Domain supervisor ICANN ‘withholds consent’ for the sale of the .org domain registry to a private equity firm, following months of protests
Internet supervisor ICANN has confirmed it is withholding ‘consent for a change of control of the Public Interest Registry (PIR).’
Arguments have been raged since November 2019, when it was revealed the current owner of the .org registry, the Internet Society, planned to sell the domain to newly formed equity group Ethos Capital for a $1bn endowment.
In December 2019, ICANN said it “does not have the authority” to act on the matter, since its role is only to “assure the continued operation of the .org domain”.
The Internet Society, for its part, had said the sale of the .org registry would provide it with “sustainable funding” to continue its work on internet-related standards, education, access and policy.
But protesters of the deal including California’s Attorney General, warned that changes to the .org Registry Agreement could allow the registry’s owner to do significant harm to the global NGO sector, intentionally or not.
Also, many protestors were unhappy that Ethos Capital never fully disclosed who its directors or investors were.
And some of the world’s largest non-profit organisations, were worried their online addresses were going to be exploited for profit.
But now ICANN’s board has announced it decision to withhold consent for the sale.
“Today, the ICANN Board made the decision to reject the proposed change of control and entity conversion request that Public Interest Registry (PIR) submitted to ICANN,” it said.
“After completing extensive due diligence, the ICANN Board finds that withholding consent of the transfer of PIR from the Internet Society (ISOC) to Ethos Capital is reasonable, and the right thing to do,” it said.
The Board said that the proposed sale impacted one of the largest registries with more than 10.5 million domain names registered.
“After completing its evaluation, the ICANN Board finds that the public interest is better served in withholding consent as a result of various factors that create unacceptable uncertainty over the future of the third largest gTLD registry,” it said.