Ethos Capital Offers Concessions To .ORG Community

The prospective purchaser of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and the .Org domain is pledging a $10-million Community Enablement Fund to support the .ORG community and will hold on hour-long online discussion on Feb. 27.

The plan to put PIR up for sale announced in December has spawned outrage from many quarters of the nonprofit technology world including a protest outside a recent meeting of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to block the sale. The concerns include price stability and intellectual property of charities.

Ethos Capital has offered more than $1.1 billion for PIR. The venture firm unveiled a plan to ease fears of those in the nonprofit space. According to the firm, the initiatives are “legally-binding measures that enforce price limits, safeguard against censorship and protect personal data” through an amendment to PIR’s Registry Agreement with the ICANN that allows PIR to operate the .ORG top-level domain. The amendment is codified in what is known as a Public Interest Commitment (PIC).

PIR has granted ICANN an additional extension to March 20 to review PIR’s submissions. The principals from Ethos, PIR and the Internet Society will host a community discussion on Thursday from 3-4 p.m. EST (8-9 PM UTC) to provide additional details on these important commitments. More information about this event may be found at www.keypointsabout.org/events

“The legally-binding commitments cannot be unilaterally modified by PIR and will apply to .ORG regardless of who operates .ORG,” according to an announcement from Ethos.

“We have been listening closely to stakeholder feedback – both positive and negative – and have been working diligently to address these specific issues head on,” Erik Brooks, founder and chief executive of Ethos Capital said via a statement. “A primary request we heard from the .ORG community was for strong enforceability measures to ensure that Ethos would be held accountable to its promises. We are taking these actions to show that we stand firmly behind the commitments we’ve made – and most importantly – behind the registrants and users who have made .ORG the incredible domain it is today.”

This amendment to include the PIC will include the following legally-binding contractual provisions, according to a statement from Ethos:

1. Affordability of .ORG Domain Names: Fees charged to registrars for initial or renewal registration of a .ORG domain name will not increase by more than 10 percent per year on average for eight years from the start of the current Registry Agreement, under a precise formula that does not permit front-loading of those price increases. Through this commitment, .ORG will become one of the only TLDs (Top-level Domains) to have a price restriction and it will remain one of the most affordable domains in the world.

2. ORG Stewardship Council: The .ORG Stewardship Council will have authority to provide independent advice on and a binding right to veto modifications proposed by PIR to PIR’s policies regarding (1) censorship and freedom of expression and (2) use of .ORG registrant and user data. The council will have specific authority to veto any proposals or modifications that would limit the council’s oversight in these areas. No employee, director or member of PIR shall serve on the council.

3. Community Enablement Fund: PIR will establish a Community Enablement Fund to provide support for initiatives benefitting .ORG registrants and approved by the council. The commission, charter, and funding of the Community Enablement Fund will be established by PIR’s board with input from the council. The council will be responsible for providing recommendations and advice regarding the Community Enablement Fund. Appropriations from the Community Enablement Fund will be subject to approval of the PIR Board. It is anticipated that PIR will contribute $10 million to the Community Enablement Fund over the remaining life of the current Registry Agreement.

4. Annual Public Report: PIR will produce and publish annually a report that assesses PIR’s compliance with the PIC commitments and the ways in which PIR pursued activities for the benefit of the registrants of .ORG domain names during the preceding year.

In addition to clarifying the role of the .ORG Stewardship Council in the PIC, Ethos has publicly released the .ORG Stewardship Council Charter outlining the principles and protocols that will govern the administration and operation of the Council.

Key components of the charter are as follows:

  • The council will have the power to veto changes to .ORG policies in two essential areas, consistent with the values of the .ORG community and with PIR’s Anti-Abuse Policy: (1) appropriate limitations and safeguards against censorship of free expression in the .ORG domain name space; and (2) appropriate limitations and safeguards regarding use or disclosure of registration data or other personal data of .ORG domain name registrants and users. The council will also have authority to veto any changes to the .ORG Stewardship Council Charter that would diminish the council’s rights with respect to policies in these two areas.
  • The council will provide the PIR board with independent strategic advice and recommendations to help guide PIR in considering and balancing the best interests of all .ORG stakeholders, in order to help the PIR board assess how it can promote values that serve the mission-driven goals of the .ORG community.
  • The council will provide recommendations and advice regarding the Community Enablement Fund established by PIR to provide support for initiatives benefitting .ORG registrants that are consistent with the mission and values of the .ORG community.

The full text of the PIC and the charter, which includes additional information about the council’s duties and responsibilities and details its policies and procedures, may be viewed at www.keypointsabout.org/accountability