Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording of the Interview with Rita Rodin on May 30, 2006. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. The audio is also available at: http://gnso-audio.icann.org/GNSO-Interv-Rodin-20060530.mp3.
Operator: Yes, the recording has started.
Bruce: Thank you. Just so that everyone is aware, it is normal practice with GNSO council meetings, they are open and we do record them. So, just bear in mind that anything you say may be recorded.
Rita, the format here is fairly informal, basically the process will simply be for you to make a few opening remarks on what you think the role of a board member is and how you feel that you meet a board member requirements. And other than that I'll just take a queue of people that might like to ask questions and then just played from their.
Rita: O.K. sure. Thank you everyone I know that people are making a separate call this morning to accommodate my schedule and they really appreciate that.
I think that in terms of my qualifications I think that having been around the ICANN community in some of the early days, I was fortunate to work with a number of different constituencies on a number of different projects, and I think that as I look at the role of a board member through the years I think that it has stayed somewhat consistent in that it is important to help organize the different constituencies and supporting organizations and try to help facilitate ICANN's role as a technical Internet coordinator.
And I think that you need to be articulate with the issues as a board member, and patient and willing to listen to lots of different points of view, and to try to help people reach consensus. I would like to think that I would try to do that as a member of the ICANN board.
Bruce: Thank you. Well at this point and I will take a cue for anyone that wishes to ask any questions at this point. And just a state your name if you want to be entered into the queue.
Marilyn: Bruce, it is Marilyn. You can put me in the queue.
Bruce: Anyone else?
Marie: Bruce, this is Marie. You can put me in the queue.
Bruce: Marie. Anyone else?
Steve: This is Steve, you can put me in the queue.
Bruce: O.K. Steve, you are in the queue. Anyone else?. O.K., go ahead Marilyn.
Marilyn: Thanks, Hi Rita.
Rita: Hi Marilyn, good morning.
Marilyn: I would like if you might, ask you to elaborate a little bit more are on your view about the role of a board member.
You have said that you think that one of the things that a board member can do is to help organize the different constituencies in the GNSO, and to help to reach consensus on I guess, you meant on policy perhaps? Can you elaborate a little bit more are on Europe view of the role of the board, versus the role of the supporting organizations and the community.
Rita: Sure, I think we talked about this a little bit on the BEC call as well, and I think that the way that the policy development process is meant to work is to have the supporting organization working closely with input from the community advisory committees, and the gag. I think that there are a number of different constituencies within ICANN, and it is important to have all those constituencies worked through different processes, and the board be reviewing the work of those constituencies to the extent that the board thinks that there needs to be additional areas that are inquired into, the more additional work needs to be done. I think the boards needs to take an overarching approach to ICANN policy making, and make sure that the right inquiries and discussions have been had.
Bruce: O.K., did you have any further questions Marilyn?
Marilyn: No. I may come back later with other questions, thank you.
Bruce: O.K., Marie. Go ahead.
Marie: Thank you Bruce.
Rita, I have a question from our constituency that comes in two parts: First, do you agree that the director has a fiduciary duty to make decisions in the best interests of the organization, as opposed to representing the particular point of view of her constituency? And that would be yes or no.
And the second part: Assuming that you agree, then what criteria which are used to determine what is in the best interests of ICANN?
Rita: The answer to the first question would be yes: I think the criteria to determine what is in the best interests of ICANN is probably a little bit complex. I think it comes number one from listening to the recommendations of the different supporting organizations, and is number two I think that it probably has to do with sticking close to ICANN's mission.
I know that three or four years ago I was involved in discussions with some folks thinking about ICANN's mission and how that should be expanded and sometimes you have individual constituencies or organizations that want ICANN to start legislating or regulating things like privacy at and spam, and I think that ICANN has been very careful of staying out of some of those roles because it is supposed to maintain its technical oversight position.
And I do think that if you take something like the UDRP, people worked really hard on that and I think there is something like 5000 cases. But it really just works because people allow it to work. There were no international treaties like with some other laws that came into place, so I think that if ICANN goes too far beyond its mission it just won't have legitimacy and the things that it does. I think that is a board member it is a combination of those two things.
Looking to the views of the community that are part of the board and then making sure that the board keeps ICANN close to its mission, responsible for the technical oversight role.
Marie: Thank you.
Bruce: O.K., did you have any further questions Marie?
Marie: I have a couple. But, the same as Marilyn, I think I would like to ask them later.
Bruce: O.K.. Stephen?
Steve: Yes, thank you Bruce. Hi Rita.
Rita: hi Steve.
Steve: Good morning. I want to ask about an issue that was very important to the intellectual property constituency in the last contest the election for board members, and that was the issue of conflicts. And I have seen your candidacy statements, and I just have a couple of questions about some of the things said they are regarding conflicts.
As I understand, you represent Telnic, which has got the contract to run dot-tel, but it appears that if a matter involving that contract came before the board, were you elected to the board, you would not think yourself disqualified from voting on it. So I just wanted to confirm, is that in fact or position, or would you think that you would be disqualified from voting on a matter involving dot-tel?
Rita: Yes, I would recuse myself when voting with dot-tel. I don't think it would be appropriate to vote on initiatives with respect to that entity because I have been working with them the last five years.
Steve: Are there other matters that you think you would be disqualified from voting on?
