ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is considering a change in the way the Internet’s governing body is organized that could allow it to skirt some potential legal issues. In late March, a committee that was formed to make recommendations to ICANN suggested that ICANN and relevant stakeholders consider the advantages of “moving ICANN’s legal identity to that of a private international organization based in the U.S.” As the committee sees it, that change would offer the organization immunities to limit liabilities.
Some onlookers are sceptical of the idea: “ICANN’s new President’s Strategy Committee Report makes public for the first time what insiders have been muttering about for almost a year: ICANN has a great new idea for avoiding all accountability,” Michael Froomkin, a professor specializing in Internet and administrative law at the University of Miami School of Law, wrote on ICANNWatch.org, a Web site he helped found. Also, the U.S. is unlikely to agree to such a change, which would essentially shield ICANN from any liability or judicial supervision, he wrote. If ICANN does move forward with the plan, it should be sure to establish full accountability and review mechanisms, including a process for using international arbitration panels, the committee wrote. It should also consider incorporating relevant California or U.S. federal law into its arbitration process, the committee said.
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