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Candidate Statement -- Michael Geist

Last Updated:
28 August 2009

Dr. Michael Geist

Candidate Statement — ICANN Board Seat 14

Thank you for considering my candidacy for the ICANN Board Seat 14. In this statement, I will highlight my experience and qualifications for the board position as well as outline my chief priorities should I be named to the board.


I am a law professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, where I hold the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. I have obtained law degrees from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada; Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, and Columbia Law School in New York. My work focuses on a wide range of Internet law related issues including Internet governance, digital intellectual property issues, privacy, and spam. I am a regular columnist on these issues appearing in media outlets in Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.

In addition to traditional scholarship, I am actively involved in the national and global policy arena. In Canada, I am currently a member of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's expert advisory board and I was the co-chair of the legal group of the National Task Force on Spam. Internationally, I have worked on Internet governance issues with several organizations, co-chaired a major Internet jurisdiction project for the American Bar Association and the International Chamber of Commerce, and appeared at more than 150 conferences around the world over the past ten years.

My interest in ICANN and Internet governance comes from both my scholarly and policy activity. From a scholarly perspective, I have published on the ICANN UDRP as well as on the interaction between national governments and ccTLDs. On the policy front, I have served on the board of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) since 2000, twice elected by CIRA members and currently as the representative of Internet users. During my nearly six years on the board, I have worked to increase transparency, public participation in CIRA matters, and the adoption of policies that benefit the broader public interest. I also served as the Chair of the Policy Committee of the Public Interest Registry's Advisory Council from 2003 — 06. In that capacity, I worked on issues such as UDRP and WHOIS reform from a dot-org perspective.

ICANN Priorities

My policy work on ICANN and Internet governance issues have been focused on representing the broad public interest. With no clients with a direct interest in the outcome of CIRA or PIR matters, I have faced no conflict concerns and have been free to represent the interests of consumers, Internet users, and broader social policy concerns. While that perspective has frequently focused on ensuring that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in the Internet governance process, I have also recognized the benefits to all stakeholders of a competitive environment with minimal regulatory or administrative intervention.

Having spent many years actively following and participating in ICANN matters, I have decided to put my name forward as a candidate for a board position since I believe that ICANN is at a crossroads with the future of a workable multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance hanging in the balance. Recent events have left little doubt that the prospect of increased governmental intervention into Internet governance matters is a very real possibility. I believe that moving toward a government-first approach would result in less transparency and opportunities for participation. While I firmly believe that governments have the right (indeed the obligation) to intervene as appropriate at the domestic level, international Internet governance demands that government be treated as one stakeholder of many.

While a government-led Internet governance system has its faults, we would scarcely be better off if we trade the black box of government for a black box of ICANN. ICANN must undergo significant reforms to better ensure accountability and transparency. Potential reforms include:

  • greater freedom for board members to disclose their views and decision making processes

  • more inclusiveness on ICANN press conferences and other community events

  • earlier notification of board agenda

  • MP3 recordings of meetings and calls where possible

  • Greatly reduced use of board retreats and private teleconferences that lack transparency

  • Increased assurance that ICANN acts first in the public interest

While working toward greater accountability and transparency is my primary priority, there are several other issues that merit attention. They include:

  • address ICANN's ballooning budget

  • develop better relationships with ICANN stakeholders including users and ccTLDs

  • close the loop on several lingering policy issues including WHOIS, IDNs, and UDRP review

  • encourage greater innovation by promoting the introduction of new TLDs with objective approval criteria

ICANN Qualifications and Conflicts

I believe my experience demonstrates an ability to work in a group setting and an understanding of ICANN and its processes. I am willing to serve as a volunteer and to work in the English language.

The only potential conflict that I can identify is that I provided a statement on ICANN on behalf of CFIT in its litigation with ICANN last year. I have no investments in any entities that transact with ICANN nor do I have any ongoing agreements that provide compensation with such entities. My tenure with the CIRA board will come a conclusion in September 2006. I do not believe that I would be disqualified from voting on any ICANN matters with the possible exception of the CFIT litigation matter.