A few interesting facts coming out of the afternoon ICANN session entitled; “Briefing for GAC on Domain Name Marketplace”
Jeff Eckhaus of Demand Media which owns Enom.com, speaking to the Governmental Advisory Council, (GAC) said that Enom has 8,000 resellers itself and he thought that on a volume of registrations, the percentage of domain names registered by resellers was “somewhere between 30 and 50%”
I was pretty surprised with the numbers and so was the GAC, who was less than happy.
As you can see from part of the discussion that followed Mr. Eckhaus may have inadvertently opened the preverbal can of worms with the GAC.
The representative from Kenya said:
“In Costa Rica, the GAC requested some briefing from the board about the contractual relationships that underpin the DNS industry and on ICANN’s role as a self-regulatory organization. so my questions and comments are going to step back a little bit. and really hone in on what ICANN’s role in this industry is.”
“To understand that 30-50% of all domain name registrations are probably made by resellers.”
“So I’m particularly interested to as a first question to hone in on where the accountabilities lie in the reseller model.
“ICANN has chose tone have direct contracts, in its oversight of registries and registrars. As i understand it, that’s not the case with resellers. and in fact, the reseller has the contract with a registrar.”
“So I’ve heard examples here where there are registrars that have thousands of resellers with whom they have contracts.”
“I’ve also heard that ICANN as part of accrediting a registrar goes through a comprehensive process, does a lot of due diligence checks. am i to understand that registrars for example do that same kind of activity with thousands of resellers? and if they do not, is that a concern from ICANN’s perspective?
I’d really like to hear from board members here like in terms of overseeing the DNS industry globally, there’s a lot of focus on very tight registry contracts.
I’m really interested in the potentially half of all the domain name registrations come through resellers. exactly how much visibility does ICANN of reseller compliance?
Mr. Eckhaus responded that the buck stopped with the registrar and that resellers action were the problem of the registrar which authorized the reseller
“To directly answer your question about sort of where is the responsibility and where does it lie, is it with us, with the registrar. ”
“When we sign up resellers and we know we’re directly responsible for contractual compliance with ICANN so the buck stops here;”
“If there are times that a reseller does not respond or doesn’t do things, that when it’s needed, thin the registrar ourselves, we will take it upon ourselves to handle the situation either if a request is come in through ICANN, through law enforcement, whatever that is, we will handle it because we’re the ones — we know that have that contract with ICANN and we’re ultimately responsible for it.
The United Kingdom then stated:
“So we want to come back to this relationship with registrars and with resellers.”
“I noted earlier on that with regard to implementation of the law enforcement recommendations and the negotiations between ICANN and the registrars, there is the issue of accountability of resellers, and our question relates to that and I’d like to hand over the mic to my colleague from the serious organized crime agency, Benedict, to actually put the question.”
“I wanted, really, to share a little frustration we on the law enforcement negotiating team have with regards to the reseller model.”
“Something bad happens on a domain name and we go to the registrar and say can you them us who did this thing or who owns this domain name, who paid for it and they’ll say, well, we’re a channel registrar and you need to go and speak to our reseller to get that information.”
“Now, sometimes we’ll be able to speak to the reseller, sometimes they’ll respond and sometimes they won’t. ”
“But it strikes me that Jeff (Eckhaus) has very, very clearly said, and we have seen in the RAA (Registrar Accreditation Agreement) that the buck stops with the registrar, but in practice, and in our experience, the truth is the registrar actually doesn’t have the data at their disposal. and sometimes it may even be in a jurisdiction where they can’t get it or where law enforcement isn’t in a position to get it.”
“Because now that we’re talking about numbers, and i am going to express my demonstrate fully to the room my ignorance here, i am not an economist, but i am kind of struck by the fact that you have about a thousand accredited registrars, many of which we are now told, we have learned over the years, this is — they’re not separate, distinct. they are all sort of members of families, and then you have up to 8,000 resellers.”
“So from a government perspective, you begin to look at these numbers somewhat differently and think, hmmm, so only a thousand market players are subject to any contractual anything, whatever the current provisions might be, as flawed as they might be or as inadequate as they might be. and yet you have around 8,000, and possibly more, entities who are not subject to any of those provisions, that gives us pause, and that is, in fact, i think, what soca is trying to get at, is the concern there are a lot of actors in the marketplace engaging directly with our consumers around the world who could, in fact, — cannot, then, turn to either the contractual provisions and see that they could get any relief.”
Mr Eckhaus responded:
“I wanted to respond to the USA, I don’t want that to come out that once you are not an accredited registrar and you are a reseller, it’s a wild west and anything goes.”
“All the domain names that are registered are either sold through the registrar or the reseller channel are all subject to the RAA.”
“So it’s clear that these are issues of ongoing concern, where I do believe we wish to continue looking at these issues and receive further information, facts, so that we can do better analysis of what are the real issues and how does the market in fact look, and i think it goes right to the heart of this point about the role of ICANN and the role of ICANN in the market in its self-regulatory nature or the self-regulatory nature of the industry.”
So it appears the GAC has now found another issue it did not have on its radar before the session.