Rita: Probably not. The good thing about working in a large law firm is that I have individuals a lot smarter than I am just manage our conflict policy, and for everyone's benefit it require that every client that we enter into an engagement with signs an engagement letter. In that engagement letter is a very specific, and I think three paragraph long, conflicts waiver, and it basically has the client agree that we can do the adverts to them in any kind of matter other than a matter that we are directly working for them. So, as I said, we do have a very robust complex policy, and I am not concerned that will be implicated at all by my work on the ICANN board.
Steve: Well, that partially answers my next question, which is how you view -- from your perspective, assuming you're a member of the ICANN board -- how would you treat a matter in which another party in a contract or in a dispute with ICANN, which was represented by another member of your law firm. How would you act on that?
Rita: I just want to make sure I understand the question, Steve. So my firm is directly involved with a dispute against ICANN?
Steve: That, or perhaps one of your partners is representing, let's say, an other applicant for another registry or registrar. And that matter comes before the board, how would you deal with that?
Rita: I guess, in the first instance, I am the conduit for ICANN, for work opposite ICANN. Just so everyone knows, we have something called the "Black Box", and I have ICANN and various related entities in the industry in the Black Box.
So -- Any work that would be undertaken would have too come through me and get my approval. So I would consider that, in any type of scenario. if I were on the board, whether that would be appropriate for us to take on the engagement.
I guess I would have to see, Steve, whether I think it would be appropriate for me to take a vote or not, I think you would probably be a case-by-case basis, but as I said we do take position opposite to clients all the time. And as one board member, I am not sure that my vote would be able to significantly affect the process. That would really depend on the case-by-case basis. I would hope that I would work closely with the general counsel and others to make sure that I wasn't voting in a scenario that was inappropriate. But again, I don't anticipate or intend to recuse myself from votes unless it is absolutely necessary.
Steve: Excuse me, can I just follow up on that?
Bruce: O.K., Steve.
Steve: Is the test that you would be applying whether it would make a difference in the outcome, because you mentioned that, as a single board member your vote may not always make a difference. That is true, but is that the test you would apply?
Research: No. I think the test I would apply, Steve, is probably what is in the ICANN conflict statement which talks about having a direct and material financial interest. And I don't know how this would sound, but Skeddin is a huge company, so there is not really direct financial benefits that I would have for many client. In fact it would have to be a huge, multibillion-dollar engagement.
So I think that the test that the ICANN conflict policy asks that you apply is probably maybe to some extent a little bit lower than what I would apply, for example with respect to Telnic.
But again, I think what I have heard, and I haven't reviewed this, as perhaps in the past people applied the conflicts policy a little bit broadly, and as I said I would seek to apply as narrowly as possible, because I do not think that I would have a conflict in the majority of things that we would be voting on.
Steve: O.K., thank you.
Bruce: O.K., Marilyn? You had a follow-up to the same question, and did you?
Marilyn: I do. Given that Skeddin is such a large firm, it probably has clients today who are actually acted as ICANN -- Not necessarily in pursuing becoming a registry.: There are a number of ways, of course, that the company could have policy concerns before ICANN.
What I was most interested in was the reliance on the direct and financial interest. Because the company could, who is a present client, would they go through the black box as well, and would you have the opportunity to screen whether Skeddin represents them in that particular area, if they are existing clients?
Rita: Sure, I am not sure I understand the question exactly. Some existing client wants to do something within the ICANN community?
Marilyn: Within ICANN. They want to do something that would be affected by an ICANN policy.
Rita: Got it. Thank you. Yes, ICANN is in the black box, so what we have to do when we undertake an engagement is put all parties involved, both the parties that we would be representing, and the parties on the other side of the table, and so ICANN is in the black box.
So I am fairly confident, and 99% confident, that I would be asked if the representation would be appropriate. And I see this based on historical experience: It has only been once or twice where people have asked me if there is an issue with ICANN, and we have discussed that.
So I am really confident that would happen.
Ken: Bruce, put me in the queue if you would. This is Ken Stubbs.
Avrie: Could you put me in also?
Bruce: O.K., I have Ken, I have Avrie. Anyone else want to be in the queue.
Lucy: Bruce, this is Lucy. This is a follow-up question to this particular topic.
Bruce: Yeah, I think I will just take a queue is the easiest Lucy. I have Ken, Avrie, Lucy.
Marie: Bruce, this is Marie. You can push me in the queue.
Bruce: O.K. Anyone else?
Alistair: O.K., I will go in the queue. It is Alistair.
Bruce: O.K., I have Ken, Avrie, Lucy, Marie, Alistair. Anyone else?
Milwaukee: Yes -- Milwaukee, please.
Bruce: O.K. Milwaukee. Anyone else? Go ahead, Ken.
Ken: Yes. With your permission, Bruce, I will yield my place to Marie, and just switch places with her, because I know she had a couple of follow-ups she wanted to ask. So I will yield to Marie, and I will pop back in later.
Marie: O.K., thank you. I think that the question I have is somewhat related to the previous discussion, although it might be seen slightly from a different angle. And that is Rita.
In the early years you were very active in the ICANN world, but in the last several years you have not been active at all. Could you please explain how do you think this might impact your effectiveness as a director?
Rita: Sure. I think there are probably two ways that it would affect it: The first is that having been involved in the early years I was fortunate, or unfortunate enough to see some of the growing pains that ICANN experienced.
I think that especially in connection with the UDRP work, it was an eye opening experience to see how diametrically opposed some of the various constituencies could be, with there are prospective on certain issues.
And I think that what was a challenge to all of us working on things like the UDRP was to try to help and facilitate discussion and finding a common ground.
And I think that my work in the early days of ICANN gives me a prospective on some of the drivers, that the different constituencies have.
