[gnso-rpm-wg] Candidate Statement of Philip S. Corwin

Phil Corwin psc at vlaw-dc.com
Wed Apr 20 17:46:00 UTC 2016

This Candidate Statement is submitted for review by members of the Review of all Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in all gTLDs PDP Working Group, for which I am standing as a candidate for the position of Co-Chair. It is intended to supplement my Statement of Interest<https://community.icann.org/display/gnsosoi/Philip+S+Corwin+SOI>. It likely contains some background information that is new even for those WG members with whom I have interacted at ICANN for years.

Early Years and Education
I was born in Brooklyn, NY on the Ides of March in 1950, the mid-point of the 20th century. I attended P.S. 197 and later graduated from James Madison High School, a very large (5,000 students) public institution. I was most definitely a big city kid, but I also spent a considerable amount of time while growing up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; my father was a CPA and had many major clients there. My life as a frequent flyer began in the pre-jet year of 1954, when I accompanied my parents to St. Thomas via a DC-6 to San Juan, P.R., followed by a short hop in a DC-3 (in which you walked uphill to your seat).
I attended the College of Arts & Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where I earned a B.A. in Government, and also began a pattern of publicly expressing my views as an Editor and Op-Ed writer for the Cornell Daily Sun newspaper.
I obtained my J.D. law degree from Boston College Law School.
Initial Washington Career
The civil rights movement and Vietnam War inspired me to seek a career in public policy. I moved to the Washington, DC metro area forty years ago last month, after obtaining a junior staff position on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging. The Committee worked in a largely bipartisan manner and I was involved in investigations, reports, and organizing hearings in both Washington and the field, as well as drafting statements and other materials for Committee members.
After three years with the Committee I had developed substantial expertise regarding federal housing programs and policies and was hired to serve on the personal staff of Sen. Harrison Williams (D-NJ), who Chaired the Housing Subcommittee of the Banking Committee. I worked for the Senator on many issues besides housing, including tax policy and the Chrysler Loan Guarantee bill (which included a face-to-face meeting with Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca). In late 1980 Sen. Williams was indicted (and later convicted) in the Abscam FBI "sting" bribery scandal; while I would not have chosen to experience my own personal version of "American Hustle", I learned a great many cautionary lessons from the episode that have served me well over subsequent years.
The Senate's institutional motto was "we can disagree without being disagreeable". That standard is more difficult to find practiced in the U.S. Senate, or almost anywhere, these days - but I would hope that it is one that we in this WG can strive to operate by.
In 1981 I was hired as a lobbyist by the Independent Bankers Association, a community bank trade association. In 1985 I joined the American Bankers Association, first as Senior Legislative Counsel in charge of legislative drafting, review, and analysis; and later as a Government Relations Director supervising a half dozen staff and charged with a portfolio that included consumer banking, bankruptcy law, money laundering compliance, wholesale and retail payments systems, and insurance activities. While at ABA I received media training from Roger Ailes (then a media consultant, now head of Fox News) and served as one of the Association's principal media spokespersons, a role that included numerous appearances on national TV programs under sometimes hostile questioning.
Initial Internet Policy Involvement
In the mid-90s, after a decade with the ABA, I began learning about the newly public Internet and came to believe that it would be a lasting and transformative technology, and that existing law and regulation was unlikely to make sense or be enforceable.  I decided that I wanted to be involved with drafting the new "rules of the road" for the Internet. I consequently departed ABA in 1996 and began private practice focused on Internet and technology law and policy.
(Aside: I continued to represent ABA on bankruptcy matters as outside counsel for another decade and a half, and was involved in the development and passage of sweeping 2005 bankruptcy reform legislation. Toward the end of the engagement the role entailed monitoring the arcane but highly relevant implementing activities of the Bankruptcy Rules Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.)
My initial technology related clients included a biometric authentication firm on whose behalf I successfully lobbied for market-determined, technology neutral standards in groundbreaking federal electronic signature legislation. This experience included my first interaction with Verisign, which at the time was known for its encryption technology and not registry activities (being prior to its 2000 acquisition of Network Solutions, and long before its 2010 sale of the authentication business unit to Symantec); it was seeking a legislative outcome that would have only recognized the validity of its version of dual key cryptography. The high point of that e-signature engagement was having our amendment jointly offered on the Senate floor by the very liberal Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and the quite conservative Sen. John Ashcroft (R-OH), demonstrating that technology policy was an area that could (sometimes) transcend traditional partisan differences. A few months later, in a ceremony broadcast live from the Mansfield Room in the U.S. Capitol, my client's technology was used to facilitate the first-ever electronic signing of federal legislation - the Y2K Liability bill, which after being digitally endorsed was, with a mouse click, immediately sent across the Internet to President Bill Clinton in the White House.
During this time I was a very active member of the American Bar Association's new Cyberspace Law Committee, and made several personal connections that led to business engagements. One of them was a young attorney who became General Counsel for the early digital music distribution platform mp3.com, which hired me in 1999 to lobby on its behalf and began my involvement with Internet-related IP policy.
The connections I made through mp3.com led later to a poolside lunch meeting at the Century Plaza Hotel in L.A. with Nickolas Zenstrom and Janis Friis, who had just supervised the code-writing for the Kazaa per-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software (they would later go on to do the same for their next-generation P2P software dubbed Skype). They agreed to hire me to represent them in Washington, and shortly thereafter advised me that the majority of their Kazaa interests had been transferred to the newly established Sharman Networks of Sydney, Australia.   That engagement evolved into an intense multi-year standoff on Capitol Hill between the tech sector and "Hollywood" over copyright law and policy for the digital age.
ICANN Engagement and Activities
In 2005 I was retained by Pool.com of Canada to lobby in tandem with the Coalition For Internet Transparency (CFIT), which opposed Commerce Department approval of the then highly controversial legal settlement between ICANN and Verisign over the .Com Registry Agreement (RA). My law partners and I were able to secure the only Congressional oversight hearing ever held on that matter, in Spring 2006 at the House Small Business Committee. Attending the hearing were several domain investors and their attorneys (at the time I was largely unaware of "domainers"). They explained that they were either unknown to policymakers or were unfairly regarded as cybersquatters, and that they wished to address the situation. After several months of discussion the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) was launched in September 2006 to represent the domain investment and development sector (its tenth anniversary is fast-approaching), and I have served as its Counsel continuously. One of ICA's first acts was to adopt a member Code of Conduct which prohibits such practices as intentional trademark infringement and the furnishing of false WHOIS data.
(Incidentally, the Commerce Department endorsed the .com settlement in late 2006, and the revised .com RA later became the template for the standard new gTLD RA. The registry operator's presumptive right of renewal, which had once been controversial, later became commonplace.)
The first ICANN meeting I ever attended was in Sao Paulo, Brazil in late 2006, where I was thrust onto a panel discussion of "domain tasting" and feigned a detailed knowledge after some very quick briefings. (ICA subsequently supported ICANN policy changes that eliminated abusive domain tasting.) I have attended every ICANN meeting since except for the one held in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2007 ICA applied for admission to the Business Constituency (BC), and was admitted after some very intense scrutiny.
I have participated in a number of PDP WGs in the intervening years, and was an active participant (but not an official constituency representative) in the STI-RT that developed the new gTLD RPMs.
In early 2015 I was elected by the BC to serve out the remaining year of the GNSO Council term of my friend and colleague Gabriela Szlak, who resigned due to a pregnancy that made it impossible for her to participate in 2015 ICANN meetings; she is now reengaged and a valued member of this RPM WG. Late last year my BC colleagues honored me by re-election to a full two-year Council term.
During the second half of 2015 I also served as Acting Chair of the BC, a post that the rest of the Executive Committee requested I assume after the elected Chair resigned due to an employment change. I have also Chaired the BC's Credentials Committee (CC) for several years; the CC reviews new member applications and also conducts inquiries into allegations that a member has violated the BC Charter.
I also Co-Chair the WG on Curative Rights Processes (CRP) for International Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs); my fellow Co-Chair is IPC member Petter Rindforth, who has also joined this WG. After a very fast and efficient start, the CRP WG's efforts have been on hold for some time as we needed to secure funding from ICANN, and then find a suitable legal expert, to prepare a report on the recognized scope of sovereign immunity for IGOs in order to determine whether the UDRP provisions allowing for appeal to a court of mutual jurisdiction clashed with it. That expert report has just been received and we anticipate wrapping up the WG's efforts by summer; in any event, my Co-Chair duties there will not interfere with devoting necessary attention to leadership activities within this WG.
In addition to my ICANN activities, I was accepted for a spot on the Internet Committee of the International Trademark Association (INTA) in 2014 and served through 2015 as a member of its Internet Governance Subcommittee. In that role I contributed to the drafting of several official INTA comments on the IANA transition and ICANN accountability. I have recently been appointed to a second two-year term on the Internet Committee and now serve, quite appropriately, as a member of its Subcommittee on the Future of IP at ICANN and on the Internet.
In the course of my career I have testified before Congress on several occasions. In  May 2015 I was honored to be a witness at a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee regarding "Stakeholder Perspectives on ICANN: The .Sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet's Operation". The hearing video and witness statements are available at https://judiciary.house.gov/hearing/hearing-stakeholder-perspectives-icann/. That testimony, presented on behalf of ICA, contains two Executive Summary bullet points of direct relevance to this WG:

*         ICANN's request that the FTC and OCA determine whether the .Sucks gTLD business model is illegal is an abdication of responsibility rather than its embrace. ICANN had more than a year to explore and take action against the registry under available contract options.

*         The RPMs for new gTLDs are generally working satisfactorily. However, any corrective review of the URS as well of as the UDRP should include the establishment of uniform contracts between ICANN and arbitration providers that contain adequate enforcement mechanisms to ensure uniform administration.

In my full testimony I stated:
What happens with .Sucks is important not just for today but for any future round of new gTLDs. For if its pricing practices pass muster then the precedent has been set, and in the next round we can expect to see applications for .blows, .liar, .criminal, .scum, and a whole host of other pejorative terms with which no person or organization wants to be associated. Legitimate fair use criticism on the Internet does not require the existence of such gTLDs.
Finally, I continue to write on a broad range of Internet policy matters and generally publish at the www.circleid.com<http://www.circleid.com> website. My articles tend to be highly documented, as I generally expect and take it in stride when others disagree with my conclusions, but am upset on those rare occasions when I misstate or omit a relevant fact.
That concludes this relatively brief and highly selective review of my life and career. It's been a long strange trip, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

Philip S. Corwin, Founding Principal
Virtualaw LLC
1155 F Street, NW
Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20004

Twitter: @VlawDC

"Luck is the residue of design" -- Branch Rickey

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