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ICANN Resolutions » Responding to Registry Operator Requests and GAC Advice Regarding the Release of Second-Level Country and Territory Names in New gTLDs

Important note: The Board Resolutions are as reported in the Board Meeting Transcripts, Minutes & Resolutions portion of ICANN's website. Only the words contained in the Resolutions themselves represent the official acts of the Board. The explanatory text provided through this database (including the summary, implementation actions, identification of related resolutions, and additional information) is an interpretation or an explanation that has no official authority and does not represent the purpose behind the Board actions, nor does any explanations or interpretations modify or override the Resolutions themselves. Resolutions can only be modified through further act of the ICANN Board.

Responding to Registry Operator Requests and GAC Advice Regarding the Release of Second-Level Country and Territory Names in New gTLDs


Resolution of the ICANN Board
Meeting Date: 
Thu, 18 May 2017
Resolution Number: 
2017.05.18.09 – 2017.05.18.10
Resolution Text: 

Whereas, Specification 5, Section 4 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement requires that certain country and territory names on internationally recognized lists be reserved by registry operators within the TLD. The reserved country and territory names may be released to the extent a registry operator reaches agreement with the applicable government(s) or the registry operator may propose the release of the names subject to review by the GAC and approval by ICANN.

Whereas, since 21 August 2014, registry operators representing over 60 new gTLDs have submitted Registry Services Evaluation Policy requests for ICANN approval of the implementation of a new registry service requesting the release of country and territory name labels required to be reserved by Specification 5.

Whereas, in the GAC's Singapore Communiqué [PDF, 113 KB] (11 February 2015) the GAC advised the Board that "ICANN should work with the GAC to develop a public database to streamline the process for the release of country and territory names at the second level, as outlined in Specification 5. The database will inform whether individual GAC Members intend to agree to all requests, review them case by case, or not agree to any. The absence of input from a government will not be considered as agreement."

Whereas, the GAC created a database to facilitate notification of registry operator requests for the release of country and territory names. The database provides a "country or organization" the option to authorize the release of the country or territory name, authorize the release of the country or territory names specific to brand TLDs, require notification for all release requests, or not indicate a position on this matter.

Resolved (2017.05.18.09), the President and CEO, or his designee(s), is directed to take all steps necessary to grant ICANN approvals for the release of country and territory names at the second-level to the extent the relevant government has indicated its approval in the GAC's database.

Resolved (2017.05.18.10), the President and CEO, or his designee(s), is directed to continue to engage with the GAC to (1) collaborate on possible enhancements to the GAC database to document approvals for the release of country and territory names at the second-level, (2) to periodically remind GAC members to update or offer their determination within the GAC's database, and (3) report back to the Board if there is support for a different approach to generally release the second-level country and territory names.

Rationale for Resolution: 

Why the Board is addressing the issue?

Section 4 of Specification 5 (Schedule of Reserved Names) of the Registry Agreement addresses reservations of country and territory names as follows:

The country and territory names (including their IDN variants, where applicable) contained in the following internationally recognized lists shall be withheld from registration or allocated to Registry Operator at All Levels:

4.1. the short form (in English) of all country and territory names contained on the ISO 3166-1 list, as updated from time to time, including the European Union, which is exceptionally reserved on the ISO 3166-1 list, and its scope extended in August 1999 to any application needing to represent the name European Union ;

4.2. the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, Technical Reference Manual for the Standardization of Geographical Names, Part III Names of Countries of the World; and