And I hope that that could be used now to look at some of the issues thrash.
I think that being away for a while, in my view I felt as though I had accomplished something with ICANN and there were other things that I was doing with my career and to some extent walking away a little bit and being able to come back and look at some of the issues with a fresh eye might also be beneficial to the process.
So it would kind of the a combination of taking that experience that I have, and is now after a bit of a break applying it in new to try and help people and help some of the issues move forwards.
Marie: Thank you. I have a short follow-up question: Could you help us to understand what constituencies you worked with and in what capacity is at that time?
Rita: I'm sorry, you want me to describe what I have done?
Marie: Yes, what constituencies you were involved with.
Rita: Sure. I don't know per se that I was involved with the constituency: I worked with some registrars.
Initially, the way that I started working with ICANN was that my firm was asked by both register.com and AOL to help them deal with a domain trademark dispute policy. And actually, just on the lines conflict, we set up what is called a Chinese wall and law firms where one team was working for register.com and one team was working for AOL.
So even within Skeddin we do things like set up ethical walls so that we can represent two different clients on issues. But we worked with the World Intellectual Property Organization, with Network Solutions, with the registrars, and with ICANN to create the initial draft of the UDRP, which was then after it was presented to the board, the board appointed a number of other individuals from the intellectual property and non-commercial constituencies.
At that point in time I had the fortune of working with Steve Metalis and Cathy Klein, and some other folks. J. Scott Evans, Michael Fumkin, to try to come together and finalized if you will this trademark and domain in dispute policy. And I can say now, in retrospect, it was certainly a challenge to have folks on two opposite ends of the spectrum, the non-commercial constituents and the intellectual property constituents that were trying to come to some sort of agreement and common ground with how we would deal with trademark and domain name disputes.
It was quite interesting a challenge, and I think that there are mixed reviews on the UDRP but I think that we tried our best to listen to everybody's issues and try to address them as best we could.
Through that, I was fortunate enough to meet some folks in the registrar constituency, and was asked to help roughly 18 registrars to regroup and organize into what became Afilias. And so I worked with registrars and helps them draft their bid for dot-info, and select the TLD dot-info, worked through the ICANN contract process and help them set up their operation.
As part of that, I met the folks at GNR, and helps them with Sarah ICANN contract for name, and then after that I was asked by ICANN to chair the committee to draft the policy development process, and work on that. And I think that was the last. Again, in the policy development process, there were a number of folks, Marilyn and others, who were on that committee in terms of drafting that and so again I wasn't particularly part of any of those constituencies, but worked with a broad cross-section of ICANN constituencies as part of that process.
Marie: Thank you Rita.
Bruce: O.K., Avrie?
Avrie: O.K. I have two questions. One is a clarification on the conflict.
One of things that I am curious about is, the consensus policy have a very wide effect on existing contracts, so that almost any GNSO policy recommendation to the board might have an effect on that contract. How would you feel with this sort of potential conflict on anything coming out of the GNSO policy recommendation?
Rita: Again, I think that's why Skeddin is so militant about its conflicts policy, that in some sense anything that any law firm does could have an effect if they are at all working in the policy arena.
That is why we make sure that our clients to sign these waiver letters that say that unless we are expressly working for them on a certain issue we are allowed to take positions at first to them.
But again, as I said, unless there is a specific matter that has to do with dot-tel only, if it were just a general consensus policy I would not recuse myself from voting on that.
Avrie: Even though that policy could have a direct effect on dot-tel?
Avrie: O.K... Is it O.K. if I go onto my other question?
O.K., this has to do with the relationship between GAC and the board of the States: I am wondering how seriously you view the boards need to take their advice into consideration, and especially with reference to some of the issues that have come up lately where despite long lead times on issues and the comment periods. If a GAC can come back and say "We didn't have enough time, taking into account the reality of what it means for her governments to be a government". So I am wondering how you view this whole relationship between ICANN, GAC advice and board decisions?
Rita: That is a great question actually. Again, I had to address the GAC a few times with some of my work, and I do have two in other areas of my job deal with government and non-government organizations.
But it is amazing to me, having worked for the Federal government the first year out of law school, how inefficient some governments can be, and I think that the relationship between the ICANN board and the GAC has been contentious to say the least over the years.
I think the reality of the world is that governments do play a role in all aspects, unfortunately of life, and I guess that I can't really make a statement on the record of what I think of our present government in the United States, without being inflammatory.
But in any event, I think it is important to take into account what governments have to say and their point of view, obviously. Because again, ICANN gets legitimacy because people and government allow it to be legitimate.
And I think you need to maintain that delicate balance: I am not a big fan of endless time to consider and deliberate, and to the extent that the supporting organizations and the advisory committees are working towards creating policies, they are getting input from the constituencies and they are trying to move an issue forward and the GAC is dragging its feet or wanting to create endless other lines of increase, I do not think that is appropriate and I think is a board member I would try to control that as much as possible, and put some restrictions on how that would be allowed to happen.
Bruce: O.K., is that all Avrie?
Avrie: Yes, thank you.
Lucy: Hi, Rita. I would like to go back to the conflict issue and just raise a question to you or present a question to you, and it is probably more of a perception issue that she might have, with respect to conflict. As Steve mentioned, the IPC, that was one of our biggest questions of concern with your candidacy, is the possibility or the potential for conflict.
