ICA asks ICANN to stop the .Org registry sale

ICANN

ICA calls for ICANN to withhold approval of purported .Org registry sale.

The original justification for awarding the .Org registry contract to ISOC was its public interest focus and commitments. If ISOC is no longer associated with the .Org registry, that justification for awarding the Registry Agreement no longer exists.  Therefore, it would be reasonable for you to withhold your approval of the assignment to a private equity company.

ICANN has the contractual right to reasonably withhold approval of the purported sale pursuant to Section 7.5 of the .Org Registry Agreement and to terminate the Registry Agreement pursuant to Section 7.5(f) in the event of a consummated transaction.

The ICA urges the ICANN Board of Directors to properly fulfill its obligations to protect nonprofit registrants from the harm that will likely come from a private equity firm owning the cherished .Org registry, home of nonprofits.

Read the full letter here:

November 15, 2019

ICANN
12025 Waterfront Drive, Suite 300 Los Angeles, California
90094-2536, USA

Attn: Board of Directors

Dear Mesdames and Messieurs:

Shortly after you removed price caps from the .Org Registry Agreement despite widespread opposition from nonprofits and registrants,1 ISOC announced that it intends to sell the .Org registry to a private equity firm, Ethos Capital, connected to the former CEO of ICANN and the former Senior Vice President, Development and Public Responsibility Programs, for an undisclosed amount, likely in the billions of dollars.

Despite sustained public outcry and compelling arguments to the contrary, you permitted ICANN staff to effectively set the table for the takeover of the cherished home for nonprofits by this private equity firm that will be totally unrestrained in raising prices on the nonprofits and other registrants whose online presence is tied to a .org domain name.  If the sale proceeds, Ethos Capital will assume control of PIR and will enjoy the sole benefit from PIR’s perpetual no-bid contract to operate the .org registry that currently enables PIR to divert a reported at least $60 million annually in unjustified excess fees from .org registrants, predominately non-profits with a public mission.  Now that ICANN has lifted price caps on .org, Ethos Capital will have the unchecked ability to grow its profits by extracting greater and greater sums from the nonprofit community – forever.  As stated by the VP of Public Policy for the National Council of Nonprofits, every dollar in unjustified fees “will ultimately be paid by the people nonprofits will not be able to serve.”

Surely you can now appreciate the terrible blunder that you have made. Crucial policy decisions that have billion-dollar ramifications and which affect the stability of the Internet must be the subject of robust Board involvement and not left to ICANN staff.

If you were led to believe that removing price caps on .Org domain names was a sound approach because the registry would remain in the hands of a nonprofit foundation, you have clearly been misled. If you were led to believe that despite being the effective owner of the .org registry, you were somehow forced to let your service providers tell you how much they can charge, instead of the other way around, you have been led astray.  If you have been told that .Org does not have market power within the nonprofit sector, you have been led astray.  If you have been told that competition from other gTLDs will constrain .org prices, you have been led astray.

Apparently no one at ICANN is looking out for registrants, but rather are solely focused on selling out registrants and the DNS, piece by piece, regardless of the important public interest served by stable, reasonable pricing for the millions of nonprofits and registrants in the .Org space.

ICANN’s poor decision-making and the timing of PIR’s sale to a private equity firm raise critical questions that we ask you to answer:

  1. Were you aware whether ISOC was in talks to sell the registry when you approved the removal of the price caps?
  2. If ISOC was in such talks at that time, why was this material fact not disclosed to you by the registry operator, prior to you approving the renewal agreement?
  3. When did you first learn of the negotiations to sell the .Org registry?
  4. Did you base your decision to approve the removal of price caps, at least in part, on the expectation or belief that the registry would continue to be operated by a nonprofit organization with a public commitment to maintaining a stable pricing environment, instead of on behalf of a private equity firm whose objective is to maximize profits for its founders?
  5. Had you been aware of the planned sale of the .Org registry to a private equity firm, would you have treated the renewal of the .Org registry agreement and the removal of price caps as worthy of robust discussion and a vote by the Board, such that perhaps the terms of the agreement would have been modified?
  6. What involvement did your former CEO, Mr. Chehade and your former SVP, Ms. Abusitta-Ouri, have in the decision to employ the base gTLD registry agreement for legacy TLDs during their tenure, if any?
  7. What restrictions do you have in place with respect to cooling-off periods for former executives?

ICANN Should Immediately Exercise its Right to Withhold Approval of the Sale of the .Org Registry and

Terminate the Registry Agreement in Respect of any Consummated Transaction

The original justification for awarding the .Org registry contract to ISOC was its public interest focus and commitments. If ISOC is no longer associated with the .Org registry, that justification for awarding the Registry Agreement no longer exists. Therefore, it would be reasonable for you to withhold your approval of the assignment to a private equity company.