4.3. the list of United Nations member states in 6 official United Nations languages prepared by the Working Group on Country Names of the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names;
provided, that the reservation of specific country and territory names (including their IDN variants according to the registry operator IDN registration policy, where applicable) may be released to the extent that Registry Operator reaches agreement with the applicable government(s). Registry Operator must not activate such names in the DNS; provided, that Registry Operator may propose the release of these reservations, subject to review by ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and approval by ICANN. Upon conclusion of Registry Operator's designation as operator of the registry for the TLD, all such names that remain withheld from registration or allocated to Registry Operator shall be transferred as specified by ICANN. Registry Operator may self-allocate and renew such names without use of an ICANN accredited registrar, which will not be considered Transactions for purposes of Section 6.1 of the Agreement.
In August 2014, new gTLD registry operators began submitting requests to ICANN organization through the Registry Services Evaluation Policy process proposing to implement a new registry service to release country and territory names required to be reserved by Specification 5, Section 4 of the Registry Agreement. Following the evaluation of the proposals to release these names, ICANN organization determined that no significant risk has been identified for the stability and security, or competition of the DNS related to the release of reserved country and territory names. ICANN organization prepared amendments to Exhibit A of the applicable Registry Agreements to implement the requests. The amendments have been the subject of public comment and were submitted to the GAC for review. In total, ICANN organization has posted Registry Services Evaluation Policy proposals and amendments concerning more than 60 new gTLDs. Registry Agreement amendments resulting from the registry operator requests for the release of country and territory names have remained open and ICANN organization continues to receive additional Registry Services Evaluation Policy requests for the same registry service.

To note, certain legacy registry agreements differ on whether second-level country and territory names need to be reserved. For example, .ASIA and .COOP are required to reserve the names, but .COM and .BIZ do not have such a requirement.

Pursuant to Section 2.4.D of the Registry Services Evaluation Policy and the accompanying Implementation Notes, if the implementation of a proposed registry service requires a material change to the Registry Agreement, the preliminary determination will be referred to the ICANN Board for consideration as appropriate.

Additionally, the GAC had issued advice to the Board in the 11 February 2015 Singapore Communiqué [PDF, 113 KB] concerning the release of reserved country and territory names. The GAC advised the Board that "ICANN should work with the GAC to develop a public database to streamline the process for the release of country and territory names at the second level, as outlined in Specification 5. The database will inform whether individual GAC Members intend to agree to all requests, review them case by case, or not agree to any. The absence of input from a government will not be considered as agreement." On 30 July 2015, the GAC published a database to facilitate the notification preference of each government involved in the GAC. The database provides notification requirements for various governments and indicates which countries have waived the right to authorize the release of the country or territory name.

In addition to addressing the Registry Services Evaluation Policy requests of registry operators, the Board's action today addresses the item of advice from the GAC concerning the release of reserved country and territory names. This action is part of the ICANN Board's role to address advice put to the Board by the GAC. Article 12, Section 12.2(a) of the ICANN Bylaws permits the GAC to "put issues to the Board directly, either by way of comment or prior advice, or by way of specifically recommending action or new policy development or revision to existing policies." The ICANN Bylaws require the Board to take into account the GAC's advice on public policy matters in the formulation and adoption of the polices. If the Board decides to take an action that is not consistent with the GAC advice, it must inform the GAC and state the reasons why it decided not to follow the advice. The Board and the GAC will then try in good faith to find a mutually acceptable solution. If no solution can be found, the Board will state in its final decision why the GAC advice was not followed.

What is the proposal being considered?

To address the requests from registry operators for ICANN approval to release reserved second-level country and territory names along with the advice from the GAC on the same topic, the Board is taking action to direct ICANN organization to take all steps necessary to grant ICANN approvals for the release of country and territory names at the second-level only to the extent the relevant government has indicated its approval in the GAC's database. By taking this action, ICANN would permit registry operators to release country and territory names from the reserved list where the database indicates that a registry operator does not need prior authorization to release the specific country or territory name. The remaining country and territory names would continue to be reserved pending a registry operator reaching agreement with the government on the release of specific names or the government updating its position in the GAC's database.

ICANN organization will continue to periodically engage with the GAC to collaborate on possible enhancements to the GAC database to document approvals for the release of country and territory names at the second-level, remind GAC members to update or offer their determination within the GAC's database, and to gauge whether there is support for a different approach to generally release the second-level country and territory names. ICANN organization will also provide notice of this determination to registry operators who have requested the release of country and territory names to resolve outstanding Registry Agreement amendments to implement Registry Services Evaluation Policy requests.

Which stakeholders or others were consulted?

