemption from renewal fees or the consequences of not renewing a domain name within an agreed period of time’. BN notes that many problems could be avoided ‘if time and energy were focused on encouraging registrants to do more active housekeeping on their domain(s) prior to expiry’. The CBUC proposes ‘the creation of consumer education, perhaps ICANN sponsored, around the expiration of domain names’. Auto-Renew Grace Period The RySG points out that the Initial Report seems to assume that registry Autorenew practices are the same for all registries which is not the case as, for example, there are known differences when Auto-Renews are charged. Redemption Grace Period The RySG points out that a number of assumptions that accompanied the implementation of the RGP with the objective to provide a last opportunity to registrants to recover a domain name registration following expiration are no longer valid. These assumptions include the assumption that ‘the originating Registrant of the domain would be the current Registrant of record upon a domain being deleted and entering the Redemption Grace Period’ and ‘the effective use case for the Autorenew Grace Period was to garner additional time for Registrars to attempt to have originating Registrants renew their domains’. As a result, the RySG notes that ‘the intended goal of RGP cannot be guaranteed by the behavior of Registries alone’. The RySG recognizes that in order to fulfill the original intentions of the RGP, provided these are still valid, the ‘RGP needs to be applied consistently by all parties involved’ and therefore would be willing to ‘explore RGP as a consensus policy’. Other Issues JF points to another issue that he has come across in relation to post-expiration which deals with registrars invoicing for the renewal of a domain name registration that has already been transferred out before expiration. He notes that ‘as part of a responsible renewal notice process, a registrar should be required to check with the registry that they are in fact still the registrar of record for the name, before sending any billing related materials’. The CBUC recommends that the WG explore the following issues in further detail: ‘ § Adequate documentation of the expiration process (current & proposed) models § Change confusingly-similar terms like “automatic renewal” vs. “auto renew grace period”, as an example § Provide consistent and informative domain-status flags across registries, registrars and TLDs § Provide consistent “service disruption” across registrars on expiration (triggers active/technical response) § Provide consistent notification/display of deletion, automatic-renewal, auto-renew grace-period and redemption grace-period policies on reseller/registrar web pages § Provide consistent redemption grace-period intervals rather than leaving it up to provider discretion § Provide consistent post-expiry implications when registrants elect not to automatically-renew domains and/or opt out of monetization of web addresses § Shift all TLDs to thick-registry model to aid in normalizing WHOIS-based processes § Evaluate any conflict of interest – registrar either generates revenue from renewal OR monetization/aftermarketauction/ drop-catching, not both’ Responses to the Survey A summary of the results of the survey can be found in the attached document. In addition, an annex with the detailed responses to the survey has also been attached as a separate document. IV. NEXT STEPS The Post-Expiration Domain Name Recovery Working Group is expected to consider all the relevant comments and feedback received as part of their deliberations and efforts to finalize the report for submission to the GNSO Council.
PEDNR Public Comment Survey - Results.pdf
PEDNR Public Comment Survey - Annexes.pdf