For the past two years, many of us have been working in quite strange conditions. For a lot of that time, our worlds became a lot smaller. We could only see close family and friends and maybe the odd co-worker. But big, in-person, events simply stopped happening. We all ended up living our professional and personal lives via Zoom, Webex, Teams and other teleconferencing tools.
Now two years on things have begun changing back to something vaguely akin to the “before times”. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to concerts with over 10 thousand of my “closest friends”, while our staff have been to a number of events in Ireland and overseas.
Sure, there are some changes. Maybe an event organiser has changed things around a little or maybe they’re doing things a little differently. But for the most part, we are living our lives again.
Will things go back to the way they were before? Who knows. What I do know, however, is that we as humans function a lot better when we’re able to interact with other humans in person. At least some of the time.
Which brings me to ICANN.
For the past 15 or so years, I’ve been attending the ICANN meetings. At least three times a year I’ve jumped on a plane and flown somewhere to spend several days intensively debating internet policy and regulation. Those meetings also were fantastic opportunities to meet up with new and existing clients and suppliers from across the world.
ICANN was welcoming. People from around the world who shared an interest, or even a passion, for the internet, could meet both formally and less formally to have spirited discussions, debates and even heated arguments.
For the past two years, those meetings went “virtual” and it was a very poor replacement. No matter what an event organiser might do it’s nigh on impossible to replicate the entire “in-person” experience.
In June ICANN will be holding its first “in person” event since 2019. I’d been looking forward to attending.
Now I’m just sad.
As I wrote a few days ago ICANN Corporate (ICANN ORG as they like to call themselves) runs the meetings. And of course they need to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. Any business that interacts with other businesses and the public has too. However, the ridiculous waiver that they expect me, my staff and others to sign in order to attend the upcoming meeting is simply too much. And our lawyers agree (PDF). As currently worded they’re expecting us to not only accept the risk of catching Covid, which is an acceptable, but also to waive ICANN’s liability if they infect attendees!
That is nuts! (And bizarrely probably not the most ridiculous part of the agreement!)
They’re asking you to give up rights, that in some cases, you actually can’t even sign away in some European countries.
The agreement (PDF) is too far-reaching. While some might think it’s unenforceable I’m not going to sign onto something that onerous and our legal counsel has advised me not to.
I’ve written (PDF) to the Chairman of ICANN’s Board as well as to ICANN’s CEO and I would hope that they will act to fix this situation. ICANN used to feel welcoming, but when it’s bullying attendees into signing away their rights to attend an event I’m not sure if that’s the kind of welcome I want!