Since 24 September 2014, ICANN organization initiated fourteen (14) public comment forums to obtain feedback from the community on the amendments to implement the proposed new registry service:

Release of Country and Territory Names within the .NEUSTAR TLD, 19 September 2014, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .BMW and .MINI TLDs, 11 December 2014, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .DVAG, .TUI, .SPIEGEL, .ALLFINANZ and .FLSMIDTH TLDs, 6 January 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .EMERCK, .HAMBURG and .BERLIN TLDs, 2 March 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .HONDA, .AXA, .EPSON, .HSBC, .XYZ and .COLLEGE TLDs, 31 March 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .SONY, .ARCHI, .BIO and .SAARLAND TLDs, 13 May 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .KOMATSU AND RICOH TLDs, 26 May 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .GLOBAL, .BNPPARIBAS, .BRIDGESTONE and .FIRESTONE TLDs, 21 June 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .BROTHER, .GEA, .ACO, .SECURITY, .PROTECTION, .THEATRE and .RENT TLDs, 1 September 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .STUDY, .COURSES, .LAMBORGHINI, XN--3OQ18VL8PN36A, .VOLKSWAGEN, .BUGATTI, .AUDI and .DELTA TLDs, 15 December 2015, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .TORAY and .PICTET TLDs, 28 March 2016, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .HYUNDAI, .KIA and .GODADDY TLDs, 27 April 2016, ;
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .SOFTBANK, .ART and .CARAVAN TLDs, 19 July 2016, ; and
Release of Country and Territory Names within the .IKANO, .SAXO, .SCOR, .SANDVIK, .WALTER, .SANDVIKCOROMANT, .VISTA, .VISTAPRINT, .BARCLAYS, .BARCLAYCARD and .HERMES TLDs, 12 January 2017, .
Various members of the community submitted comments, including the Brand Registry Group, International Trademark Association's Internet Committee, the ICANN Business Constituency, various government entities, the ICANN Intellectual Property Constituency, the Registries Stakeholder Group, and a registrar.

In addition, ICANN organization notified the GAC when each request from a registry operator was posted for public comment. Though the GAC has not submitted comments under the Public Comment Periods for Registry Services Evaluation Policy requests for the release of country and territory names, the GAC has issued GAC Advice as well as formal correspondence to ICANN organization leadership regarding the release of reserved second-level country and territory names.

What concerns or issues were raised by the community?

Public comments received from the broader community are in favor of the introduction of country and territory domain names in the new gTLD namespace.

The arguments made in favor to the release of the country and territory domain names were as follows:

There is demand from end users for these names, which stand to improve user experience as well as the value delivered to them through the maintenance of strict quality controls.
Country and territory names are already in use in certain legacy gTLDs and many ccTLDs.
If the registry operator has a robust framework in place to address the concerns of the government, certain government entities would be open to considering the release of their country and territory names.
Some community members also raised concerns over the use of the Registry Services Evaluation Policy as a measure to handle registry operator requests for the release of country and territory names and suggested ICANN organization end this process and instead focus on resolving the matter of country and territory names at the second-level.

The arguments made in favor to the release of the country and territory domain names for .BRAND TLDs were as follows:

These names would allow development and promotion by brand owners of localized and targeted content.
The use of these names would enhance security and trust and reduce phishing and fraud.
The use of these names would provide the benefit of "protecting and honoring intellectual property".
The use of these names would not result in user confusion since consumers will recognize that the country or territory name is used in the "private" context of the brand.
These names will facilitate online commerce in developing nations by encouraging registries to create customized and localized content (in non-English languages) for consumers in such regions.
The arguments made in favor to the release of the country and territory domain names for Geographic (Geo) TLDs were as follows:

Geographic TLDs by definition have the support of the official governments of their respective municipalities and represent spaces "where the likelihood of abuse or misconduct in the use of country and territory name is low".
The use of these names would allow enhanced community-building for Internet users in those geographic areas and enable businesses to provide targeted service to those communities.
The arguments made against the release of the country and territory domain names for Geographic (Geo) TLDs were as follows:

Certain country and territory names with a nexus to the geographic area reflected in the TLD could potentially cause confusion.
The arguments made against the release of country and territory domain names from certain government entities were as follows:

Countries are the ones to decide the use and application of their name and that of towns and communities located within their territory and that country and territory names should not be released without the authorization of the related country.
In the Singapore Communiqué [PDF, 113 KB], the GAC noted that it was in the process of developing a database that will "inform whether individual GAC Members intend to agree to all requests, review them case by case, or not agree to any. The absence of input from a government will not be considered as agreement." On 23 April 2015 [PDF, 180 KB], the GAC "cautioned ICANN not to consider the absence of input from a government as agreement, due to the fact that a sensitive issue such as this calls for consultation with the relevant government."