I think again it goes back to a perception of conflict, because the IPC as you know consists of a large group of lawyers, we all realize the pressures that we have when we are in private practice. And I guess I concern me is that there might be a perception, or I guess I would like to clarify how perhaps Skeddin's use your candidacy, particularly if your partner and you are required to make certain billable hours, and because of the time commitments that sitting on the board of ICANN would actually take, how do you deal with the perception that in fact there is some type of conflict there or that some issues might be raised with respect to Skeddin benefiting from your sitting on the board?
Ken: Bruce, this is Ken. Would you please keep me in the queue.
Rita: Sure. There were a couple of things in that question. I guess the first thing I will say is that, as I said Skeddin has a policy that lawyers are not permitted to sit on for-profit board's. It is a fairly recent policy because of some conflicts that we have in the past. Severely boards that attorneys are permitted to sit on are not for-profit board. I happen to be fortunate in my firm to have a great relationship with the head of our firm, a managing partner, who was very supportive in the early years of my ICANN work, and notwithstanding that it wasn't sort of the traditional Skeddin client base. But I spoke to him when I was asked to consider a run for the board and told them do you see any issues with this, or potential conflicts, or anything of that nature? And he said absolutely not. He said to me, if you feel like you would like to do this and this is something that would be interesting to you then go for it. So he was incredibly perforce as and as I said he is the head of the firm. Skeddin is a huge organization, and I am fortunate to have a great relationship with our management, who has been quite supportive of my candidacy. In terms of the time commitments I think that that is the challenge of life in general is managing different commitments that one makes to different areas of one's life, and I would not be running in sitting here wasting your time or mind discussing this with you if I didn't feel that I was committed and qualified to do that.
Lucy: Did they consider this some type of pro bono work? As far as billable hours go. How does the firm view your time commitment to sitting on the board?
Rita: This will not be billed in any way or any kind of credit for billable hours. This will be my own personal time.
Lucy: O.K., thank you.
Bruce: O.K., Ken Stubbs you are up again.
Ken: I don't have a question for Rita per se, but I do have one comment, I think it is just a matter of establishing [Inaudible]. There have been discussions about perception, and I think is extremely important that we remember that in every constituency there are going to be perceptions about candidates based on either their employment, or their past histories and so forth. So I think it is important that as we move down the road of discussing perceptions we remember two things. Number one, let us remember that almost every member of the ICANN board today has some sort of a relationship with entities that are involved with the ICANN arena, and may very well be in a position in future decisions where they come before the ICANN board, that may very well impact the area that this person is actively involved in or tying through some way through financial relationships, i.e. the plot scratch that retired employees directors and so forth.
So I would like to please let us remember her that as we move down the road and discuss the issues with potential board members, but each one of them may very well have a situation in the future without her curves. Number two is, based on the previous history of some board members as well as potential board members, you are going to find these perceptions, and I commend people for drilling down on these perceptions but let us make it clear that those perceptions are not necessarily universal to the ICANN community, but may lie a specifically with the constituents. Thanks for giving me a chance, to comment on that.
Bruce: Thank you Ken. Alistair Dickson?
Alistair: Thank you Bruce. Good morning Rita. I just have a question that I think we have addressed previously when you met with the constituency, and perhaps a slight variation on that. What actions do you think the ICANN could take for the purpose of promoting competition, especially of registry services?
Research: O.K. Alistair, they didn't get the last thing that she said. Competition?
Alistair: What actions do you think of ICANN could take for the purpose of promoting competition, especially of registry services?
Rita: I think that is important for me to get back into the debate and hear what the different constituencies and supporting organizations are advocating. I have been a little bit out of that, I know what some in the past have advocated but I want to make sure that I listened to what the community, what was on the table at this point. But I do think that competition at the registry level is very important.
I think the dot-info has done really well, but I think it is really far behind.com, and so I think that anything that the community thinks can be done to try and promote competition would be a good thing for the board to consider.
Alistair: do you think there are a particular actions that I can could take to enhance or promote that competition?
Rita: I think, again, that the boards needs to listen to what the community thinks might be appropriate actions and then deliberate as to whether they think that is a good course of action, there is nothing that I personally think that I can should be doing at this point itself. I would need to hear what the community has to say, and decide whether that would be a prudent course of action.
Marilyn: Bruce, it is Marilyn. I have a follow-up, can I go in the queue?
Bruce: I will just put you in the queue, Marilyn. Next is Mawaki...
Milwaukee: Yes, thanks Bruce, and thanks Rita for organizing this election. I am sorry, I just received your statement this morning, a couple of hours ago, so I would have appreciated to have it earlier, but my questions may not be related to your specific experience in this regard.
So -- The first point is, I have three questions. The first one is about what I call diversifying the domain name space. These may include IDN's, but not only, but also about the new TLDs and increasing competition.
I would like to hear your view about this issue, what do you think ICANN my two to increase competition and to allow more inclusion and global participation in our work?
Rita: O.K., I think this is the same question Alistair had just asked about increasing competition. Is it not?
Milwaukee: I missed something along the way because I don't hear properly the conversation over the phone. So maybe you can remind me about the question. I will check may be the MP3.
Rita: Sure, I think what you're asking is how I view how ICANN can help increase competition in the domain name space?
Milwaukee: I call that diversification of the domain name space. It can include competition, it can include new TLDs, it can include IDN, and other items I don't have here maybe but you may know about.
