Panelist finds Independent Objector Alain Pellet has a conflict of interest and sides with Amazon.com in domain name dispute.
Amazon.com has successfully defended community objections brought against its applications for .amazon and the Chinese and Japanese equivalent top level domain names. At the same time, it has also successfully questioned the Independent Objector’s conflict of interest in filing the cases in the first place.
The internet retailing giant argued that Independent Objector (IO) Alain Pellet has special links to the governments of Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, who could benefit by this case being filed. (I cannot find Amazon.com’s letter to ICANN regarding this matter, but it’s surely similar to this one filed on behalf of Patagonia.)
Pellet countered that finding that he had a conflict of interest in this case would preclude anybody with “a normal average social life” from serving as the IO.
The expert disagreed. Pellet has been appointed to represent the governments in disputes, which is certainly more of a conflict than having an average social life.
The expert in this case, Professor Luca G. Radicati di Brozolo, upheld Amazon’s objection to Pellet’s independence:
The Expert is of the view that, objectively considered, the links between the IO and two major representatives of the Amazon Community lead to justifiable doubts as to his independence in the eyes of the Applicant and of the broader public. Given the importance of ensuring the perception of neutrality, independence and impartiality of the office of the IO and of the entire gTLD dispute resolution process, the Expert finds that the Applicant’s challenge to the independence of the IO must therefore be upheld.
However, the guidebook does not address the issue of finding a conflict of interest with the IO when it comes to a community objection. Although the panelist was conflicted, it ends up being a moot point because the case failed on other elements.
The panelist determined that the community objection failed to show substantial opposition by the “Amazon Community” and also failed to show that Amazon.com getting the strings would cause material detriment to the community.
Radicati di Brozolo’s rationale was similar to what I’ve previously argued: the Amazon community doesn’t seem to have been affected by Amazon’s use of Amazon.com. Nor did it or anyone else apply for run .amazon.
Some may view this entire objection decision as a moot exercise. The Governmental Advisory Committee has advised ICANN to disallow the .amazon application. Yet Amazon.com is challenging that decision, and it will surely use this case as ammo to convince ICANN’s board not to accept the GAC’s advice.
The full community objection decision is available here (pdf).