October 3, 2011

Keeping Android Open

Filed under: code, open, phone — wseltzer @ 10:58 am

I’m speaking at the beginning of next week at O’Reilly’s Android Open conference.
O'Reilly Android Open Conference 2011
I’ll be talking on “Leveraging Openness,” strategic considerations for developers and users of the platform to use openness in their favor, supporting user autonomy rather than lock-in. More on that later.

I also appreciate Android’s openness at the practical level of the individual user. This weekend I put the CyanogenMod firmware on my Android phone, in response to security warnings about recently introduced logging functions, and so as not to lose root access with a stock upgrade. The process was simple, well-documented, and gives me the level of control I expect over a device that can track all my movements and communications.

Then there are the little things: I like to change the default screen density to take better advantage of the high-resolution screen, no problem. (Note, however, that in the latest version of the Android market, some apps check these settings and won’t install, claiming device incompatibility. The fix? Change the lcd_density back, install apps, and revert the change; those I’ve tried work just fine.)

August 15, 2011

Google+Motorola = Software Patent Indictment

Filed under: code, open, patent, phone — wseltzer @ 6:47 pm

Google’s announcement this morning that it had agreed to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5Billion sent MMI’s stock price soaring and set off another conversation about software patents and the smart-phone ecosystem.

Larry Page himself emphasized the patent angle of the merger in the corporate blog post:

We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

Android-users already faced several patent lawsuits, and after a coalition of Google’s opponents, including Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle, purchased Nortel’s patent portfolio for $4.5 Billion, Google and its Android partners (including HTC and Motorola) had reason to fear a deepening thicket. Without many patents of its own, Google couldn’t make the traditional counter-strike of suing its attackers for infringement. Motorola’s mobile portfolio (17,000 issued patents and 7,500 pending applications) adds to Android’s arsenal.

Of course Motorola also makes hardware — smartphones that run Android — but few analysts are emphasizing that point. There, the acquisition raises strategic questions for Google: Can it convincingly offer the Android platform to others with whom it now competes? Even if Google maintains Motorola as a separate business, as Page says it intends, will now-competing vendors such as HTC, Samsung, and Acer be reassured of Google+Motorola’s neutrality among them?

Owning a handset maker could improve Android, if it shortens the feedback loop for problem-reporting and new ideas, but it could hurt the platform — and its end-users — more if it scared off competing hardware vendors, shrinking the base to which new applications are written and reducing the diversity of options available to end-users. As proprietor of an open, multi-sided market, Google needs to serve Android’s hardware vendors, app developers, and end-users well enough that a good-sized group of each continue to bring it value — and so the end-users watch the ads whose sale puts money into Google’s pocket from it all. (Oh, and maybe the acquisition will revitalize GoogleTV, as Lauren Weinstein points out.)

The patent motivations are more straightforward. As we know, it doesn’t take deliberate copying to infringe a patent, and patents are granted on small enough increments of software advance that an independently developed application may incorporate dozens to hundreds of elements on which others claim patents, and at millions of dollars a lawsuit, it’s expensive to disprove them. At least if those others are also making phones or software, Google is now more likely to have patents on what they are doing too, paving the way for a cross-license rather than a lawsuit.

Wouldn’t we all be better off skipping those patent threats and cross-licensing transaction costs? As Google’s pre-Motorola travails showed, it’s almost* impossible to opt-out of the patent system by choosing to publish and not patent your own inventions. Unlike in copyright, where you can share under Creative Commons, for example, and just have to prove you never accessed another’s work if accused of infringement, you can only save yourself from patent claims by assuring that every bit of technology you use was published more than 17-20 years ago! (*Rare but not impossible: Richard Hipp of SQLite says he only uses 17-year old, published algorithms to keep his code free of patent clouds.)

In work-in-progress, I argue that patent’s incentives aren’t working right for software, because they come at too early a stage in development. Patents for software motivate lawsuits more than they induce or reward product development. Google+Motorola may prove to have non-patent benefits too, but its early indications shine a spotlight on the thorny thickets of the patent landscape.

