Today I have written to Jo Lim – Acting CEO of auDA, about a couple of pressing accountability issues.
I also choose to publish it as an “open letter” on this blog.
8th April 2016
Jo Lim – Acting C.E.O.
.au Domain Administration Ltd
114 Cardigan Street
CARLTON VIC 3053
I write to you today about two particular issues that are of concern to me (and I believe many others).
They are corporate governance at auDA; and the issue of direct registrations.
As you know, I’ve been a “Demand Class” member of auDA for many years. My membership hasn’t just involved me paying my $20 per year for the privilege. As you are aware, I’ve also:
- Attended a number of Annual General Meeting’s (where at my own expense I have flown to either Sydney or Melbourne). At these events I have always stood up and asked constructive questions, only to be rudely shut down by the previous CEO (on each occasion he subsequently “apologised”).
- Been involved in a number of working groups and panels where I have given my perspective as a “domainer” or domain investor.
- At your invitation, I was also part of a panel discussion at the auIGF in 2015.
The reason for me doing all of the above is that “domain names” are my sole business. I’m vitally interested in what happens with .au. As you’ve said to me a number of times, you appreciate “that I choose to constructively engage”, as it is vital that all interest groups are represented.
But it now appears that my valid concerns are virtually being ignored. Let me please give some examples.
Why have there been no Board Meeting minutes published for December 14th 2015; and February 15th 2016?
On the auDA website, it clearly states that “auDA Board minutes are published within one month after the meeting.”.
I emailed you about this (and when the Names Panel report was going to be published) on the 29th February, and you replied thus on the same day:
“Sorry, the Board has not authorised staff to release the Panel’s report or to provide any information about outcomes”.
I immediately followed up with a specific request about publication of the minutes, and you replied:
That’s just not good enough in this day and age Jo. I urge you please to immediately rectify this.
In doing some research for this letter, I came across a post you made back on 19th December 2000. I replicate parts of it here.
auDA receives Government endorsement
.au Domain Administration (auDA) has been formally endorsed by the Australian Government as the appropriate entity to hold the delegation of authority for administration of the .au domain space.
In order to receive Government endorsement, auDA has been required to demonstrate that it meets the objectives set out by Government in the initial phases of the self-regulatory reform process, namely that auDA will:
be inclusive of, and accountable to, members of the Internet community including both the supply and demand sides;
adopt open, transparent and consultative processes;
aim to enhance benefits to Internet users through the promotion of competition, fair trading and provisions for consumer protection and support;
The following excerpts are from the auDA Constitution (bolding is mine):
Taking the view that the Internet Domain Name System is a public asset, and that the .au ccTLD is under the sovereign control of the Commonwealth of Australia, auDA will administer the .au ccTLD for the benefit of the Australian community.
Without reducing the effect of clause 4, auDA will enhance the benefits to Internet users through:
a. ensuring the continued operational stability of the domain name system in Australia;
b. establishing mechanisms to ensure it is responsive and accountable to the supply and demand sides of the Australian Internet Community;
c. the promotion of competition in the provision of domain name services;
d. the promotion of fair trading;
e. the promotion of consumer protection;
f. adopting open and transparent procedures which are inclusive of all parties having an interest in use of the domain name system in Australia;
g. ensuring its operations produce timely outputs which are relevant to the needs of the Australian Internet Community.
The Directors shall cause minutes to be kept and entered up in accordance with the Corporations Act:
a. of the names of the Directors present at each meeting of the Directors and of any Committee; and
b. of all resolutions and proceedings of general meetings and of meetings of Directors and of Committees.
The minutes are to be signed by the Chairperson of the meeting at which the proceedings were held or by the Chairperson of the next succeeding meeting.
Why has the Names Panel Report not been published on the auDA website as yet? All previous Names Panel reports were published soon after they were presented.
I’m really concerned by this Jo, as it appears to me that there are some forces really pushing hard for the early adoption of direct registrations.
auDA members deserve the right to be able to read the Names Panel report – as do all registrants of domain names. I spent nine months of my time constructively participating in the Names Panel process, and as you are aware, I was part of the group that submitted a dissenting minority report. Other members of the Minority Panel included three lawyers – two of whom are WIPO arbitrators.
Given the importance of the potential change, I’d much prefer to see auDA first make the effort to harvest a more representative sample of the 1.7 million individual registrants out there (the majority of whom haven’t even got an inkling that this is in the wind). I’ve blogged on this; I’ve written to auDA about this; I’ve raised it at the Names Panel; and I even got up and said it at the last AGM.
I’ve become aware that auDA did in fact do a recent survey (if you can call it that). It was one simplistic question designed to get a specific answer. Honestly, in my opinion, that does not promote consumer protection or fair trading as outlined in the auDA constitution.
Nor was there any reference to the Names Panel report that exhaustively looked at the pros and cons of direct registrations.
For clarification, this was the question that was asked:
“If you had the choice to register a domain name directly under .au – for example, yourname.au – how likely would you be to do so?”
If I was a small business operator getting that survey (without any other information), I would want to know questions like:
1. Do you mean we are just going to swap over our .com.au to an .au domain?
2. Will there be any cost to do that?
3. If we’re not just going to swap over, does that mean I have to then pay for two domain registrations instead of one?
4. I bought my domain name last year for $10k; and spent another $15k on a website and SEO work. Am I guaranteed to get the .au domain – or will someone else (my competitor) have a chance to buy it as well?
Sadly, there wasn’t even a comments box in the survey.
This to my mind is a failure of the survey authors; at best, to actually seek answers; and at worst, to garner a specific response. If any other major organisation with 1.7 million members or shareholders attempted this, it would be lambasted from pillar to post.
I urge you to have a look again at what happened in the UK when Nominet tried to shove through direct registrations without fair and proper consultation with its members and constituents. They were ultimately forced to revise their initial proposals three times after receiving heated criticism. I wrote about this on my blog back in September 2015.
I look forward to your response; and would be grateful if you could also table this letter for consideration at the next Board Meeting please.
Director – Domain Syndicates Pty Ltd