This week the Governmental Advisory Council (GAC) issued 242 early warnings on new gTLD applications.
There seems to be a belief held in the domainer community that if an application didn’t receive a GAC early warning, the GAC will can’t or won’t object to a string or an application.
This is what the latest ICANN Applicant Guidebook (dated June 4, 2012) has to say about GAC early warnings:
“”188.8.131.52 GAC Early Warning
Concurrent with the 60-day comment period, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) may issue a GAC Early Warning notice concerning an application. This provides the applicant with an indication that the application is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic by one or more governments.
The GAC Early Warning is a notice only. It is not a formal objection, nor does it directly lead to a process that can result in rejection of the application. However, a GAC Early Warning should be taken seriously as it raises the likelihood that the application could be the subject of GAC Advice on New gTLDs (see subsection 184.108.40.206) or of a formal objection (see subsection 220.127.116.11) at a later stage in the process.
A GAC Early Warning typically results from a notice to the GAC by one or more governments that an application might be problematic, e.g., potentially violate national law or raise sensitivities.
“A GAC Early Warning may be issued for any reason.1 The GAC may then send that notice to the Board – constituting the GAC Early Warning. ICANN will notify applicants of GAC Early Warnings as soon as practicable after receipt from the GAC. The GAC Early Warning notice may include a nominated point of contact for further information.
GAC consensus is not required for a GAC Early Warning to be issued. Minimally, the GAC Early Warning must be provided in writing to the ICANN Board, and be clearly labeled as a GAC Early Warning. This may take the form of an email from the GAC Chair to the ICANN Board. For GAC Early Warnings to be most effective, they should include the reason for the warning and identify the objecting countries.
Upon receipt of a GAC Early Warning, the applicant may elect to withdraw the application for a partial refund (see subsection 1.5.1), or may elect to continue with the application (this may include meeting with representatives from the relevant government(s) to try to address the concern). To qualify for the refund described in subsection 1.5.1, the applicant must provide notification to ICANN of its election to withdraw the application within 21 calendar days of the date of GAC Early Warning delivery to the applicant.
To reduce the possibility of a GAC Early Warning, all applicants are encouraged to identify potential sensitivities in advance of application submission, and to work with the relevant parties (including governments) beforehand to mitigate concerns related to the application.””
However the Guidebook clearly states that the GAC still has the right to object to a application it did not issue an early warning on, later in the process:
“18.104.22.168 Receipt of GAC Advice on New gTLDs
The GAC may provide public policy advice directly to the ICANN Board on any application. ”
“The procedure for GAC Advice on New gTLDs described in Module 3 indicates that, to be considered by the Board during the evaluation process, the GAC Advice on New gTLDs must be submitted by the close of the objection filing period.”
“A GAC Early Warning is not a prerequisite to use of the GAC Advice process.”
“If the Board receives GAC Advice on New gTLDs stating that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed, this will create a strong presumption for the ICANN Board that the application should not be approved. “
“If the Board does not act in accordance with this type of advice, it must provide rationale for doing so.
See Module 3 for additional detail on the procedures concerning GAC Advice on New gTLDs.
The Guidebook in Module 3 goes on to detail how the GAC can object later on in the process even after early warnings:
“”3.1 GAC Advice on New gTLDs
ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee was formed to consider and provide advice on the activities of ICANN as they relate to concerns of governments, particularly matters where there may be an interaction between ICANN’s policies and various laws and international agreements or where they may affect public policy issues.
The process for GAC Advice on New gTLDs is intended to address applications that are identified by governments to be problematic, e.g., that potentially violate national law or raise sensitivities.
GAC members can raise concerns about any application to the GAC. The GAC as a whole will consider concernsraised by GAC members, and agree on GAC advice to forward to the ICANN Board of Directors.
The GAC can provide advice on any application.
For the Board to be able to consider the GAC advice during the evaluation process, the GAC advice would have to be submitted by the close of the Objection Filing Period (see Module 1).
GAC Advice may take one of the following forms:
- The GAC advises ICANN that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed. This will create a strong presumption for the ICANN Board that the application should not be approved.
- The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.
- The GAC advises ICANN that an application should not proceed unless remediated. This will raise a strong presumption for the Board that the application should not proceed unless there is a remediation method available in the Guidebook (such as securing the approval of one or more governments), that is implemented by the applicant.
Where GAC Advice on New gTLDs is received by the Board concerning an application, ICANN will publish the Advice and endeavor to notify the relevant applicant(s) promptly. The applicant will have a period of 21 calendar days from the publication date in which to submit a response to the ICANN Board.
ICANN will consider the GAC Advice on New gTLDs as soon as practicable.
The Board may consult with independent experts, such as those designated to hear objections in the New gTLD Dispute Resolution Procedure, in cases where the issues raised in the GAC advice are pertinent to one of the subject matter areas of the objection procedures. The receipt of GAC advice will not toll the processing of any application (i.e., an application will not be suspended but will continue through the stages of the application process).””
So for those applicants and applications which didn’t draw a GAC early warning congrats.
But don’t pop the champagne bottles yet.