IANA Transition is Just the Beginning

by Lisa Lindgren

posted on 10-04-2016

Posted by J. Scott Evans, Trademark Director and Associate General Counsel

Note: This article ran in CircleID on October 3, 2016

The transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions is finally in the history books. After almost two years of working groups and multiple rounds of meetings, most of us want to take a long vacation and never hear the acronym “IANA” again. However, the transition is just the beginning. Now is the time for the multistakeholder community to exercise its new authorities and responsibilities to ensure the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) remains accountable to every internet user. To quote the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, “Winning was easy; governing is harder.”

Originally proposed by the Clinton Administration in 1998, the transition was an idea whose time had come. It represented the natural evolution of internet governance and was in the best interest of not only American businesses and consumers but the entire internet community. The global multistakeholder community developed rules and safeguards to preserve the internet’s stability, security, and openness, and it largely met the goals outlined by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA).

Delaying or preventing the transition would have only kept the door open for foreign governments to exert more control on the internet’s infrastructure or policymaking bodies. While concerns remain around ICANN’s new gTLD program, its responsibility to enforce contracts, and the potential for the organization to operate as a monopoly by creating and regulating new domain names, the internet is more stable and free today as a result of the transition.

Now comes the hard part. In a post-transition world, the best way to preserve Internet freedom is for the multistakeholder community, which includes American businesses, technical experts, public interest groups, and individual users like you who use the internet every day, to make your voices heard. Although ICANN remains subject to US laws and its jurisdiction is limited to the technical underpinnings of the internet (domain names and addresses), its policy decisions can have a wide impact on intellectual property, cybersecurity, privacy, and internet freedom. Stakeholders need to ensure ICANN enforces contracts with registries and registrars, enables sustainable growth of the internet, and protects intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property on the internet should be of special concern to stakeholders because ICANN’s limited authority includes the management of the root zone for domain names as well as assigning IP addresses to registries, which are critical functions of the internet’s infrastructure. If these functions are not carefully handled, the next time you type in www.adobe.com, you may be taken to a different site — a source of frustration for the consumer and the company paying for the address. Protecting internet IP is critical because it fosters e-commerce, increases consumer confidence, and protects the competitive marketplace.

Thanks to the transition, a forum now exists to ensure the protection and preservation of the internet — and it needs to be leveraged. The multistakeholder community must follow through to guarantee the stability and security of the internet. Adobe will continue to work with the community to ensure that ICANN stays true to its commitments and maintains the public’s trust. Businesses, technical experts, and every individual who uses the internet is now responsible for keeping the internet open and safe. That is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

Topics: Data & Privacy