Rita: O.K., assure. I think again diversification is a good thing, I think that history has proved time and time again that monopolies are not necessarily in the best interests of the community in general. I think ICANN as far back as the White Paper has had a mandate of trying to increase competition and I think that it has through the years tried to do that and to some extent been effective in doing that. I think that there is still a long way to go, as I said I think there is some competition at least at the registry level, but I think that they could stand to be a little bit more competition in that arena, and I think that's the community of ICANN has ideas on how that should be done, I think that is important for the board to try to listen and implement that.
I did happen to just see recently some of the staff comments on IDN and how there are a different technical test now which can be considered to figure out how to actually implement IDNs, I think that's a great development. I do think that having domain names in different languages is, again - I think that would be fantastic for the Internet in terms of diversification.
I think that having these kind of English-based characters, etc., is something that probably should have changed a while ago. I think that to the extent that we can try to rule out IDNs in a way that won't affect the stability of the infrastructure, I think that's a great development in terms of diversification. And, again, I think that I want to look a little bit at some of the other things and issues that are on the table. I think there's lots that I can do based on input from the community to try to diversify the space and I think that's [Inaudible] a good thing.
Milwaukee: I hope you understand that my concern here is about eventual global inclusion, people participating and being aware of the processes and being able to participate more in these processes.
So maybe I will move to the second question: We usually talk about the technical function of ICANN, but actually I'm new on the council and I still have to clarify, to be clear about how we can strike an equilibrium between policy-making issues and the technical function and responsibilities of ICANN, because I believe we are involved in picking crucial decisions that have policy features, and also probably due to the UN process with the world summit on information society. I think we'll have hard time being responsible of policy, if not politics, so how do you see the possibility to find some kind of equilibrium between those two aspects?
Rita: I think that's been one of things that has been at issue with ICANN since its inception is how do we articulate and what is the technical oversight function actually mean and I think that it has grown and evolved a bit over the years and I think it should probably continue to grow and evolve.
I think, as I said, that there are some things ICANN probably shouldn't be doing like legislating how spam should be dealt with but I think that since the community thinks there is a new issue that's come up that has to do with technical oversight and their need to be a policy around that, I think the policy-making process is meant to try to help ICANN back the policy that's part of this oversight function, but I don't think there's one clear answer as to here's the six things that constituted technical oversight that's appropriate for ICANN to engage and have a dialogue about and here are the six things that aren't.
I think it's about what the community sees as the mission of ICANN and whether that's appropriate. I think that's something the board has to consider. Again, look at the specifics as opposed to some generalities and figure out whether they should consult and consider some policies in those areas.
And I guess I want to go back to your other question in terms of diversity, if you're talking about people diversity. I personally have been impressed and amazed at ICANN's continued desire to have meetings all over the world and to try to have as much participation as possible.
I do travel a fair amount for other types of organizations and other types of work and I am always amazed at many of the other functions I go to there's much less of a diverse crowd than I see at ICANN meetings. I think it partly has to do with ICANN really sticking to its mandate of having meetings at different parts of the world to facilitate attendance for people that can travel for two days to get to a location.
I personally think it's very heartening that ICANN has stuck to that and has tried over the years to continue to do that. And I remember one of my early meetings attending a session where someone said, you know, some of the western world looks at the internet as something that's intellectual and something that, you know, is interesting to deal with. In other parts of the world the internet is the only way they can communicate and the only way they can get information.
That's one of the things I keep in mind with my work: It has nothing to do with ICANN, but it's about thinking about the technology that we are all fortunate enough to have in the world and how we make sure it's spread across the world and not only to those people who can afford to pay for it.
Milwaukee: Yes, you also say about my second question that we are here in generalities and I'll try to be more specific. Of course I'm talking about global policy, not, I mean, every corporation has a policy, but I'm talking about global policy. For example, to be specific, I'll take the policy-making debates we are having. That's a question on which we must make decision that will impact, that will have conflict with national, local provisions in some countries. So, is it the job of ICANN to make the decision at this level when the countries might have their own policy on some issues?
Rita: That's a great question and, actually, I have had first-hand experience with that as part of my work with the Global Name Registry which is dot-name: They were based in the United Kingdom, and there were certain requirements that ICANN had upon what type of information would be available in WHOIS, and this is, I guess, I'm trying to remember -- I think it's 2001, but at that point the data directive, we talked with the Personal Data Protection Commissioner, but there were issues because ICANN wanted the registry to make certain information available and the Data Protection Commissioner thought that this shouldn't be available...
So I worked Steve and some other folks to try to marry both of the issues. In other words, what ICANN wanted to do in terms of what information was available versus what the local government thought was appropriate, and we put sort of a second layer in place to accommodate both sides.
So I absolutely agree with you that, and this is back to a point I made before, ICANN is not an international government. ICANN cannot tell a government what it can and cannot do obviously. There's no legitimacy there. ICANN's a not-for-profit corporation. But ICANN works when policies are followed because individuals and governments and organizations allow it to work. And ICANN, I think, has to be constantly mindful of that and try to work within the parameters of the rest of the world legal framework. And that's why I think having significant interaction with the GAC is important, while at the same time not allowing governments to, in effect, hijack or, you know, potentially delay forever the process. So, again, it's an important balance that needs to be reached.
Mawaki: Thanks. My last, and very short, question: How, and I'm sorry if you have already addressed this, how do you see this council?
Rita: I'm sorry -- I didn't quite hear that.
Mawaki: How is your perception? How do you see your relationship with members of the council? How will you be communicating with members of the council?
Rita: I think, I guess I see my relationship with the council as, my relationship as every other board member, as the GNSO council making recommendations to the board. I don't think that it's appropriate to be having direct relationships with anyone or manipulating a process, but I think it's informational and it's for discussion and debate purposes, and the council provides the board with information about what types of inquiries have been made in the community and gives the board employee recommendations and information it needs to make a decision.
