Odd Announcement in .Jobs Case as U.S. Chamber, Monster Weigh in

Sep 21, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

A committee of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced late yesterday that it will consider a request to reconsider the decision to expand the use of the .jobs domain.

The nearly opaque two-sentence announcement is the only one of its kind among the 39 reconsideration requests posted to the ICANN website. What the committee typically does is to simply issue a recommendation, which is usually that there be no reconsideration.

Here’s the announcement as posted by ICANN:

“At its 20 September 2010, (sic. presumably, the missing word is ‘meeting’) the Board Governance Committee (BGC) agreed to proceed to consider Reconsideration Request 10-2. The BGC will proceed with the Reconsideration Request in conformity with the ICANN Bylaws, Article IV, Section 2.”

Confused? You’ve got company.

John Bell, who heads a coalition of groups opposed to the way the expansion was handled, first said when I reached him, “We are enthusiastic. ” Then, he added, “We asked our attorney to get an interpretation of this … I don’t know where we are.”

I asked Employ Media, the .jobs registrar which sought the .jobs expansion, for its interpretation of the announcement, but haven’t yet heard back.

I also asked ICANN for a clarification. What’s unclear is why the committee would issue an announcement like this, instead of simply making a decision; whether it means the program now underway to use the newly authorized names has to stop; and, how and how long this process will take.

Employ Media, and its partner, the Society for Human Resource Management, proposed the creation of a .jobs address a few years ago. It was approved, but unlike the traditional .com domain, a .jobs address had certain rules attached to its use. One of them was that it could only be used in conjunction with an employer’s business name.

When .jobs failed to gain much traction (only about 15,000 addresses were ever issued and that number has since dropped), Employ Media and its CEO Tom Embrescia began casting about for ways to pump up interest. One was to open up the use to almost any name combination. That lead to the launch last fall of dozens of job boards by the DirectEmployers Association. Working with Employ Media, DirectEmployers announced plans for a “universe” of similar sites. But then ICANN stepped in asking about the authorization to expand the .jobs use. That triggered a SHRM committee review and approval and finally, in August, to a vote by the ICANN board allowing it.

Along the way, several organizations, led by the job board industry, voiced objections to the request and to SHRM’s process, saying they were effectively shut out. After ICANN acted on August 5th, a .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition formed and requested reconsideration.

(An archive of .jobs posts can be found here.)

In the last week, Monster and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both sent letters to ICANN asking the board to reconsider its decision. Monster’s letter from its lawyer Paul McGrady of  Greenberg Traurig, not only asks for reconsideration, but a halt to Employ Media’s .jobs distribution program until the matter is decided.

The Monster letter echoes the position and issues detailed by the coalition, declaring:

  • ICANN staff did a shoddy job of analyzing and summarizing the more than 250 comments and letters of opposition sent to ICANN. And when the ICANN Board of Directors relied on the staff summary without doing more, the directors “failed to satisfy their duty of inquiry;”
  • The board’s vote “unwittingly authorized Employ Media to flagrantly violate the terms of the Charter under which it operates”;
  • The board’s decision “has broad anti-competitive implications that were not properly examined by the staff”;
  • The decision undermines ICANN’s credibility in regard to how it polices the use of other domains.

In its letter, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce articulated the same reasons for wanting a rethinking of the decision. It also complained, “While the expansion eliminates the protections built-in to a system where registrations are limited to a company’s trade or commonly known name, the Board has not called on Employ Media to provide any tools to facilitate rights protection and prevent abusive registrations.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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