ICANN and Verisign Proposal Would Allow Any Government In The World To Seize Domain Names with no redress

ICANN, the organization that regulates global domain name policy, and Verisign, the abusive monopolist that operates the .COM and .NET top-level domains, have quietly proposed enormous changes to global domain name policy in their recently published “Proposed Renewal of the Registry Agreement for .NET”, which is now open for public comment.

Either by design, or unintentionally, they’ve proposed allowing any government in the world to cancel, redirect, or transfer to their control applicable domain names! This is an outrageous and dangerous proposal that must be stopped. […]

The offending text can be found buried in an Appendix of the proposed new registry agreement. […] the critical changes can be found in Section 2.7 of Appendix 8, on pages 147-148. (the blue text represents new language) Below is a screenshot of that section:

Proposed Changes in Appendix 8 of the .NET agreement
Proposed Changes in Appendix 8 of the .NET agreement

Section 2.7(b)(i) is new and problematic on its own [editor bold!] (and I’ll analyze that in more detail in a future blog post – there are other things wrong with this proposed agreement, but I’m starting off with the worst aspect). However, carefully examine the new text in Section 2.7(b)(ii) on page 148 of the redline document.

It would allow Verisign, via the new text in 2.7(b)(ii)(5), 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” [the language at the beginning of 2.7(b)(ii), emphasis added]

Then it lists when it can take the above measures. The first 3 are non-controversial (and already exist, as they’re not in blue text). The 4th is new, relating to security, and might be abused by Verisign. But, look at the 5th item! I was shocked to see this new language:

“(5) 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,” [emphasis added]

This text has a plain and simple meaning — they propose  to allow “any government“, “any administrative authority”  and “any government authority” and “court[s] of competent jurisdiction” to deny, cancel, redirect, or transfer any domain name registration […].

You don’t have to be ICANN’s fiercest critic to see that this is arguably the most dangerous language ever inserted into an ICANN agreement.

“Any government” means what it says, so that means China, Russia, Iran, Turkey,  the Pitcairn Islands, Tuvalu, the State of Texas, the State of California, the City of Detroit,  a village of 100 people with a local council in Botswana, or literally “any government” whether it be state, local, or national. We’re talking about countless numbers of “governments” in the world (you’d have to add up all the cities, towns, states, provinces and nations, for starers). If that wasn’t bad enough, their proposal adds “any administrative authority” and “any government authority” (i.e.  government bureaucrats in any jurisdiction in the world) that would be empowered to “deny, cancel, redirect or transfer” domain names.  [The new text about “court of competent jurisdiction” is also probematic, as it would  override determinations that would be made by registrars via the agreements that domain name registrants have with their registrars.]

This proposal represents a complete government takeover of domain names, with no due process protections for registrants. It would usurp the role of registrars, making governments go directly to Verisign (or any other registry that adopts similar language) to achieve anything they desired. It literally overturns more than two decades of global domain name policy.


they bury major policy changes in an appendix near the end of a document that is over 100 pages long (133 pages long for the “clean” version of the document; 181 pages for the “redline” version)


ICANN and Verisign appear to have deliberately timed the comment period to avoid public scrutiny.  The public comment period opened on April 13, 2023, and is scheduled to end (currently) on May 25, 2023. However, the ICANN76 public meeting was held between March 11 and March 16, 2023, and the ICANN77 public meeting will be held between June 12 and June 15, 2023. Thus, they published the proposal only after the ICANN76 public meeting had ended (where we could have asked ICANN staff and the board questions about the proposal), and seek to end the public comment period before ICANN77 begins. This is likely not by chance, but by design.


What can you do? You can submit a public comment, showing your opposition to the changes, and/or asking for more time to analyze the proposal. [there are other things wrong with the proposed agreement, e.g. all of Appendix 11 (which takes language from new gTLD agreements, which are entirely different from legacy gTLDs like .com/net/org); section 2.14 of Appendix 8 further protects Verisign, via the new language (page 151 of the redline document); section 6.3 of Appendix 8, on page 158 of the redline, seeks to protect Verisign from losing the contract in the event of a cyberattack that disrupts operations — however, we are already paying above market rates for .net (and .com) domain names, arguably because Verisign tells others that they have high expenses in order to keep 100% uptime even in the face of attacks; this new language allows them to degrade service, with no reduction in fees)


Update #1: I’ve submitted a “placeholder” comment to ICANN, to get the ball rolling.  There’s also a thread on NamePros.com about this topic, if you had questions, etc.

Update #2: DomainIncite points out correctly that the offending language is already in the .com agreement, and that people weren’t paying attention to this issue back 3 years ago, as there bigger fish to fry. I went back and reviewed my own comment submission, and see that I did raise the issue back then too:


Source: Red Alert: ICANN and Verisign Proposal Would Allow Any Government In The World To Seize Domain Names – FreeSpeech.com

Robin Edgar

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