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Niall O'Reilly:
EU Commission Meeting with
TLD Registry representatives
(see TBTF for 1997-04-21)



April 24, 1997

This material was distributed by Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com> on his fight-censorship mailing list; it is Copyright © 1997 by Niall O'Reilly.


EU Commission Meeting with TLD Registry representatives, 9 April 1997

Report by

Niall O'Reilly

IE Domain Registry
University College Dublin Computing Services


Summary
-------

Member-state TLD administrators were invited to meet with EU
Commission representatives by Christopher Wilkinson of DG 13.  The
meeting took place on 9 April 1997 at the Commission's Beaulieu
offices on the outskirts of Brussels.  I represented the IE Domain
Registry.  This report is a personal account of the meeting, not
checked with other participants, and prepared in advance of
availability of the official record.  Any errors are my
responsibility.  I have tried to summarize what took place rather than
to produce a personal set of minutes.


TLD registries for BE, DE, ES, FI, FR, IE, IT, LU, UK were
represented, most by more than one delegate.  RIPE was represented by
Daniel Karrenberg (manager of the RIPE NCC), who had been briefed by
the CH and NL registries to act as their proxy.  There were several
representatives from DG13 of the Commission, and also a number from
other Directorates General including, according to my notes, DG's 1,
3, 12, 15.


The agenda for the meeting was circulated in advance by Christopher
Wilkinson, who chaired the meeting.  I expect that anyone reading this
report will have seen the agenda already.  This agenda was open to a
number of interpretations regarding the Commission's purpose in
calling the meeting.  What emerged was that the Commission was anxious
to understand better how the TLD's in the member states were organised
and administered, and to take soundings in preparation for its next
intervention regarding the IAHC proposals.


On a number of occasions during the meeting, the chair let it be
understood that both the Commission and the telecommunications
ministries in the member states recognised the role of the existing
TLD registries and of RIPE. The chairman also declared that it was the
Commission's policy to develop its position regarding the DNS
transparently, openly, and with consultation.

Besides the agenda (1), the following documents were provided to
participants at the beginning of the meeting:

 (2) Letter from DG13 (Wilkinson) to Don Heath of 17 Jan 1997;
 (3) Issue Paper on the Internet Domain Name System;
 (4) Final draft of letter from Commission to US Government;
 (5) Press Release of 8 April from the Internet Society
     announcing signing of naming plan;
 (6) Proposed gTLD-MoU of 28 February 1997;
 (7) Working paper from DG Xv/E-3
     "The Internet Domain Name System and Trademarks";
 (8) Proposed Guidelines concerning Administrative Domain
     Name Challenge Panels;
 (9) Brief from Anthony Rutkowski available as
     http://www.wia.org/pub/dns-brief.html.

Although the time available was short in relation to the agenda, a
number of conclusions were reached and some interesting information
emerged.


The Commission, the OECD, and the WIPO have been interested for some
time in the DNS.  The Commission's involvement apparently stems from
an invitation from the WIPO to become involved in a study group
concerned with DNS-related trademark questions.  The Commission has
since become aware of the IAHC work, and concerned by the proposals of
this body.  Wilkinson has written (2) to Don Heath on 17 January 1997
expressing the concerns of the Commission.


Specifically, the Commission finds it unsatisfactory that the IAHC
process has not engaged European participation, that insufficient time
has been allowed for consultation, that (according to the Commission's
analysis) even within the US a consensus has not been reached, and
that licensing registrars for the proposed gTLD's by lottery does not
meet the Commission's requirements for transparency.


The meeting heard from Svend Kraemer (DG 13) that the OECD ICCP
Committee (which deals with comminications, including the Internet)
was to hold the next in a series of twice-yearly meetings over the two
following days.  He mantioned that this committee has a document on
the DNS which he hopes will soon be de-restricted.  He undertook to
encourage national delegates at the meeting to make early contact with
their TLD registries.


The meeting reached the consensus that the participants should not
sign the gTLD MoU, and were unsatisfied with the IAHC proposal.  It
was agreed that followup to the meeting was needed, that this should
be done by E-mail, and that volunteers were needed to prepare formal
documents.


It was recognised that, although the meeting had been useful, further
work was needed, and that it seemed appropriate to have a follow-up
meeting at or in conjunction with the Dublin RIPE meeting.  On the
Commission side, the proceedings of the meeting are to be reported to
the national experts in the Telecommunications Working Group.  It is
intended to continue by E-mail the discussions begun at the meeting,
with the hope of identifying a small sub-group with time and resources
to develop documents in preparation for the next meeting.


The Commission has had some requests to hold a similar meeting with
ISP's.


More detailed accounts of certain parts of the discussion follow
below.


Current operation of TLD's, and their reaction to IAHC
------------------------------------------------------

Wilkinson explained that the Commission was now seeking the support of
member states as it finds itself in new territory where it is
difficult to move quickly.  He agreed with Stefano Trumpy (IT, also a
member of the ISOC Advisory Council) that a speedy response to the
IAHC, with alternative proposals, was needed.  Trumpy identified the
June ISOC Board of Trustees meeting as a key time constraint.  Those
present were asked to say how they perceived the TLD structure and
organisation in Europe,  what their views were on sharing registries,
how they reacted to the IAHC proposals, and how the new gTLD's were
likely, in their opinion, to affect the financial stability of the
national TLD registries.


