Language proposed for Verisign’s .net registry contract that some say would give governments the ability to arbitrarily seize domains is already present in the company’s .com contract.
As I reported earlier this month, the .net Registry Agreement is up for renewal and ICANN has opened up some largely uncontroversial proposed changes for public comment.
ICANN has received two comments so far, both of which refer to what one commenter called the “outrageous and dangerous” proposed changes to Verisign’s .net Registry-Registrar Agreement.
The RRA is the contract all accredited registrars must agree to when they sign up to sell domains in a given TLD. For ICANN, it’s a way to vicariously enforce policy on registrants via registrars via registries.
Unsimply put, the RA instructs Verisign to have an RRA with its registrars that tells them what rules their registrants have to agree to when they buy a domain name.
The new language causing the consternation is:
Verisign reserves the right to deny, cancel, redirect or transfer any registration or transaction, or place any domain name(s) on registry lock, hold or similar status, as it deems necessary, in its unlimited and sole discretion:
to ensure compliance with applicable law, government rules or regulations, or pursuant to any legal order or subpoena of any government, administrative or governmental authority, or court of competent jurisdiction
One commenter states “this proposed agreement would allow any government in the world to cancel, redirect or transfer to their control applicable domain names”, adding “presumably ICANN staff and Verisign would want to also apply it to other extensions like .COM as those contracts come up for renewal”.
In fact, it’s the other way around. The exact same language has been present in Verisign’s .com contract for over three years, a change to Appendix 8a (pdf) that went largely unnoticed when thousands of commenters were instead complaining about the removal of price caps and fretting about the rise of Covid-19 around the world.
For those worried about the new .net language making it into the .com contract one day — worry not! It’s already there.