Ethos Capital (“Ethos”) today announced several key initiatives that strengthen and reinforce the company’s commitments to the .ORG community as part of its acquisition of Public Interest Registry (“PIR”). These 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 Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) that allows PIR to operate the .ORG top-level domain. This amendment is codified in what is known as a Public Interest Commitment (“PIC”). These legally-binding commitments cannot be unilaterally modified by PIR and will apply to .ORG regardless of who operates .ORG.
In connection with these initiatives, PIR has granted ICANN an additional extension to March 20, 2020 to review PIR’s submissions. PIR will continue to work collaboratively with ICANN to address any potential outstanding questions by this date.
PUBLIC INTEREST COMMITMENT (PIC)
In response to the .ORG community’s requests for increased clarity around Ethos’ commitments, Ethos has voluntarily proposed to add an amendment to PIR’s .ORG Registry Agreement with ICANN in the form of a PIC. Upon completion of the acquisition, the PIC will become a legally binding amendment to the current Registry Agreement. It will be enforceable both by ICANN through its compliance department and by members of the community through ICANN’s Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Procedure (“PICDRP”).
“We have been listening closely to stakeholder feedback – both positive and negative – and have been working diligently to address these specific issues head on,” said Erik Brooks, Founder & CEO of Ethos Capital. “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:
- 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% 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 to have a price restriction and it will remain one of the most affordable domains in the world.
- .ORG Stewardship Council: The .ORG Stewardship Council (the “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.
- 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.
- 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.
.ORG STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL CHARTER
In addition to clarifying the role of the .ORG Stewardship Council in the PIC, Ethos has publicly released the .ORG Stewardship Council Charter (the “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.
PUBLIC INTEREST REGISTRY’S FUTURE
The acquisition will ensure a bright future for PIR and .ORG registrants and users. Ethos’ investment in PIR will deliver significant benefits to the .ORG community, including investment in value-added products and services that will strengthen and grow the .ORG brand. PIR will conduct market studies and surveys to help identify the products and services that can further build the online presence of mission-driven organizations around the world.
“PIR’s mission has always been to serve the .ORG community, and this agreement with ICANN ensures that we will continue to do just that,” said Jon Nevett, CEO of Public Interest Registry. “The binding and enforceable commitments announced by Ethos today ensure protections that support Ethos’ pledge to be a responsible partner to PIR. On behalf of the entire team at PIR, we could not be more thrilled to be working with Erik, Nora and the Ethos team. It’s clear that they believe in our mission and support the values we’ve worked so hard to establish over the past 17 years. We hope to complete this transaction in the near future so that we can move forward on building an even stronger .ORG together.”
THE INTERNET SOCIETY’S FUTURE
The transaction will allow the Internet Society to do more for the Internet. The Internet Society will invest the proceeds from the transaction and use the resulting investment income to power the organization’s mission of an Internet that is open, globally-connected, trustworthy and secure. The sustainable funding offered by the investments will ensure the Internet Society community efforts to build, promote, and defend the Internet can continue, and that these efforts reach far and wide. By decoupling from its reliance on revenue from the domain name industry, the Internet Society will also achieve a greater degree of independence, allowing it to be a more vocal champion for an open and inclusive Internet that is a force for good for everyone.
“With this announcement, Ethos shows that it has been listening to the questions some have raised. Ethos has responded by embedding its commitments on pricing, censorship and data use policies in a legally-binding contract, and giving ICANN and the community the ability to hold Ethos to its commitments. They listened, and responded,” said Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO of the Internet Society. “With this in place, and as the Internet Society and PIR advance their missions, the Internet will become stronger, more secure, and more accessible.”
.ORG COMMUNITY DISCUSSION
The principals from Ethos, PIR and the Internet Society will host a community discussion on Thursday, February 27, 2020 from 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST (8:00-9:00 PM UTC) to provide additional details on these important commitments. More information about this event may be found at www.keypointsabout.org/events.
Ethos, PIR, and the Internet Society look forward to hosting additional community discussions in the coming weeks.
About Ethos Capital
Ethos Capital is a specialized investment firm that helps transform and grow established companies in today’s rapidly evolving digital economy. Ethos Capital’s Founder and CEO, Erik Brooks, has deep expertise and relationships across the business, technical, and social communities that protect and promote the Internet’s core founding values. As a mission-driven firm, Ethos Capital is committed to setting the gold standard of ethics and social responsibility for registry operations and supporting a globally connected and resilient Internet. For more information, please visit https://ethoscapital.com/.
About Public Interest Registry
Public Interest Registry (PIR) is a nonprofit corporation that operates the .ORG top-level domain—one of the world’s largest generic top-level domains with more than 10 million domain names registered worldwide. As an advocate for collaboration, safety, and security on the Internet, PIR’s mission is to serve as an exemplary registry and to provide a trusted digital identity. PIR strives to educate the global community to use the Internet more safely and effectively while taking a leadership position among Internet stakeholders on policy and other issues relating to the domain naming system. PIR was founded by the Internet Society (https://www.internetsociety.org) in 2002 and is based in Reston, Virginia, USA. Visit Public Interest Registry at https://pir.org.
.ORG is the original purpose-driven “generic” top-level domain (gTLD) with more than 10 million domain names registered worldwide. .ORG is open to everyone, providing a global platform for organizations, associations, clubs, businesses and individuals to bring their ideas to life. For more than 30 years, .ORG has built an enduring legacy of trust, preserving an open and secure Internet where diverse communities can establish a trusted online identity and freely share ideas. Visit www.TheNew.org for more information.
About the Internet Society
Founded by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet. Working through a global community of chapters and members, the Internet Society collaborates with a broad range of groups to promote technologies that keep the Internet safe and secure, and to advocate for policies and infrastructure that enable universal access. The Internet Society also provides a corporate home for the administrative entity that supports the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). For additional information, visit https://www.internetsociety.org/.