New gTLD’s: French Professor Alain Pellet Appointed as an Independent Objector (IO) by the ICANN

On May 14th, ICANN unveiled the appointment of Professor Alain Pellet as an Independent Objector (IO) for the new gTLD’s[1]. In the light of his academic background and his experience before the International Criminal Court, we cannot but agree that he deserves this appointment. The French Professor will speak in the public interest as far as new gTLD’s are concerned. His appointment follows ICANN calls for applications launched in November 2011. Thanks to lobby discussions and the help of a recruiting firm, ICANN decided to release the name of the French Professor.

The Independent Objector is one of the pillars foreseen by ICANN for the objection period for the new gTLD’s.

The narrowness of the power given to the IO does not diminish the utmost importance of his role. The IO is empowered to file an objection before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) if a candidature is detrimental to the public interest or to the Community. If a candidature is “highly objectionable”, the IO is entitled to file such an objection. The IO is supposed to be entirely independent; no member of the ICANN can exert pressure of any kind on him. Two types of objections can be filed by the IO:

1. Limited Public Interest Objections:

-This objection can be filed if a candidature for a new gTLD goes against morals or public order-

2. Community Objections :

-If a significant part of the Community targeted by the gTLD candidature rises up against said candidature, the IO will file an objection on behalf of the Community.

The filing of an objection on the grounds of public interest does not prevent the IO from filing another objection concerning the very same candidature as before, through the Community Objections channel. Before filing an objection on behalf of the Community, the IO is entitled to launch a public consultation within the Community targeted by the new gTLD. When the said consultation has ended, the IO scrutinizes the results and if nobody opposes the candidature, the IO will not be entitled to file any objection. We can highlight here that the IO cannot file an objection for a new gLTD candidature if an objection was already filed using another procedural path, notwithstanding the Applicant Guidebook specification that in exceptional cases the IO can file for such an objection in parallel.

The IO is not the only person who can file an objection on the two aforementioned grounds (namely the Public Interest and the Community). However, the inception of the IO was motivated by the fact that this person can increase the number of objections lodged against new gTLD candidatures for the safety of Internet users. Xenophobe or homophobic candidatures will be set aside thanks to the IO.

The IO must issue public reports which will mirror accurately the work done thus far and the time spent accordingly. Given the number of candidatures, this work can be assumed to be highly time-consuming.

Some authors pointed out that the role of the IO is vague and that only practice can shed some light on the relevance of his role. Given the background of the French professor, this paves the way for work we can assume to be both fruitful and brilliant. We congratulate Professor Alain Pellet whose sagacity will enlighten us on highly significant points of law.

[1] For an accurate presentation of the functions of the Independent Objector see gTLD Applicant Guidebook 3.2.5.