On 30 July 2015, the GAC published a webpage containing a table that "provides the respective country's requirements for notification of such requests regarding the relevant country and territory name versions. […] The table currently lists GAC Members' requirements, although some have yet to state their requirements." That same day, the Chair of the GAC issued a letter [PDF, 181 KB] to the President of the Global Domains Division notifying him of the publication of the list that shows which countries wish to be removed from future notifications regarding this issue. In order to facilitate communication between the GAC's webpage and registry operators, ICANN organization published an informational Country and Territory Names webpage referencing the GAC's database.

What significant materials did the Board review? What factors did the Board find to be significant?

The Board reviewed several materials and considered several significant factors during its deliberations about whether to approve the request. The significant materials and factors that the Board considered as part of its deliberations included, but were not limited to, the following:

Specification 5, Section 4 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement [PDF, 651 KB];
GAC Singapore Communiqué, 11 Feb 2015, [PDF, 113 KB]
Correspondence from GAC Chair to Chair of ICANN Board, 23 April 2015, [PDF, 180 KB];
Country and Territory Names as second-level domains in new gTLDs requirements for notification list, ;
Correspondence from GAC Chair to President of Global Domains Division, 30 July 2015, [PDF, 181 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .NEUSTAR TLD, 22 December 2014, [PDF, 113 KB]
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .BMW and .MINI TLDs, 29 January 2015, [PDF, 316 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .DVAG, .TUI, .SPIEGEL, .ALLFINANZ and .FLSMIDTH TLDs, 6 March 2015, [PDF, 369 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .EMERCK, .HAMBURG and .BERLIN TLDs, 30 April 2015, [PDF, 509 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .HONDA, .AXA, .EPSON, .HSBC, .XYZ and .COLLEGE TLDs, 29 May 2015, [PDF, 633 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .SONY, .ARCHI, .BIO and .SAARLAND TLD, 7 July 2015, [PDF, 638 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .KOMATSU and .RICOH TLDs, 3 August 2015, [PDF, 632 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .GLOBAL, .BNPPARIBAS, .BRIDGESTONE and .FIRESTONE TLDs, 11 August 2015, [PDF, 637 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .STUDY, .COURSES, .LAMBORGHINI, XN--3OQ18VL8PN36A, .VOLKSWAGEN, .BUGATTI, .AUDI and .DELTA TLDs, 10 February 2016, [PDF, 666 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .TORAY and .PICTET TLDs – 16 May 2016, [PDF, 506 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .HYUNDAI, .KIA and .GODADDY TLDs, 17 June 2016, [PDF, 460 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .SOFTBANK, .ART and .CARAVAN TLDs, 14 September 2016, [PDF, 478 KB];
Summary and Analysis Report of Public Comments: Release of Country and Territory Names within the .IKANO, .SAXO, .SCOR, .SANDVIK, .WALTER, .SANDVIKCOROMANT, .VISTA, .VISTAPRINT, .BARCLAYS, .BARCLAYCARD and .HERMES TLDs, 24 March 2017, [PDF, 400 KB].
Are there positive or negative community impacts? Are there fiscal impacts or ramifications on ICANN (strategic plan, operating plan, budget); the community; and/or the public? Are there any security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the Domain Name System?

Country and territory names are not reserved in certain legacy TLDs, which have not caused apparent security, stability or resiliency issues in relation to the Domain Name System. It is expected that the release of names in new gTLDs that are approved in the GAC database will not cause security, stability or resiliency issues. There is no foreseeable fiscal impact to ICANN and this resolution would resolve the handling of requests for the release of country and territory names at the second-level through the Registry Services Evaluation Policy as well as outstanding contract amendments as a result of these requests.

Is this either a defined policy process within ICANN's Supporting Organizations or ICANN's Organizational Administrative Function decision requiring public comment or not requiring public comment?

The Registry Services Evaluation Policy is an ICANN consensus policy, effective as of 15 August 2006. Consistent with the policy, ICANN organization posted the Registry Agreement amendments for public comment as the implementation of the proposed service required what was considered a material change to the Registry Agreement.