Mawaki: Thank you.
Bruce: O.K., thank you, Mawaki. Marilyn is next.
Marilyn: Can I take a break here before I ask my question? Just want to make sure...
Bruce: Take it after. Just a few minutes and then I'll see who else has got questions.
Marilyn: My question goes back, Rita, to a follow on to the question Alistair asked and it's...
I wanted to make an opening statement that the ICANN strongly supports IDN, so this question is actually about the GTLD. Given that we have a situation of dominance in registry services and registry infrastructure with over eighty percent of GTLD and character names managed by a single provider, what can the board and the GSNO do to ensure the emergence of competition in the upcoming GTLD stage?
Rita: I think that it's very difficult to ensure anything. I think that with the roll out of GTLDs in 2000, I think that came along way, and again that was back to the original mandate. One of the original mandates of ICANN was to create competition in the registry space. I think that as far back as the Net Magazine's White Paper, there was a clear inclination on the part of at least the U.S. Government that there needed to be some competition at, at least, the registry level.
I think that that is important and I think that ICANN needs to continue to strive to accomplish that objective. I think that to say to ensure something is where, you know, you need to be careful. I'm not sure you can ensure anything. I do appreciate that there is a contract with Verisign and, you know, that ICANN needs to be careful about having contracts and having businesses and then suddenly deciding that they don't like what has happened, so that they can just arbitrarily change a certain business or contractual deal. I think that ICANN has been fortunate in avoiding litigation and I think that's something ICANN needs to continue to do, while at the same time listening to the community, Marilyn, and try to promote competition at the registry level.
Marilyn: I have a follow up?
Marilyn: There's a concept called substitutability, Rita, and the definition of services is substitutability means that a company really, the practical definition would mean that a company really sees a service as a substitute for one that they are presently using. I don't think that from the ICANN's perspective we have yet seen effective substitutability in the GTLDs that we're introducing to the 2000 stage.
We're very enthusiastic about the possibility of particular sponsors providing substitutability. And, as I said, we're very positive about the introduction of IDN. But we don't see substitutability, that is, our members don't see substitutability, we don't see effective competition. So, we don't use the word ensure, but we use the words take steps or best efforts. Can I ask you to reconsider your answer about how IDN can deal with dominance in a space that is not yet competitive?
Rita: Sure, sure, and I think probably the answer to the question, Marilyn, comes from, maybe the best place to find the answer is from your constituency. I think that no matter what you call it--substitutability, ensuring, mandating--ultimately the adoption...
Man 2: Can I make a suggestion, perhaps? It would be a good idea to have everyone mute except for Rita if this is what we're going to have.
Man 2: Hello, anyone? It's gone.
Rita: First I knew that the Names Council was kind of a "rockin'" organization -
Man 2: [Inaudible]
Rita: - I didn't know we had rock 'n' roll as part of our agenda.
Man 2: Somewhere in the world a disco just opened!
Rita: I could see them dancing in Barcelona, over there...
So, back to Marilyn's question, which I think was a very good one, I think Marilyn, frankly, I'd love to poll your constituency and see what they think because in the end ICANN is a not-for-profit organization of an international nature, and whether substitutability or competition exists is within the purview of businesses...
I have a number of clients, when I say to them, you know, "What do you think about GTLDs or would you guys adopt these? Why don't you go to something else? Dot-com is so old and boring." They don't want to!
This is where their customers and their business partners know to find them. So I don't think that ICANN can do anything to force people in business to do anything, Marilyn. I think it's important to try to do that, to give people options, but ultimately it becomes an question of adoption by users.
Bruce: O.K. Would anyone else like to ask any questions or just take another queue?
Sophia: Bruce, may I ask a question? Sophia here.
Bruce: O.K., Sophia. Anyone else? Ask a final question or two?
Woman 1: I might have one more, this is [Inaudible].
Bruce: O.K., anyone else?
Woman 2: This is [Inaudible], I'd like to ask one more.
Bruce: O.K., anyone else? O.K., go ahead, Sophia.
Sophia: O.K., this question [Inaudible] on the issue of competition and substitutability. Rita, how do you think that policy making can assist or enforce in terms of assisting this complex issue of competition versus, as you said, listening to the constituency or [Inaudible] automatically? That is the impression I got from what you were saying.
Rita: I think what I was saying, Sophia, was that, you know, substitutability in any kind of policy that ICANN would implement based on any recommendation from the [Inaudible], would be difficult to do anything other than give people options for substitutability and to promote competition because ultimately it's about what the users choose. And, just to take an issue, I personally am interested to see - there's two top level domains. There's [Inaudible] and there's [Inaudible]. I think ultimately the users will choose which one becomes more successful, if either of them. I think that, again, ICANN should be giving options to the community but it can't force people to adopt a domain name and I think that ultimately that's what will drive competition.
Sophia: Are you suggesting that the policy should allow for the competition, for free competition and let the users choose versus- Then how do you see the effectiveness of policy making in that sense? Or are you suggesting that the policy should maybe be a free policy for everyone? Because my concern would be something like Marilyn was saying, the dominant or the incumbent registry may be at an advantage just because of market forces for, even if we keep a free policy over the various issues. So, somebody, we would need to see somebody support a particular policy, so I just wanted to see the role of policy that we're developing perhaps influence the various issues that we have on the table. So, in that sense, I guess what I'm asking is how would we consider policy to be important in terms of defining and contributing to the complex issues that we have on our table?
