The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) has filed a comment with ICANN objecting to the Extension of Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) to .Travel Domains.
“The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free
expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.
We write to provide our comments on the proposed agreement for renewal of the 2005
Registry Agreement for .travel, which contains significant revisions to the original terms.
Most notable amongst these is a new requirement for a Uniform Rapid Suspension
(URS) process, originally developed for the new gTLD program, that would streamline
the suspension of domain names that a third party alleges infringe its rights.
The introduction of the URS, in response to a 2009 recommendation from the new gTLD
program’s Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT), was characterized (however
dubiously) as an implementation detail of the new gTLD program.
Despite the fact that, in effect, it has largely displaced the existing UDRP system for the new gTLDs, this characterization enabled it to bypass the full Policy Development Process (PDP) that would otherwise be required for such a major policy change.
The URS never became a consensus policy that would be applicable across all gTLDs.
Neither is it likely that such a consensus could be achieved, given that the lesser due
process rights that the URS affords to registrants, leading to a higher risk of arbitrary domain suspension.
Further, the policy provides no monetary sanctions against URS abuse to discourage the use of the URS to practice what amounts to censorship of domains, and more importantly, of the content hosted at those domains.
If the URS is to be extended to legacy domains such as .travel, this would place many
further domains at risk of rapid suspension, which raises significant free speech concerns.
It would also set a bad precedent for the extension of the URS to other legacy domains
such as .com, .net and .org as their registries’ contracts come up for rewewal.
We note the remarks of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, given on
June 3, 2015, when they relevantly stated:
“”Measures to prohibit the use by the public of certain words or characters in
domain names and name strings may raise issues under Articles 10 and 11 of the
European Convention on Human Rights. Expressions contained in the names of
websites, such as domain names and name strings, can be construed as forms of
expression that are used to identify and describe content, to disseminate a
particular point of view, or to create spaces for communication, interaction,
assembly and association for various societal groups or communities. In pursuing
its commitment to act in the general public interest, ICANN should ensure that,
when defining access to the use of top-level domains (TLDs), an appropriate
balance is struck between economic interests and other objectives of common
interest, such as pluralism, cultural and linguistic diversity and respect for the
special needs of vulnerable groups and communities.””
In conclusion, ICANN should not apply URS to the .travel domain, or to any additional
domains, by the unaccountable means of staff inserting new conditions into the renewal
of the registry operator’s contract. Rather, the public policy implications of such a move demand that a full PDP be undertaken first. Should ICANN undertake such a process, we will have more to say about the undesirability of extending this unbalanced program.””