Choosing the Right Path to a Permanent Accountability Framework for ICANN

by on August 26, 2009 · 10 comments

By Michael Palage & Berin Szoka, The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Over the next month, the ICANN Board will consider its options for ensuring that some framework is in place to ensure ICANN’s accountability to the global Internet community after the approaching expiration of its Memorandum of Understanding and Joint Project Agreement (MOU/JPA) with the U.S. Department of Commerce. We analyze these options in our new paper, “Choosing the Right Path to a Permanent Accountability Framework for ICANN.”

We urge the ICANN Board to allow the time necessary for the development of a permanent accountability framework in consultation with the global Internet community, as required by ICANN’s Bylaws.  The authors caution the ICANN Board against rubber-stamping a recent proposal to essentially make the MoU/JPA a permanent instrument as inadequate to ensure ICANN’s long-term accountability.  The alternative, simply ending ICANN’s relationship with the U.S. Government, would raise serious legal questions concerning ICANN’s ability to collect fees from registrars and registries and the transfer of property rights underlying the domain name system.

We conclude by calling on ICANN’s new CEO Rod Beckstrom to exercise the kind of leadership he advocated in his 2005 book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, which explains the advantages of decentralized managerial “nervous systems” (“starfish”) over top-down hierarchies (“spiders”):

Instead of focusing on ‘spider’-esque permanent instruments with a single government, Beckstrom and the ICANN Board should focus on more ‘starfish’-like solutions that both continue the USG’s stewardship role and involve more governments that want to participate in the unique private-public partnership known as ICANN—without compromising ICANN’s guiding principles and commitment to private sector leadership. Only this outcome will ensure the long-term viability of ICANN as a global trustee of the Internet’s unique identifiers.


  • Danny Younger

    Thanks for the insightful paper. I would appreciate getting your take on a recent comment tendered by Mike Roberts:

    “[excerpt] It has been clear for some time that the best long term solution is for there to be a treaty relationship created to deal with Internet governance in the broad sense, of which ICANN would be a part. Treaties have been the mechanism for dealing with difficult issues of international relations for centuries, and a suitable arrangement can be found if approached with intelligence, commitment and good will.”

    Mike Robert's full comment is at
    http://forum.icann.org/lists/iic-proposed-bylaw

    Thanks,
    Danny Younger

  • http://www.facebook.com/internetgovernance Diplo Igcbp

    Michael and Berin, thanks a lot for this – we are sharing your post among people working with Internet governance issues. There was a recent discussion initiated by Jovan Kurbalija on the Diplo Internet governance issue that we would also like to share with you and your readers: http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/profiles

    Here, congressman Henry Waxman's point of a “permanent JPA” is addressed under the international relations point of view, which would not serve the interests of USA. Your opinion is welcome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/internetgovernance Diplo Igcbp

    Michael and Berin, thanks a lot for this – we are sharing your post among people working with Internet governance issues. There was a recent discussion initiated by Jovan Kurbalija on the Diplo Internet governance issue that we would also like to share with you and your readers: http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/profiles

    Here, congressman Henry Waxman's point of a “permanent JPA” is addressed under the international relations point of view, which would not serve the interests of USA. Your opinion is welcome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/internetgovernance Diplo Igcbp

    Michael and Berin, thanks a lot for this – we are sharing your post among people working with Internet governance issues. There was a recent discussion initiated by Jovan Kurbalija on the Diplo Internet governance issue that we would also like to share with you and your readers: http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/profiles

    Here, congressman Henry Waxman's point of a “permanent JPA” is addressed under the international relations point of view, which would not serve the interests of USA. Your opinion is welcome!

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