July 28, 2010

Jailbreaking Copyright’s Scope

Filed under: DMCA, code, markets, open, phone — wseltzer @ 8:29 am

A bit late for the rule’s “triennial” cycle, the Librarian of Congress has released the sec 1201(a)(1)(C) exceptions from the prohibitions on circumventing copyright access controls. For the next three years, people will not be ” circumventing” if they “jailbreak” or unlock their smartphones, remix short portions of motion pictures on DVD (if they are college and university professors or media students, documentary filmmakers, or non-commercial video-makers), research the security of videogames, get balky obsolete dongled programs to work, or make an ebook read-aloud. (I wrote about the hearings more than a year ago, when the movie studios demoed camcording a movie — that didn’t work to stop the exemption.)

Since I’ve criticized the DMCA’s copyright expansion, I was particularly interested in the inter-agency debate over EFF’s proposed jailbreak exemption. Even given the expanded “para-copyright” of anticircumvention, the Register of Copyrights and NTIA disagreed over how far the copyright holder’s monopoly should reach. The Register recommended that jailbreaking be exempted from circumvention liability, while NTIA supported Apple’s opposition to the jailbreak exemption.

According to the Register (PDF), Apple’s “access control [preventing the running of unapproved applications] does not really appear to be protecting any copyright interest.” Apple might have had business reasons for wanting to close its platform, including taking a 30% cut of application sales and curating the iPhone “ecosystem,” those weren’t copyright reasons to bar the modification of 50 bytes of code.

NTIA saw it differently. In November 2009, after receiving preliminary recommendations from Register Peters, Asst. Secretary Larry Strickling wrote (PDF):

NTIA does not support this proposed exemption [for cell phone jailbreaking]…. Proponents argue that jailbreaking will support open communications platforms and the rights of consumers to take maximum advantage of wireless networks and associated hardware and software. Even if permitting cell phone “jailbreaking” could facilitate innovation, better serve consumers, and encourage the market to utilize open platforms, it might just as likely deter innovation by not allowing the developer to recoup its development costs and to be rewarded for its innovation. NTIA shares proponents’ enthusiasm for open platforms, but is concerned that the proper forum for consideration of these public policy questions lies before the expert regulatory agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress.

The debate affects what an end-user buys when purchasing a product with embedded software, and how far copyright law can be leveraged to control that experience and the market. Is it, as Apple would have it, only the right to use the phone in the closed “ecosystem” as dictated by Apple, with only exit (minus termination fees) if you don’t like it there? or is it a building block, around which the user can choose a range of complements from Apple and elsewhere? In the first case, we see the happenstance of software copyright locking together a vertically integrated or curated platform, forcing new entrants to build the whole stack in order to compete. In the second, we see opportunities for distributed innovation that starts at a smaller scale: someone can build an application without Apple’s approval, improving the user’s iPhone without starting from scratch.

NTIA would send these “public policy” questions to Congress or the Department of Justice (antitrust), but the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress properly handled them here. “[T]he task of this rulemaking is to determine whether the availability and use of access control measures has already diminished or is about to diminish the ability of the public to engage in noninfringing uses of copyrighted works similar or analogous to those that the public had traditionally been able to make prior to the enactment of the DMCA,” the Register says. Pre-DMCA, copyright left room for reverse engineering for interoperability, for end-users and complementors to bust stacks and add value. Post-DMCA, this exemption helps to restore the balance toward noninfringing uses.

In a related vein, economists have been framing research into proprietary strategies for two-sided markets, in which a platform provider is mediating between two sets of users — such as iPhone’s end-users and its app developers. In their profit-maximizing interests, proprietors may want to adjust both price and other aspects of their platforms, for example selecting fewer app developers than a competitive market would support so each earns a scarcity surplus it can pay to Apple. But just because proprietors want a constrained environment does not mean that the law should support them, nor that end-users are better off when the platform-provider maximizes profits. Copyright protects individual works against unauthorized copying; it should not be an instrument of platform maintenance — not even when the platform is or includes a copyrighted work.

