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Four state AGs sue to block US decision to cede key internet role

John Ribeiro | Oct. 3, 2016
A judge in Texas has fixed the hearing for Friday

The attorneys general have also held that the IANA functions are U.S. government property and their disposal would hence require approval of Congress, which has not been obtained so far. They cite from an IANA contract, entered into on Oct. 1, 2012, which declares that “[a]ll deliverables provided under this contract,” including the “automated root zone” are “the property of the U.S. Government.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog, recently said in a legal opinion provided at the request of legislators that "it is unlikely that either the authoritative root zone file—the public 'address book' for the top level of the Internet domain name system—or the Internet domain name system as a whole" is U.S. government property.

Another prong of the complaint of the state officials is that the transfer has implications related to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By the transfer, the U.S. government is handing over “control of the ‘vast democratic forums of the Internet’ to private parties," and giving those parties free reign, according to the complaint.

The AGs have argued that the threatened injury outweighs any harm to defendants from a court order, which is an argument that is likely to weigh in their favor when the judge decides on their immediate demand for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the decision of the federal government. The officials have also asked for a judgment and permanent injunction against the transfer.

Tech companies, including Google, have supported the transition of the IANA functions to ICANN. The U.S. government’s contract with ICANN was always meant to be temporary, and since ICANN was created in 1998, the U.S. "has invited the global Internet community to decide the Internet’s future in a bottom-up fashion," wrote Kent Walker, general counsel at Google, in a blog post Monday.


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