ICANN has the contractual right to reasonably withhold approval of the purported sale pursuant to Section 7.5 of the .Org Registry Agreement and to terminate the .org Registry Agreement in the respect of a non-approved consummated transaction, pursuant to Section 7.5(f). Putting the contract out for competitive rebid at that point, would at long last put you into compliance with your own Bylaws requiring you to genuinely enable competition and also comply with Department of Justice advice to put registry agreements out for bid, and thereby ensure the lowest possible prices for nonprofits and registrants. We have already seen that PIR subcontracted Afilias to run the .Org registry for a reported $18 million per year, thus demonstrating that the true cost of .Org domain names is likely around $2.00 per year, not the current wholesale cost of close to $10.00 per year, or the possible future price of $100.00 per year once a private equity firm takes over and charges whatever it likes.

We urge ICANN to exercise its right pursuant to Section 7.5 to reasonably withhold its approval of the transaction and pursuant to Section 7.5(f), terminate the .org Registry Agreement in respect of any consummated purported assignment. By invoking your right to withhold consent, you will partially mitigate the harm created by the ICANN Board’s historic blunder and dereliction of its fiduciary duty in awarding .Org through a perpetual contract lacking any requirement to requalify through a competitive bidding process.  If your miscalculation of awarding a perpetual, no-bid agreement – lacking any price caps whatsoever – was premised on the registry remaining in the hands of an organization serving the public interest, the pending sale to a private equity firm should cause you to reconsider your approach. Fortunately the purported sale of the .Org registry affords you an opportunity to withhold approval, terminate the Registry Agreement in respect of any consummated transaction, and put the contract out for competitive bid.

Where is the ICANN Board when it comes to safeguarding the interests of nonprofit registrants? Sincerely,

INTERNET COMMERCE ASSOCIATION

Per:

Zak Muscovitch General Counsel, ICA

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

I studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London, UK and now live in Athens, Greece. I love domains and building websites. I am online since 1995, learned about HTML in 1996 and about domains in 2002. I started publishing the OnlineDomain.com blog in 2012.

28 comments

  1. “compliance with your own Bylaws”….are they obligated to comply?
    Anything short of legal action will be a waste of time. Does ica really think that icann is in the dark about anything. They fully know and will do whatever they want. Saying pretty please won’t change that.
    The board needs to be replaced by strong trustworthy people.

    • Exactly, they know exactly what they have been doing. The have made it crystal clear there is no “good faith” behind anything, nor will there be. Most people have not had to deal with that kind of organizational corruption up close, but I have and worse, for years at a time. I know this kind of person well. These people are among the truest “scum of the earth” as any, and should live in infamy as long as these insane perverse realities are unfolding and in place.

      As for replacing the board with better people, however, without oversight or accountability after the removal from US oversight (yes, despite how imperfect and corrupt things certainly are often here as well), I wonder how that could even be possible or feasible, but I’m all ears.

  2. As domainers, we have the most powerful tools on the internet to expose icann fadi and every-single registry involving pricing games, specifically the first year discount.<registries, not registars. http://Www.fucking.dog sadfuck.com pussy.pics and many more…it would be a shame if selfies with captions went viral.

  3. Konstantinos, some hours ago in the very early morning/late night I followed a link to this and began to read the whole thing at a leisurely pace instead of what I believe I did the first time which is mainly skim over it:

    https://onlinedomain.com/2019/04/29/domain-name-news/wake-up-people-icann-and-the-registries-want-to-steal-your-domain-names/

    “Wake up people! ICANN and the registries want to steal your domain names!”

    Reading it at a more leisurely pace I realized how well said it was/is. I feel more people should be sure to look at it. However, I also noticed there are many typos (I do that a lot myself), so I was hoping you would go back and proofread it to spruce it up; additionally are huge expanses of duplication in it, so I feel that if you were to clean that up to the whole blog post would emerge far more “readable” and potent.

    • (And as one can see, I have quite a few typos right here myself.)

    • Konstantinos Zournas

      You are right. I make more typos when I am angry. I will try and fix that.

      • That’s great. The typos are not even the main thing either. When you read that post, at certain point you encounter this huge swatch of duplicated content and it’s like “huh”? I’m glad you are going to do that because it’s a great post. Often when we are (justifiably) angry we do our best and most clear and powerful thinking and communication, though of course there are forms of anger which are like apples and oranges.

      • Konstantinos Zournas

        The duplicated content is the comment I submitted to the .org comment period.

      • And for clarity, that would be “rotten apples” to oranges.

      • I realized that at a certain point (long) well into it (perhaps I missed an indication up front, which is possible), but it still makes for awkward flow and reading, so I was hoping there was some way to revise the whole blog post. I think it would go a long way towards making it a more killer post.

        Look at it this way: I’m the guy who defends three and four word domains at times, and tends to be very longwinded in comments, though not as much as before, so it probably says a lot when I’m advocated for greater and leaner trimming.

      • “so I was hoping there was some way to revise the whole blog post.”

        That is funny shit! Laugh out loud funny stuff.

      • Konstantinos Zournas

        What is so funny?