September 30, 2007

Upgrades Hollow the iPhone’s Core

Filed under: innovation, open, phone — wseltzer @ 8:50 am

Apple’s recent update, which “bricked” unlocked iPhones and reverted the rest to block third party applications, caused Gizmodo’s reviewer to revise early enthusiasm for the gadget:

It’s about 3 months after the iPhone launch, and happy with the improvements, I was planning to change our “Wait” verdict to a full-on and rabid “Buy”. That wasn’t because of Apple, but because of the cool apps being offered by independent developers. All that came to an end yesterday after the new Apple firmware 1.1.1 neutered the handset. Sure, unlocked iPhones were broken. But more importantly, Apple wiped away the powerful programs that helped push the iPhone to greatness. With this, I’m going to have to move our recommendation from “Wait” to “Don’t hold your breath.” I’m done with this handset until third-party apps come back.

For a brief while, it seemed Apple got it. Lowering the iPhone’s price enlarged the virtual network of users and potential hackers who might get one, and acquiescence toward third-party applications let those flourish, both expanding the device’s utility beyond what was built in by Apple. Then, just as the gadget’s ecosystem was getting interesting, Apple razed the ground for some new silos.

Some Gizmodo commenters ridicule the protest, arguing that few iPhone owners are hackers, but they overlook the range of hack or customization desires. After all, people regularly install new programs on their Mac computers; they buy an estimated $1 billion in iPod accessories annually. When people spend up to a third of the price of their iPods to customize the devices’ appearance or connectivity options, it’s because those increase the value of the devices. It’s not a leap to expect they also want to add some internal customization to their phones.

But Apple’s Mr. Hyde side took precedence once again, as it bowed to the whims of its carrier partners: As the NYT reports, “Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has said the company wanted to maintain control over the iPhone’s functions to protect carrier networks and to make sure the phone was not damaged.”

All of which suggests that no matter how large a gadget’s virtual network is, it’s vulnerable if a closure-prone sponsor with closed-source core is its chief node.

September 26, 2007

Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone?

Filed under: musings, open, phone — wseltzer @ 6:16 pm

Right in the middle of my New York Times today (yes, I still read it, and on paper) are two full-page color ads for Nokia’s N95, with the taglines “Comes with unlimited potential. We believe the smartest devices should keep getting smarter. That’s why we’ve left the Nokia Nseries open to enhancement, experimentation, and evolution. Open to anything.” url nseries.com/open (warning, flash-heavy)

I love it. Just the stance toward user innovation I’d like to see more companies adopt. They’ve borrowed a few pages right out of von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation, mashed up with Benkler’s Wealth of Networks and Zittrain’s Generativity.

This contrasts, of course, with the advertised nature of the iPhone, locked to Apple’s apps and carrier. But we’ve also seen that within weeks of the iPhone’s launch, hackers have opened it, unlocked it, and built scores of apps.

So I wonder, how does the level of independent development on the N95, and Symbian, which powers it, compare with that on the iPhone? The N95 retails for $749 in the U.S., limiting the community likely to embrace it. Apple’s price drop brought the iPhone to $400; would it have engendered the same creativity if left at $600? Does Apple’s “cool” factor do more to bring in the hackers than Nokia’s; are touch gestures more of a draw than built-in GPS?

Or am I just seeing one side of the U.S.- Europe cellphone divide, and do Symbian developers prevail abroad where they’ve had more access to unlocked phones and fewer lock-subsidies to compete with?

July 1, 2007

Aging the Internet Prematurely, One PDP at a Time

Filed under: law, phone — Wendy @ 7:15 am

After blogging about ICANN’s new gTLD policy or lack thereof, I’ve had several people ask me why I care so much about ICANN and new top-level domains. Domain names barely matter in a world of search and hyperlinks, I’m told, and new domains would amount to little more than a cash transfer to new registries from those trying to protect their names and brands. While I agree that type-in site-location is less and less relevant, and we haven’t yet seen much end-user focused innovation in the use of domain names, I’m not ready to throw in the towel. I think ICANN is still in a position to do affirmative harm to Internet innovation.

You see, I don’t concede that we know all the things the Internet will be used for, or all the things that could be done on top of and through its domain name system. I certainly don’t claim that I do, and I don’t believe that the intelligence gathered in ICANN would make that claim either.