Daniel Karrenberg was invited to speak on these questions first.
Later speakers generally endorsed the RIPE position, which he
expressed in the following way.  The DNS in Europe is well organised.
ISO 3166 is of its nature national.  Policy and provisional of service
are thus national matters.  This is seen as very positive, and local
service is seen as an advantage.  RIPE has until now stayed away from
policy and service-provision aspects of the name service, and has thus
been slow to enter arena in response to IAHC.  It is now seen that
there is a need for stronger European co-operation and co-ordination
and that RIPE could have a role in this.


RIPE has made a statement to the IAHC, but after the IAHC deadline,
expressing that it is dissatisfied with the IAHC on grounds of rigour
(a solution is proposed without a problem statement) and adequacy of
consultation (the timescale is too short).


In response to a question by Trumpy, Wilkinson said that, as chair, he
was not ready to reach an immediate conclusion on whether RIPE was the
appropriate technical arm to respond to IAHC, but that personally he
felt that if there were a need for more than RIPE, this would be on
public policy grounds.


I described the current ad-hoc organisation of the IE domain registry,
explained that charging had been introduced since 1 October last, and
mentioned that we now had some 2000 domains.  I said that I was
personally shocked by the IAHC proposals, on the grounds already
mentioned by the commission and by RIPE.  I gave the opinion that,
unless a new national domain were proposed, the impact on the IE
domain was not likely to be significant.


The French delegates endorsed what had already been said, and added
their belief that a not-for-profit service was essential.  The Belgian
delegates added their agreement.


The delegation from Finland, where the registry is in process of being
agreeably transferred from EUnet to a state agency, included
representatives of both of these organisations.  One of the EUnet
people suggested that the IAHC initiative ahd at least the positive
aspect that it would serve as a catalyst for the development of a
legal or regulatory framework to underpin the DR function.


The LU domain is administered by a foundation which depends on the
Ministry of Education, apparently analogous to HEAnet in Ireland.
There are about 500 second-level domains at present.


For Spain, Miguel Sanz explained that the ES domain is currently
administered by a research agency, using ad-hoc rules, and working in
a "self-protecting" mode where domain-holders are restricted to a
limit of a single domain name (as in Ireland).  Their next objective
is to reach a consensual basis in the community for the operation of
the registry.  They see not only ISP's as stakeholders, but also the
trademark and other national registries, and the users.  Sanz
suggested that the question of 'financial stability' was perhaps wide
of the mark in the not-for-profit context, and referred to the RIPE
document on charging by Internet registries (RIPE-152: Norris &
Karrenberg).


Willie Black (UK) put the current rate of growth of the UK domain at
more than 4000 per month, and suggested liberalization of the regime
(no limit on number of domains per domain-holder) as the reason for
this level. Nominet, the organisation which manages the UK domain,
with support from the relevant government department (DTI), has over
300 members, including Web designers, law firms, naming agencies as
well as ISP's.  There has been competition from .UK.COM, but this
"hasn't been a problem".  He sees the congestion of the .COM domain as
a US problem, and sees a natural monopoly, both globally and in each
country, as necessary for TLD administration.


The DE domain has been re-organised after a difficult period and a new
foundation has been set up and has now 38 members.  There is a
perceived need for the NIC to build a forum in which an arbitration
framework can be built.  The legal muscle of large companies is seen
as a potential problem.


Following the explanations from the TLD representatives, the chair had
a number of rather diverse questions for clarification.  The answers
to these made it clear that each TLD in Europe has its own database,
that registries are not shared, that none of those present had the
intention to share in the proposed gTLD's, that backup and other
prudent management of each database was a matter for each particular
registry, and that the operational DNS data was actually replicated,
typically in a number of countries, for each TLD.  Regarding the Green
Paper on numbering for telecommunications, a comment was made that
while IP addresses might well be relevant to this, DNS naming was not.


Wilkinson emphasised that the Commission was anxious to receive copy
of all communications to IAHC from European TLD registries.


Trademark-related aspects
-------------------------

Trademark-related aspects were discussed, with particular
contributions from representatives of DG 15 and BT.  The
representative from DG 15 was of the opinion that .TM.INT is not seen
as useful by trademark owners, and that WIPO is likely to defer its
implementation.  WIPO is working to improve online arbitration and
mediation services.  DG 15 would like to see similar disciplines
developed at the level of the national registries, and sees the German
approach as useful.


The BT representative said that, from the point of view of a trademark
attorney and from that of a TELCO, the needs were for stability,
confidence, and adequate protection for trademark owners.  He did not
see proliferation of TLD's as useful, and in particular did not find
the proposed gTLD's helpful.  He identified the threat of suits which
will challenge the authority of the TLD registries.  It was suggested
that co-ordination between TLD registries and national trademark
office would be useful, and participants' attention was drawn to the
forthcoming WIPO conference.


Willie Black voiced doubt about the potential usefulness of .TM.UK,
and mentioned that a mechanism for resolution of disputes through
mediation would shortly be launched in UK.


Response to IAHC Proposal
-------------------------

It is expected that there will be European bidders for the licences
which it is proposed to issue in the IAHC scheme.  There is a need for
clear eligibility qualifications for domains to be registered in the
proposed gTLD's, but that these have not been prepared.  Willie Black
has made this point to IAHC.  There was a comment from the German
delegation that name collisions were already becoming a problem there.
Development of French policy depends on starting from an agreed
charter.  A participant from DG 3 emphasised the usefulness of LDAP
rather than the DNS as a means to locate resources.  The meeting
recognised the need for developing a contingency position to
anticipate the implementation of the IAHC proposal if this were,
despite objections, to go ahead.

Although the technical problems of a shared registry were seen to be
tractable, contractual difficulties with triangular relationships and
practical difficulties with parallel registration request from the
same applicant were seen as likely to cause serious difficulties.


[ TBTF for 1997-04-21 ]