      • Konstantinos in case anyone is ‘mis-influenced’ by this troll here, to be clear I’m just talking about cleaning up typos and removing the (ostensible) duplication. People are already usually reluctant to tackle something really long, and the post is a bit like first writing out the US Constitution, then saying that you published the US Constitution somewhere else, and then quoting what you published elsewhere after having just posted it to begin with. Trim it down and you’ve got a really well said and pretty killer post that reads and flows well and doesn’t look like so much to even read. And for what it’s worth, I’ve been published before and even been accused of being a ‘writer’ myself, for what it’s worth, and I don’t mean self-published either. I seriously doubt this troll has, however. 😉

      • Despite all my own frequent typos and occasional duplication too, that is. 😀

      • Konstantinos I think you can safely bet everything you own the answer is “nothing” because I was also originally going to mention something to the effect of how I was confident I could bet everything I own he doesn’t really think that at all to begin with. It’s amazing how people often like about what they think and believe aside from lying about actual facts. Then if I was particularly inclined I might also have referred him to Revelation 22:15.

        FYI, with all this talk about “betting” please note that contrary to popular belief among some, gambling is not intrinsically evil or a sin either. 😉

    • A lot happened between the public comment period and this corrupt deal. I have a sneaking suspicion they may have already negotiated .info and .biz away too. On the point of the public comment period:

      Did ICANN admit to receiving over 3k emails during the ‘public comment period’? Are they required to keep the emails for some time? Let them make public the 8 or so that are in favor of. Those few may have strong and convincing opinions, of which we are entitled to know?

  4. Some things to always keep in mind: People who have no conscience or empathy are called “sociopaths”; and in some cases, “psychopaths.”

  5. And now for something really “revelatory”:

    Notice some of my comments under the prior post I linked to above. Some people are going to know what I’m talking about even if they don’t comment, and some not, at least not yet. The bottom line is this: It’s not just about the money and the corruption. All of what we are seeing now is part of the long term path to society becoming like what is found and prophesied here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+1&version=NASB. (Please note: the only reason I link to the New “American” Standard version there is because it is considered to be the most literally accurate translation of its kind, not because of any biased or nationalist sentiments.)

    Sooner or later it will come, but that does not mean one should just accept what takes place in the meantime as part of “the inevitable” and not oppose evil with good, and darkness with light.

  6. The one thing the dot org extension has built its reputation on is trust and credibility.

    With the events of the past year – removal of all price constraints protecting dot org registrants, secretive sale to private equity involving a former ICANN CEO as well as massive payout to ISOC – dot org is already suffering a diminshment in its trust and credibility among the public.

    Every past denial of plans to increase prices significantly included a reference to PIR’s nonprofit status and how their values were therefore aligned with those of its nonprofit registrant base.

    Now it seems that line of argument is totally out the window, and from here on dot org’s values – at least their financial/economic values – no longer seem to be the same as those of their registrant base.

    You can have all the recognition programs and platitudes about values you want. But if you start jacking the price up and trying to implement premium pricing on your captive registrant base, then all of that ethos and values talk will begin to ring false.

    Dot org needs to be very mindful of the perceptions now that private equity is involved. Their brand value is built on trust and community, and if they start raising their prices on their community, that trust and sense of community – and their brand value – will decrease correspondingly.

  7. Time for ICA to raise some more funds, and dig in on this one, and yell corruption, and insider dealing with an organization that is supposed to be neutral who are setting themselves up with golden pensions in the private sector when they decide to leave.

    If people can give as little as $100, it will help big time in the fight.

  8. And if you can give more than that, the ICA can do more and be more effective. The time is now!

    Internetcommerce.org

  9. Other blogs are back to complete comment removal. I wrote ejaculate on his blog, which isn’t a bad word! It means to SPEW garbage from your mouth – look it up (dictionary).

    Dont trust andrew at domainnamewire.com, i will be adding back to my blogs of shame! See by clicking my name!

    Let’s keep flushing them out! If you’re corrupt, come, reveal it on onlinedomain.com

  10. This is what I just wrote as a comment to one of Rick Schwartz or Domain king’s proposals in his blog
    I find it incredible that you do not agree to pay a $ 99 membership for the first year to ICA and a $ 199 renewal.
    If I or you have 100 domains and must renew at the new price as an example a (.com) to $ 100 per year x 100 domains = $ 10,000 me and the vast majority Domainer prefer to pay $ 99 to ICA than to pay the renewal at the new exorbitant price.

    I also believe that domain registrars have to put money on their part for ICA.

    Actually if we do not do so, without the unity of all of us there is no future for the domain market and Domaining.

    Those who wish to go with lawyers are at their right and risk.

    https://www.ricksblog.com/2019/11/emergency-industry-alert-icann-wants-to-seize-all-your-domains/#comment-108564

  11. Looks like a few of the wealthiest Republican families in the country are the new owners of the dot org tld

    https://medium.com/@jacobmalthouse/whos-going-to-run-org-in-a-word-the-gop-8809ef6f9679

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