Yet that’s what it’s doing by bureaucratizing the addition of new domain names: Asserting that no further experiments are possible; that the “show me the code” mode that built the Internet can no longer build enhancements to it. ICANN is unnecessarily ossifying the Internet’s DNS at version 1.0, setting in stone a cumbersome model of registries and registrars, a pay-per-database-listing, semantic attachments to character strings, and limited competition for the lot. This structure is fixed in place by the GNSO constituency listing: Those who have interests in the existing setup are unlikely to welcome a new set of competitors bearing disruptions to their established business models. The “PDP” in the headline, ICANN’s over-complex “Policy Development Process” (not the early DEC computer), gives too easy a holdout veto.

Meanwhile, we lose the chance to see what else could be done: whether it’s making domain names so abundant that every blogger could have a meaningful set on a business card and every school child one for each different face of youthful experimentation, using the DNS hierarchy to store simple data or different kinds of pointers, spawning new services with new naming conventions, or something else entirely.

I don’t know if any of these individually will “add value.” Historically, however, we leave that question to the market where there’s someone willing to give it a shot. Amazingly, after years of delay, there are still plenty of people waiting in ICANN queues to give new gTLDs a try. The collective value in letting them experiment and new services develop is indisputably greater than that constrained by the top-down imaginings of the few on the ICANN board and councils, as by their inability to pronounce .iii.

“How do you get an answer from the web?” the joke goes: “Put your guess into Wikipedia, then wait for the edits.” While Wikipedians might prefer you at least source your guess, the joke isn’t far from the mark. The lesson of Web 2.0 has been one of user-driven innovation, of launching services in beta and improving them by public experimentation. When your users know more than you or the regulators, the best you can do is often to give them a platform and support their efforts. Plan for the first try to break, and be ready to learn from the experience.

To trust the market, ICANN must be willing to let new TLDs fail. Instead of insisting that every new business have a 100-year plan, we should prepare the businesses and their stakeholders for contingency. Ensuring the “stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems” should mean developing predictable responses to failure, not demanding impracticable guarantees of perpetual success. Escrow, clear consumer information, streamlined processes, and flexible responses to the expected unanticipated, can all protect the end-users better than the dubious foresight of ICANN’s central regulators. These same regulators, bear in mind, didn’t foresee that a five-day add-grace period would swell the ranks of domains with “tasters” gaming the loophole with ad-based parking pages.

At ten years old, we don’t think of our mistakes as precedent, but as experience. Kids learn by doing; the ten-year-old ICANN needs to do the same. Instead of believing it can stabilize the Internet against change, ICANN needs to streamline for unpredictability. Expect the unexpected and be able to act quickly in response. Prepare to get some things wrong, at first, and so be ready to acknowledge mistakes and change course.

I anticipate the counter-argument here that I’m focused on the wrong level, that stasis in the core DNS enhances innovative development on top, but I don’t think I’m suggesting anything that would destabilize established resources. Verisign is contractually bound to keep .com open for registrations and resolving as it has in the past, even if .foo comes along with a different model. But until Verisign has real competition for .com, stability on its terms thwarts rather than fosters development. I think we can still accommodate change on both levels.

The Internet is too young to be turned into a utility, settled against further innovation. Even for mature layers, ICANN doesn’t have the regulatory competence to protect the end-user in the absence of market competition, while preventing change locks out potential competitive models. Instead, we should focus on protecting principles such as interoperability that have already proved their worth, to enhance user-focused innovation at all levels. A thin ICANN should merely coordinate, not regulate.

June 25, 2007

ICANN: Keep the Core Neutral, Stupid

Filed under: law, phone — Wendy @ 5:59 pm

ICANN’s travelling circus meets in San Juan, Puerto Rico this week. One of the main subjects of discussion has been the introduction of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), after a GNSO Report proposed 19 “Recommendations” for criteria these new domain strings should meet — including morality tests and “infringement” oppositions.

I spoke at a workshop on free expression. (another report) It’s important to keep ICANN from being a censor, or from straying beyond its narrow technical mandate. The thick process described in the GNSO report would be expensive, open to “hecklers’ vetos,” and deeply political.

Instead, I recommended that, along the lines of David Isenberg’s Stupid Network, ICANN should aim for a “stupid core”: approve strings after a minimal test for direct or visual collision. Just as we couldn’t predict what applications or content would be successful on the Internet, but benefit from the ease with which innovators can experiment with a wide range, we’ll benefit if entrepreneurs can experiment with new TLDs without a lot of central pre-screening. Rather than supporting a race to the bottom to adopt restrictions on the lines of the most restrictive government views of permissible expression (no human rights, sexuality, or “hate”), we must leave it to the governments to apply those restrictions at the edges too, in their own jurisdictions if they insist, but not at the center on all.