Rita: I think that policy is very important to try to promote competition. I think that competition at the registry level and, in fact, all areas of any business, ICANN aside, are important because I don't think a monopoly benefits anyone except the monopolist. I think it is important that ICANN think about implementing policies that will promote competition, whether it's for ISPs, registrars, registries, businesses in the area, governments - I think the role of ICANN will be to make sure that it gets feedback from its community, what policies the community thinks would be effective in permitting and encouraging competition. And the board should consider those because that is a very important issue.
Sophia: Thank you.
Bruce: O.K., [Inaudible].
Marie: Thank you, Bruce. Given that I think we are nearing, if I understand correctly, to the end there's one question I would like to ask every candidate: What do you believe are the three most important strengths you would bring to the ICANN board?
Rita: Hmm. You know, this is the part I hate about being a lawyer, sell yourself, I think I'll probably - will I be the tallest person? Hmm, I don't know. I'd like to think that I try to bring some level of levelheadedness.
One of the things that was, again, as I said, a challenge on a number of levels was trying to work with some of the registrars in the early days when they were small businesses that were fiercely competitive and trying to talk to them about how can we reach a consensus on certain issues that were important to the community. When you have people that are fiercely competing with each other, it's hard to get them to have a calm and articulate dialogue and I'd like to think that that's one of the challenges of my job every day is to get people to sit at a table and talk civilly to each other and try to come up with smart solutions. I'd like to think that that's something I bring to the board. I think that the work I've done over the years has taken me to many different countries. We run our technology practice out of our New York office, even though Skeddin has offices all over the world.
So, I've been lucky enough to be fast on deals in Asia, Europe, North America, South America, so I've traveled quite a bit and worked with very diverse clients and I'd like to think that I have, over the years, have a bit of an understanding about differences in both negotiating style and in areas of interest and concern and used to, and in fact enjoy, trying to marry some of the cultural diversities, again, in terms of trying to find a solution. In terms of a third, I'm not sure thing I bring so much else. I'd like to try to be a good listener and try to encourage people to work toward achieving solutions in a civil and productive manner.
Bruce: O.K., [Inaudible].
Woman 2: O.K., hi. I'm told that I speak too sloppily, so I'll try to be a little louder. You've been involved with ICANN pretty much since the beginning, so one of the things I'd like your opinion is the degree of participation among registrants and individuals that are the user of the domain names at IP addressing. How do you feel ICANN would handle that and how do you think ICANN and the board should address that and bring it forward?
Rita: In terms of having users ICANN policy-making role...?
Woman 2: In terms of just the participation. We have the constituencies and the council, we had the ongoing experimentation with ALAC, and various degrees of wether that's successful or not, and basically there's just been a whole history from individual voting at the beginning to the ALAC of today. The board is very involved in that, and so I'm curious whether you have an opinion on that and where you think it would be going as a prospective board member.
Rita: I think, you know, it's been amazing to watch sort of the pioneers of ALAC and ICANN, those folks actually put something together. I think it's incredible to talk about the internet users as being part of the ICANN community and actually having a voice and sort of organizing individuals all over the world that come together and participate. I think that's incredible.
I think, again, if people want to participate, ICANN should absolutely be encouraging that and facilitating that because it's an amazing phenomenon that would be allowed to occur. If you think about it, it's governments and users in remote areas of the world trying to come together and work together and share ideas and I think that the more ICANN can do to encourage that, the better. But, again, I caution in terms of the same issues that I would say exist for meaningful and timely GACC participation, I would suggest exist also for the at-large community. I think it's, everybody needs to have a seat at the table, but everybody also needs to play by the same rules. So, I think we need to encourage that across the board.
Woman 2: Thank you.
Marilyn: I have a follow-up question, Bruce.
Bruce: Sure. I've got Marilyn and then Mawaki. Go ahead, Marilyn.
Marilyn: My question relates to a statement that you made that I didn't quite understand. I think you just said that everyone needs to play by the same rules.
Marilyn: I guess I would ask if you mind elaborating a little bit on that. Because I wouldn't - today I would say that participation from the developing economies, the emerging economies, and the developing countries [Inaudible] challenged by lack of resources or even lack of information. And we certainly, looking at the operational plan and the budget, see that ICANN is undertaking some efforts to try to find ways to increase participation. But they're, of course, not doing that in the developed countries. Could you just say more about what you meant about playing by the same --
Rita: Sure. I don't think that was meant to be any kind of profound statement. I think that there is a specific challenge with the at-large community given that it is trying to embrace people from all areas of the world. So, there are the obvious issues of how do these people need [Inaudible] to participate. They aren't sitting in my bedroom, as I am, hooked up to my high-speed internet computer. And, so anything ICANN can do to encourage their participation, I think, should be undertaken. But the reality is that ICANN does have a budget and there needs to be the reality check of how we implement that in a way that actually works. What I'm suggesting is that ICANN needs to be a [Inaudible] organization that has processes in place that allows it to get information and discuss the information and try to move towards resolution. I [Inaudible] caution that I think all these things need to be happening in tandem and so I say playing by the same rules, it's like saying if we're having a policy development process that's been moving forward, we need to get meaningful participation from everyone, from the GACC, from the at-large as best we can, but I don't suggest we hold up processes to try to implement other initiatives.
Bruce: O.K., [Inaudible].
