Los Angeles—Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) activists will join advocates for other public interest nonprofits to protest a plan to sell out the Internet .ORG domain registry at a demonstration tomorrow outside ICANN’s board of directors meeting in Los Angeles.

EFF, nonprofit advocacy group NTEN, digital rights groups Fight for the Future and Demand Progress, and other nonprofits will participate in a rally to call on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, to halt a transaction under which Ethos Capital, a private equity firm run by domain name industry insiders, will pay $1.135 billion to take over the lucrative .ORG registry, which collects fees for the use of the .org domain. ICANN has the power to stop the purchase. Organizations working in the public interest around the world in the arts, religion, culture, the environment, race, and poverty, will be affected by the sale.

“ICANN and its board are mostly invisible to the public and nonprofit world, but their power and influence over the health and well-being of public interest groups that serve the needs of hundreds of millions of people around the world cannot be overstated,” said EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow, who will speak at the rally. “The ICANN board needs to know that their actions are under scrutiny. They are out of touch with the people who both run and rely on .orgs around the world. ICANN should listen to the global nonprofit community and refuse to treat .ORG like a piece of real estate that can be sold to the highest bidder.”

Under the deal, ginned up with little disclosure, Ethos will acquire Public Interest Registry (PIR), itself a nonprofit that has for the past 17 years overseen the .ORG registry, and then change PIR into a for profit entity. The sale is opposed by 700 organizations, from the Girl Scouts of America and the League of Women Voters, to Farm Aid and Meals On Wheels.  21,000 individuals also signed in opposition, as have six members of Congress.

ICANN’s Board of Directors* is gathering in Los Angeles tomorrow for a regular meeting at which the .ORG sale is expected to be discussed; a final vote is due by February 17. The rally is being hosted by NTEN.

“.ORG needs a steward that will stand up for the nonprofit community in the face of pressure to raise prices, or to surveil or censor nonprofits,” said EFF Activism Director Elliot Harmon, who will speak at the rally. “The nonprofit community’s overwhelming concern about the announced sale shows that the community recognizes this for what it is: a blatant money grab by a private equity firm that will inevitably have to prioritize profits over the needs of nonprofits .”

“The ICANN board has the opportunity to take action here and demand that the .org domain ownership is controlled and decided through the appropriate, multi-stakeholder process, in keeping with ICANN’s policy-making practices,” said NTEN Chief Executive Officer Amy Sample Ward, also speaking at the demonstration. “A private billion dollar deal doesn't meet that criteria.”

Save.ORG Rally and Demonstration

EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow
EFF Staff Attorney Cara Gagliano
EFF Activism Director Elliot Harmon
NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward

12025 E Waterfront Dr.
Playa Vista, CA 90094

Friday, January 24
9 am – 11 am

*ICANN Board Member Sarah Deustch is a member of EFF’s Board of Directors.


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