Of course I do not support government censorship even at the local level, but between local control, which can itself be a source of experimentation, and central control, which becomes ossified and restrictive at the lowest level, I think local law poses less threat to global free expression. If you agree that ICANN should keep moral judgments out of the DNS root, sign the petition to Keep the Core Neutral.

May 21, 2007

ICANN’s At-Large Process: Exit, Without Voice

Filed under: law, phone — Wendy @ 2:22 pm

ICANN seems to be out to re-prove Hirschman’s theories of exit, voice, and loyalty by driving all of its good people to exit rather than giving them meaningful voices. Thomas Roessler, a long-time advocate of individual users’ interests on the interim ALAC now suggests it’s Time to Reconsider the structure of ICANN’s At-Large, as he feels compelled to promise himself not to get involved with ICANN again.

Roessler and Patrick Vande Walle both express their frustration at interference and infighting in the formation of the European Regional At-Large Organization. Here’s Roessler:

To this day, I still occasionally dangle my feet into these waters, though I’ve again and again promised myself not to do it again.

To say I’m disappointed by what I’ve seen recently would be an understatement: While I’m happy there is a number of people who, presumably, really want to move things, I’m appalled to see how discussions among both European and North American participants take on an increasingly divisive tone. There isn’t much to be seen of a common goal to advocate users’ interest in ICANN — rather, a lot of fighting for table scraps (when there’s more than enough work for anybody who wants to gamble some of their time on ICANN and its at-large activities!). ALAC’s ICANN staff support seems most interested in staging pretty signing ceremonies and press events, one per ICANN General Meeting.

The result? Artificial and rushed time lines, premature consensus calls, and a lot of bad blood and mistrust among participants who really ought to be working together (and have been able to talk reasonably to each other before they got into fights around ICANN). Also, the ability for ICANN to pretend that there’s real end user participation and representation, when there are really very few ways (if any) for ALAC to make a real difference in policy decisions — even though the committee has some limited power to help shape ICANN’s policy agenda.

And Vande Walle, concerned that a push for “diversity” became a stereotyped exclusion of experienced participants:

All this for the sole purpose of pushing on the side those who invested a lot of time over the years into ICANN and ALAC processes. If this is an added value to ICANN and ALAC, I do not know. Frankly, I am skeptic. Time will tell.

From now on, I will watch from the outside. So long, guys.

Hirschman notes that exit and voice are alternative means of expressing dissatisfaction with organizations in decline. The smart organization listens and reverses course, the stupid one just declines further.

ICANN needs these people. They have good ideas about how to respond to the public interest in domain name management. But, controlled by commercial interests who’d rather raise prices on their domain-name monopolies or shield trademarks against potential dilution, ICANN doesn’t have the inclination to listen to the individuals who make up the public. It keeps sending us back to play in sandboxes building complex structures upon structures, all to shield the organization from having to hear our voices.

So, as the opportunity costs of attempting to deal with ICANN grow too great, good people exit. ICANN asks for bottom-up development, but when there’s no way for the bottom to connect with the top, we get frustrated down here and find better things to do with our time.

To students of political economy, at least, the exodus from At-Large should send a louder message than any public comments or advisory committee efforts ever do.

March 30, 2007

ICANN: no .xxx, no public

Filed under: phone — Wendy @ 12:10 pm

ICANN’s thrice-annual junket is concluding in Lisbon. I haven’t been there, so I’ve been reading between the lines of the flurry of self-congratulatory press releases and announcements.

We learn, for example, that “Thousands of Voices Get Direct Say At ICANN,” in a release that never discloses that no one’s listening to this “say.” Three new Regional At-Large Organizations have been formed, but not one of them allows individuals to participate directly, and not one of them has a voting representative on the ICANN Board or GNSO Council. We’ll see if there’s any room to address these questions in the ALAC review.