Milwaukee: Yes, I have question on social cushion. Just to comment on what's been said, maybe it's not only ALAC, for ALAC to reach out to the people for participation, I would like to [Inaudible] in the business constituency to try to reach out to developing countries' businesses, as well. [Inaudible] is, of course, not always easy. My question is, you accepted the principle that there is a need of competition. Not competition, [Inaudible], including [Inaudible]. I would like to know how can you possibly create support ICANN's decisions and processes to increase competition at the registry level.
Rita: As I said, again, I think a couple of times, I think it's important to listen to what the community thinks about how they think competition can be effectively instituted. I think that we've had [Inaudible] top-level domains in 2000 and have had some success, but I think based on all the questions that I have heard today, there needs to be considerable improvement on that. I don't believe anybody on this phone feels as though competition is quite where it needs to be -- I don't think Chuck is on the phone. But maybe Verisign would. But I think that it's important to listen to what the community thinks in terms of increasing competition. I don't know if just having a ton more TLDs is the right answer, frankly. You know, I think that that will certainly continue to fragment the DNS. Is that the only way we can increase competition? I don't know. I'd love to be able to explore options and have ICANN explore options to think about other meaningful ways that we can promote competition because I don't sitting here right now have the answers to that question, but I think it'd be great to try to find out.
Bruce: O.K., does anyone else who hasn't already asked a question want to ask a question? O.K., I've said a couple of short ones myself, Rita, but I just wanted to explore a little bit about, I guess, hey, how you'd allocate time and I've got a couple components of that, but the first component of that is you mentioned that your employer supported your involvement with ICANN. I was just wondering if you could elaborate on how far that goes because, you know, you [Inaudible] be attending ICANN's physical meetings, so [Inaudible] three a year, so that's three weeks out of the year. What kind of time commitment do your envisage yourself having to put into ICANN?
Rita: I think it really depends on what we're doing again. The beauty of being a partner at a law firm is you, to some extent, you control your own destiny. And I've been lucky. Big partner practice I did not think was quite my thing in the early days. I kind of looked at it as a place I would go to get some good experience and quite frankly, my experience that I did have working on the ICANN matters was fantastic. And, just for the record, all the work on the policy development process was paid for by my firm. We were not getting paid by anyone to do that and the firm, you know, paid it out of its own pocket because they were very supportive of me doing that, again, because it was an initiative that I thought was important. There was no business that came out of that. I worked with [Inaudible], I started working with him in 2001, so there were no clients or business that came out of doing the PDP, but it was something that I felt, for myself and for my own enjoyment, and frankly I wanted to do and the firm was incredibly supportive. So, you know, again, it's not really a firm issue. I will do what I think needs to be done to devote the time I need to devote to be on the board if I am elected.
Bruce: You mentioned a couple of times that you had listened to the different views were in the community and, I guess, trying to get as well informed possible on issues. Can you elaborate a little bit more on how you do that because, I guess from my perspective, one of the things I would like to see from a director that's elected by the GSNO is that the director doesn't entirely rely on, I guess, the board papers, but also take the time to talk to people in the GSNO community and I'd expect if a board member was from the ASO, for example, they would spend some time talking to people in the IP addressing community. But you are able to just sort of elaborate a little bit how you think it might go about?
Rita: Sure. Sure. Absolutely. And I'm glad to hear that that is something the community would want to have happen is to get a dialogue going. You know, I'm actually giving a presentation in LA, which is why I am going to be on the west coast, and I was speaking to someone and I said I have to write this speech still and they said I don't understand why you write your own speeches. You're a partner at [Inaudible]. And I said, well, I need to because I need to understand what I'm talking about. I can't just have somebody give me a piece of paper that has their biases and interpretations and methodologies [Inaudible] and expect to understand what I'm talking about. So, I have people do research for me and I get all this big stacks of paper and I pour through them and read them because I need to understand the different positions.
And one of the things, Bruce, that has served me well over the years, at least based on feedback I have from my clients, is that I actually try myself to do an inquiry to get to the bottom of an issue. And there's many occasions where I have been asked to come into a room with, you know, the principle from one side and the principle from another side and me, there's no other lawyers. It's just me being asked to listen to both sides, to ask my own questions, and to figure out what the best way is to come to a common ground. And so that is something I love to do and I think it's something that I've been training to do for the twelve years that I've been out of law school and it's something that I would love to be able to do with ICANN because, I think that, at least what I have seen in the past, I don't know, again, what's gone on recently, is that people get very entrenched in their own views and they have biases against others that don't share their views.
And I'd like to think that we can actually sit down and hear some views and maybe figure out, well, we weren't thinking about resolution of a problem this way, but maybe we can try to move a little bit more towards that. And to that end, I think it's important that the board have a dialogue in communication at a formal level, you know, the board itself allowing people to come in to voice their concerns in a way that goes beyond a piece of paper and a board briefing.
Bruce: O.K. That's all my questions. I think at that point I'd like to thank you for spending so much time with us. It's been about an hour and fifteen minutes. So, I think it's been very valuable to get your, I guess, comprehensive answers and, as you pointed out, rather than just reading your candid statement, I think we get a lot more out of being able to ask questions directly and hear your perspectives on each of those questions. I'd really like to thank you for the time with us that you've spent today.
Rita: Oh, absolutely. It was my pleasure. And you'll all be getting a prorated portion of my bill!
Rita: Thank you everyone again for taking time out for this special session for me. I really appreciate it, as well, so thank you Bruce and everyone.
Man 2: Thank you, Rita. Thank you, everyone.
[phone hangs up]
Bruce: Thanks, Rita.