Will Big Business Dictate Public Interest?

The Internet Society (ISOC) was named the winning bidder for the right to
manage the .org registry Monday by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) board of directors.

The problem is, ISOC executives promised the public something a little different than what ICANN and its evaluation committee heard about when it picked the organization from a crowd of 10 other bidders to manage one of the largest domain name extensions in the Internet world.

When selected by the ICANN committee, the organization drew the ire of the
other 10 bidders, each with their own reason why they should have been
selected as the winning bid. Some went so far as to say the entire review
process was skewed, and that an organization represented primarily by the
business community shouldn’t have control over a domain that is seen as the
Internet address for non-profit organizations.

Officials at ISOC defended their position, saying their organization is
representative of the Internet. It’s top members include WorldCom , IBM , Microsoft ,
Hewlett-Packard and the Defense Information Systems Agency
(DISA).

The organization further claimed they were establishing
the Public Interest Registry
(PIR) to act as a “completely separate
organization” to avoid any potential conflict of interest, according to one
ISOC official.

The bylaws publicized over the weekend paint a different picture,
however. While the board of directors is comprised of some big names in
the domain advocacy crowd — including Marc Rotenberg, executive director
of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) — and in the
international community — Andy Linton, who once served on InternetNZ, the
non-profit organization that manages the .nz domain extension — the one
name that stands out most is mentioned last in the board of directors list
obtained by internetnews.com — Lynn St. Armour, ISOC president and CEO.

Even more damaging in the PIR bylaws is the clause that names ISOC the
“sole member” in the fledgling organization.

The following is an excerpt:

” The Member (ISOC) shall have the right to cast the sole and deciding
vote with respect to any matter as to which the members of a corporation
incorporated under the (National Center for Strategic Planning and
Community Leadership) NPCL have the right to vote, including, without
limitation, the right to elect and remove all Directors of the Corporation
at any time from time to time. Except as otherwise limited by these Bylaws
or the Articles of Incorporation of the Corporation, the Member shall have
such additional rights, including, without limitation, the right to
authorize an amendment or restatement of the Articles of Incorporation, as
are conferred upon the members of a corporation incorporated under the
NPCL.

As sole member, ISOC has far-reaching and unequivocal authority for
all decisions made by PIR’s board of directors. ISOC can even fire
a sitting member of the board of directors at any time, according to the
bylaws.

The seven directors named by ISOC to chair PIR will serve one year, then be
placed into three separate classes, each class serving a one-year
term. ISOC will then replace the directors with others of its choosing,
who will then sit on the board for three-year terms.

ISOC is free to expand or contract the number of director seats any time
after the first year.

The board of directors at PIR also needs approval from ISOC before amending
the bylaws, begging the question, is this really an independent organization?

According to Julie Williams, an ISOC spokesperson, it is.

“ISOC presented the bid, so it was basically done in ISOC’s name, so they
need to have some influence over the operations, even though it’s a
completely separate entity,” she said.

PIR has already begun work on its business and expects to have its Web
site, www.publicinterestregistry.org, up and running soon. The site was
bought up in June by ISOC, according to a WHOIS database search. There was
no response by press time whether ISOC planned to hand over administration
of the site to PIR.

While the new registry won’t be able to sign up customers until Jan. 1,
after the existing .org contract with VeriSign runs
out, officials plan to put up information for consumers and registrars.

PIR’s new board of directors meets tomorrow morning to elect its officers
— chairman, president, secretary and treasurer. Interestingly enough, all
the officer’s duty responsibilities were laid out in the bylaws except for
the chairman. The chairman’s role will be determined by directors at a
later date.

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