Ombudsman recommends new panelist hear .sport community objection.
I haven’t written about many new TLD objection appeals (reconsideration requests) because there are so many and few have a chance of succeeding.
But a recent one from Famous Four Media (pdf) for .sport is unique: ICANN’s Ombudsman has supported the company’s call for a rehearing with a different panelist.
The reconsideration request is based on Famous Four’s recent disclosure of a link between community objection panelist Guido Santiago Tawil and Famous Four’s rival applicant for .sport.
Famous Four believes this link shows possible bias in Tawil’s decision on a community objection against its .sport application.
Famous Four is asking ICANN to overturn the objection against its .sport application. Alternatively, it would like the case reheard with a three person panel. (One of the biggest errors in the objection process, in my opinion, was having just one panelist decide community objections.)
The ombudsman issued support for rehearing the case with a different panelist, which is the more likely outcome if ICANN’s Board Governance Committee approves the reconsideration request. He wrote:
I am concerned that in this case, there has been no direct comment from Dr. Tawil. I am also concerned that the ICC have taken a stance that it is too late for Famous Four Media
to challenge the decision on the basis of material recently disclosed. My concern is, that this may create a reasonable appearance of bias. My view is that the commercial relationship ought to have been disclosed, to give the applicant Famous Four Media an opportunity to make a considered choice as to the suitability of this appointment. Transparency is the best way to ensure that parties are able to make the best choices.
It is therefore my recommendation to the board, that there should be a rehearing of the objection with a different expert appointed.
This case opens up a bit of a can of worms. .Sport was the first of many community objections to go against applicants for sports related domains, including .rugby, .sports and .ski. The other cases had very similar arguments and were all decided after the .sport decision was published. Were the panelists in those cases influenced by the .sport decision, which is now being called into question?