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MoU is the acronym for Memorandum of Understanding. It is a legal document of agreement between two or more parties. It is not completely obligatory like a legal contract is, but it is more powerful and legitimate than the earlier "gentleman’s agreement." A Memorandum of Understanding can also be considered a letter of intent, as a letter of intent expresses the interest for performing certain activities, but it does not legally bind any of the party to perform these activities. On an international platform, the MoU comes under a wide range of treaties; international MoUs must legally register with the United Nations. Although an MoU is categorized as a type of treaty, it can sometimes be kept confidential, unlike other treaties.

Features of the MoU

  • Although it is a legal document, an MoU can be formatted without any parliamentary approval. Thus, it can be used to avoid any obligations under the international law.
  • MoUs that are kept confidential cannot be legally enforced by any U.N. organizations or any legitimate dispute resolution organization. It can be understood that these documents are not legally binding and it is a no-obligation document under any international law.
  • An MoU does not require ratification; hence, it can be put into effect more easily and within a deadline.
  • MoUs can be easily altered without prolonged negotiation procedures, as in case of treaties. This feature is useful in multilateral agreements.[1]

MoUs between ICANN and various other organizations

MoU between the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and ICANN

This is also know as the Joint Project Agreement (JPA). This memorandum was formulated on 25th November 1998 with the aim of privatizing the management of Domain Name System (DNS). DOC determined that managing the DNS fell in line with the goals set out by ICANN, according to the policy it had published on 5 June 1998, pledging to perform all functions related to the management and organization of names and addresses on the Internet.

The agreement was aimed to design, develop and test different organizing processes in a way that could be easily modified according to the requirements of rapidly changing internet and its users. It has so far been modified seven times to date, with the first amendment being on 10th November 1999, the sixth on 17th September 2003 and the seventh on 29th September 2006. This agreement was also aimed to encourage private sector management in the area of DNS development, which deals with the global and operational diversity of the Internet's users and their requirements.[2][3]

Other ICANN-related MoUs

Besides the MoU between ICANN and DOC there are many more Memorandum of Understanding ICANN has partnered in, following is the list of some of the MoUs between ICANN and various other organizations: Memorandum of Understanding between ICANN and...

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), dated 10th December 2009.
  • Russian Association of Networks and Services (RANS), dated 25th June 2010.
  • Lomonosov Moscow State University Institute for Information, dated 9th April 2008.
  • Inter-American Telecommunications Commission of the Organization of American States (CITEL)
  • African Telecommunications Union (ATU), dated 14th November 2007.
  • United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), dated 22nd August 2007.
  • Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO)
  • Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA), dated 10th May 2007. [4]

Other Relevant MoUs

gTLD-MoU: ISOC created the IAHC in 1996 to investigate and find a solution for the domain name regulation problems faced by the internet community at the time. The result of this investigation was a report in the form of gTLD-MoU (Generic Top Level Domain Memorandum of Understanding). The report proposed the creation of seven new TLDs to ease the pressure off the current gTLDs, .com, .org, and .net. The seven new domains proposed were: .firm, .store, .web, .arts, .nom, .info and .rec. The committee also proposed the creation of new organizations to regulate the Domain Name System; subsequently, the following organizations were created: The Depository, The Policy Advisory Body (PAB), The Policy Oversight Committee (POC), Council of Registrars (CORE), and Administrative Domain Name Challenge Panels.[5]

CORE-MoU: CORE-MoU is the Memorandum of Understanding for Internet Council of Registrars (CORE). It states the policies and terms to be followed by each CORE member. After an applicant is accepted to be a member of the CORE, the applicant must read the CORE-MoU and abide by the provisions in the MoU.[6]