Is ICANN Obligated to Police Piracy?

Originally posted 2018-09-03 5:03:20

Anti piracyBy Sophie Sun | Editor: Kristen Daly |

ICANN, the domain name system oversight body, has become frustrated with the pressure that copyright lobby groups are placing upon it regarding action against pirate sites. Grogan, chief Contract Compliance Officer of ICANN, says that the organization does not wish to serve as the “piracy police”, policing content that is completely out of their scope. He claims that the mission of ICANN is the coordination of global Internet systems of unique identifiers at the overall level along with the maintenance of stable and secure operations of the Internet’s unique identifiers. Therefore, in order to prevent an advancing fight between domain companies (Registries) and intellectual property interests (IPC), ICANN determined that new registries may not be held accountable for the domains use of content piracy.

Registries believe that they do not have to suspend a domain name unless required by a court order. However, the IPC believes that “registries are supposed to not only require their registrars to ban piracy sites, but also to suspend piracy domains when they’re told about them.”[1]; without enforcement, contract provisions regarding piracy are rendered meaningless.

Various copyright lobby groups suggest that ICANN has the ability and authority to take action against pirate sites. ICANN, however, has made it clear that it will never get involved in disputes involving allegedly infringing domains.

According to the letter from the IPC to ICANN in April, “each of the hundreds of new gTLD registries that have entered into registry agreements with ICANN have taken on contractual obligations dealing explicitly with the four forms of abuse listed in the quoted parenthetical in the Board’s response.”[2] The IPC also mentioned that these particular PIC responsibilities are critical safeguards that must be enforced in order to promote the healthy development of the new gTLD namespace.[3] It noticed, in particular, the conclusion of the CCWG-Accountability report that directed “the drafters of revised ICANN by laws to ‘grandfather’ the language of existing registry agreements… including PICs” against any challenges that such provisions might otherwise “exceed the scope of ICANN’s mission”; specifically stressing that “neither a contracting party nor anyone else should be able to bring a case alleging that any provisions of such agreements on their face are ultra vires.”[4]

Those creative sector groups that participate in the Coalition for Online Accountability, “must confront, on a daily basis, the serious challenge of online abuse of their intellectual property rights, and have a vital stake in the success of what ICANN can do, within its mission, to encourage a healthy and safe online environment.”[5]

Though the IPC tried to persuade ICANN using the facts above, ICANN continues to put forth that copyright holders should never expect it to play a role as judge, jury and executioner concerning piracy issues since many choices and resolutions exist.

[1] Kevin Murphy. Fight as ICANN “backtracks” on piracy policing. July 1, 2016.

[2] Coalition for Online Accountability. April 11,2016.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Coalition for Online Accountability. June 17,2016.

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Fight as ICANN “backtracks” on piracy policing