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France lashes out at internet naming body Icann

France has launched a strong attack on the US-based international body that governs internet addresses, calling its decision-making “totally opaque”

  Source http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/828ad97c-f94a-11e3-bb9d-00144feab7de.html#axzz35SB2zqEx

and saying a move to assign domain names for wine could threaten talks on a transatlantic trade deal.


Paris will demand a big shake-up of Icann – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – at a meeting of its government advisory committee in London on Monday, calling for a bigger say for states in its governance.


France’s anger has been triggered by a decision this year by Icann to go ahead with the launch of the two domain names .vin and .wine, which critics say could undermine international agreements on so-called geographical indicators that restrict the use of labels, such as champagne and other area-specific wines and foods.


The European Commission, France, the UK and Spain have all appealed to Icann to halt the procedure on the two domain names unless safeguards for geographical indicators are assured.


But France has linked the issue to the broader question of how Icann is structured and governed.


“The problem is it is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process,” Axelle Lemaire, minister for digital affairs, told the Financial Times.

In a letter to Manuel Barroso, European Commission head, this month, Ms Lemaire and two senior ministers argued that the domain names could prejudice EU-US trade talks in which France and other countries are anxious to preserve geographical indicator rights.


 These stop, for example, American producers calling sparkling wine champagne, or blue cheese Roquefort.

“These decisions could imperil the current talks on the transatlantic [trade] partnership by forcing the imposition of a model by the means of technical discussions on internet naming,” they wrote.


Their worry is that a private company which acquired the domain names could market products via, for example, a “champagne.wine” website that were not authentic champagne, without legal recourse.


Ms Lemaire also wrote this month to the Icann board saying the domain name process threatened to “undermine confidence in your organisation”.


The US agreed this year to give up its ultimate control of Icann exercised through the commerce department, but Ms Lemaire made clear France wants to go further, seeking to rally support for a global conference on its overhaul.

Paris wants it set up under international law with a redefined mission and overseen by a “general assembly” of stakeholders that would include governmental representation on a “one country, one vote” basis, Ms Lemaire said.


In her letter to the Icann board she wrote: “The lack of adequate redress mechanisms and, above all, the lack of accountability demonstrate the need for significant reform of Icann even before the current debate on the global internet governance system comes to a conclusion.”


Icann, founded in 1998, is a non-profit making organisation grouping private sector, public sector and technical interests in what it calls a “bottom-up, consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder model”.


Three years ago, Icann decided to lift most restrictions on the naming of top level domains. It has since received applications for almost 2,000 new domains and has already delegated about 300 of them, including .beer,london and .luxury. Among the new domains are ones using non-Latin characters such as Arabic and Chinese.


The process has not been without controversy. Some corporations are worried that they will need to spend large amounts of money buying addresses in the new domains in order to protect their trademarks from cybersquatters or fraudsters.'


Others are worried about the potential consequences of generic terms such as .search or .music falling under the control of a single corporation. Google and Amazon are among 13 organisations competing for the domain .app.

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