Peter Dengate Thrush

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Country: New Zealand
LinkedIn: LinkedInIcon.png   Peter Dengate Thrush
ICANNLogo.png Formerly a member
of the ICANN Board

Userboxcards.png Featured in the ICANN 41 - Singapore playing card deck

Userboxcards.png Featured in the ICANN 45 - Toronto playing card deck

Peter Dengate Thrush is a barrister specializing in Internet law, intellectual property, and competition. Mr. Thrush is the former Executive Chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd., which is the parent company of Minds + Machines. He is a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of ICANN, a positon he held from November, 2007 until June, 2011.

He served multiple terms as Chairman and was elected to his last term following the ICANN Annual General Meeting in December, 2010.[1] Mr. Thrush also sat on the ICANN President's Strategy, Board Finance, Board Governance and Executive committees. During his tenure, Thrush oversaw one of the most important changes to the Internet and TLDs by beginning the process of allowing domains to be registered using non latin characters.[2] He also chaired the Board as they debated and eventually approved the mode for introducing new gTLDs, the .xxx debate, and celebrated ICANN's 10th anniversary.[3] His final ICANN meeting as Chairman, ICANN Singapore, was the historic venue for the approval of the new gTLD process.

In addition to his work with ICANN he is also well known for his leadership in the ccTLD, community having been important to the formation of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association and InternetNZ. He is also a past chair of both of these organizations.[4]

Peter Dengate Thrush founded and currently chairs the Liz Dengate Thrush Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to Internet entrepreneurship and education in New Zealand.[5] The foundation was created after a tragic car accident claimed the lives of Peter's father, brother, and wife; he was about to commence work at ICANN's 2006 conference in Morocco when he received the news.[6]

Recent Work

As mentioned, Mr. Thrush was heavily involved in creating and advising new gTLD ventures through his recent work at Minds + Machines; one of the declared projects he was involved in as of January, 2012, is an application for .kiwi. The TLD is an interesting one as it is set up to directly compete with New Zealand's .nz ccTLD, and is arguably a more fun way of identifying with the country. The group he is working with is Dot Kiwi, which is made up of ex-pats living in Canada.[7]

Upon his departure from TLDH, it was announced he would continue to advise some of TLDH's gTLD clients.[8]

Work with ICANN

One of Thrush's earliest contributions was as a member of the Boston Working Group, providing comments on drafts of ICANN bylaws in 1998.[9] In 1999, he was appointed to ICANN's Independent Review Advisory Committee (IRAC), where he worked on establishing principles of independent review for actions taken by ICANN's board. Mr. Thrush also contributed to the development of UDRP through working group participation, and was involved in creating the Intellectual Property Constituency while he was President of the New Zealand chapter of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property .

He was influential in establishing what would become the ccNSO through his work with national and international Internet policy development with New Zealand; he became a board member of that body in December, 2004. The ccNSO subsequently appointed him to the ICANN Board in 2005, he was elected as the Chairman of that board in 2007, and has gone on to be re-elected three times.[10]

Departure from ICANN and Subsequent Controversy

Mr. Dengate Thrush left ICANN in June, 2011, about a month later it was announced that he was joining Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd. as its Executive Chairman. Top Level Domain Holdings Limited is the parent company of Minds + Machines. The move was greeted by both enthusiasm and allegations of misconduct, given the move from approving new gTLDs to effectively selling them. His supporters claim that he will bring a wealth of knowledge to the private sector,[11] while his detractors claim that he compromised ICANN's integrity via a conflict of interest.[12]

Both the U.S. government and the European Commission seemed to take note of Peter Dengate Thrush's move from the ICANN Board to Minds + Machines. In September, 2011 Senator Ron Wyden of the U.S. Government called for greater ethics rules to be written into the IANA contract.[13] The politicalization of the IANA contract is the sole means that the US Government is still able to exert control over the organization, thus, the European Commission called on the US to amend the same type of controls into the contract. Just a few weeks prior to Ron Wyden's call for ethics controls, a leaked paper by the EC shows them taking up the same issue. They suggest creating new rules in the IANA contract that would prevent those that stand to gain from ICANN decisions from working on the board, to create a two year waiting period for any exiting board member wherein employment in the industry would be prohibited, and they also advocated paying the currently voluntary board to further prevent conflicts of interest from developing.[14]

This series of events contributed to a new Conflict of Interest Policy for members of the Board and others, released on December 8th, 2011, and effective immediately. The policy requires disclosure to the Board Governance Committee of any and all potential conflicts of interest, and subsequent abstention from ICANN activities related to the conflict of interest.[15] Board members also may not join business with a new gTLD registry until 12 months after the registry's application has been voted on.[16]

In His Defense

Peter Dengate Thrush defended his move to Minds + Machines in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He denies any impropriety in his actions, and points to his predecessor, Vint Cerf, who took up a job at Verisign following his chairmanship of ICANN. He notes that he had no vested interest in his current employer's interests when he was voting with and leading the board.[17]

Career Highlights


Watch Peter Dengate Thrush, along with other familiar ICANN participants, discuss the Multistakeholder Model. The video was produced with help from Google at ICANN 44 in June, 2012, in Prague. The second video is an interview with Peter at ICANN 52 - Singapore.