We learn also that the Board has, for a third time, rejected the .xxx TLD application from ICM registry. Will it stick this time? Will ICM litigate? Susan Crawford’s vigorous dissent skewers ICANN’s process and the legitimacy of its conclusions:

I must dissent from this resolution, which is not only weak but unprincipled. I’m troubled by the path the board has followed on this issue since I joined the board in December of 2005. I’d like to make two points.
First, ICANN only creates problems for itself when it acts in an ad hoc fashion in response to political pressures. Second, ICANN should take itself seriously, as a private governanced institution with a limited mandate and should resist efforts by governments to veto what it does.

As a board, we cannot speak as elected representatives of the global Internet community because we have not allowed elections for board members. This application does not present any difficult technical questions, and even if it did, we do not, as a group, claim to have special technical expertise.

I’ve never thought .xxx was a good idea, but I’ve thought even more strongly that ICANN shouldn’t be in the business of judging “good ideas” or making content-based judgments about new gTLDs. ICM jumped through the procedural hoops ICANN set, would not cause technical problems in the root, and so should be entitled to its domain.

Together, these developments show what a monster ICANN’s web of contracts has created: a private regulator of public conduct with no public oversight. Watch out for the California public benefit corporation law, though…

March 15, 2007

If ICANN’t keep a contract, let the public enforce it

Filed under: phone — Wendy @ 2:50 am

ICANN Accredited Registrar ?Earlier in the Registerfly controversy, ICANN Vice President Paul Levins posted to the ICANN Blog,

ICANN is not a regulator. We rely mainly on contract law. We do not condone in any way whatsoever RegisterFly’s business practice and behaviour.

This is disingenuous. ICANN is the central link in a web of contracts that regulate the business of domain name allocation. ICANN has committed, as a public benefit corporation, to enforcing those contracts in the public interest. Domain name registrants, among others, rely on those contracts to establish a secure, stable environment for domain name registration and through that for online content location.

A user registers a domain name by contracting with a registrar, such as Registerfly. The terms of that agreement are constrained by ICANN’s accreditation contract with the registrar.
French registrar Gandi explains this web with helpful diagrams in its registration agreement:

Gandi is a Registrar, accredited by both the Trustee Authority [ICANN] and registry of each TLD to assign and manage domain names according to their specific TLD. We must abide by the terms and conditions of Our accreditation contract. As a consequence, We must pass some of Our obligations on to Our customers.

As such, We commit Ourselves to providing you with the best possible service. This being said, due to Our contractual obligations with the Trustee Authorities and Registries, and which You must also abide by, Our services are limited in some of their technical, legal, regulatory and contractual aspects.

Now the ICANN contracts can both limit and help the end-user registrant. On the limit side, they restrict the registrant’s ability to maintain anonymity or privacy by requiring the registrar to provide accurate identifying information to the WHOIS database, a duty the registrar fulfills by compelling provision of accurate information in its own contract with the registrant. This requirement benefits trademark holders, who have recently turned out to prophesy doom if data display is limited.

On the benefit side, the RAA-imposed duty of data escrow, requiring the registrar to maintain an escrowed copy of its registration database, provides evidence of a registrant’s domain name holdings in the event of registrar failure. Registrants seeing this provision could believe that their domain names would be secure even if the registrar who had recorded them defaulted.

So they might have believed, but apparently ICANN has never enforced this provision of its contracts. Moreover, ICANN denies that the public is a third-party beneficiary entitled to demand enforcement.

The Registerfly debacle shows why this view is wrong as a matter of law and policy. ICANN was told more than a year ago of customer service problems at Registerfly, but did nothing to respond to those complaints, including escrowing data, leaving the company’s 200,000 registrants at risk of losing domain names or the ability to update them when Registerfly’s business troubles escalated early this year.

ICANN should recognize that the reason for its registrar contracts is precisely to benefit third parties: domain name registrants and those who rely on the domain name system. ICANN is not (or shouldn’t be) accrediting registrars merely to have a larger pool of organizations paying fealty to it. Rather, it is imposing terms and conditions on registrars and, with an “ICANN accredited” seal, inviting the public to rely on those terms for a secure domain name registration.

In cases where ICANN fails to recognize a registrar’s problems, concerned members of the public should be entitled to take action themselves. As well as enforcing public-benefit obligations on its own, ICANN should facilitate individual action by removing the “no third-party beneficiary” language from its contracts.

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