<-- The Filter --> July 1998

July 1, 1998
 No. 1.1  .  The Filter  .  7.30.98

Your regular dose of Internet news and commentary from
the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School


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> When 'Executable' Takes On a Whole New Meaning: A Case Western law professor argues that software—including encryption programs—qualifies as expression and thereby may be protected as free speech under the First Amendment and immune from federal regulation. But is software code simply a tool, instead of a vehicle of expression? That's what the courts will have to decide.

> If It Ain't Pork Shoulder and Ham, It'll Cost Ya: In the first case of its kind, a Washington state man collected $200 from a bulk-email provider which sent him a spam with a forged return address. Washington has a month-old state law against sending spam with any false information included. The case highlights the thin line between free speech and consumer rights in the spam wars.

> He Was Just Reading the Articles: A journalist pleads guilty to child pornography charges, after the judge refuses to allow him to use the First Amendment as a defense. The reporter claims to have been doing research, and plans to appeal. The case could have broad implications for investigative journalism.

> You're Free to Say Whatever We Please: Two bills pending in Congress threaten to weaken civil liberties in a double replay of the the 1996 political struggle over "offensive speech" online. Even the bills' names are foreboding: The Communications Decency Act II and the Internet School Filtering Act, which would block "indecent" or otherwise inappropriate sites on school computers.

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We've been to two of the many recent conferences on the imminent reform of the domain name system. One of our correspondents, Abigail Phillips, attended one of these in Reston, and brought back an eye-witness report of over-caffeinated former nerds trying to agree on who should have power over the DNS. It was a civil time, but clearly each delegate was really just jockeying for position to protect his or her own interests. Read the report:


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      World Intellectual Property Organization

The United Nations Agency charged with tackling issues of intellectual property, and which hosted a conference in Geneva last week "in the spirit of developing consensus among the stakeholders of the Internet, including representatives of the technical, trademark and public interest community."

      International Forum on the White Paper

The organization of "internet stakeholders" which is convening a series of conferences across the globe to discuss the privatization of the domain name system.

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Berkman fellow Brooke Shelby Biggs sits down with new-media attorney Lance Rose to discuss private versus public interest on the Internet. In this case, Rose contends, both the liberals and the libertarians are wrong.

    "'Information Wants to Be Free' is one of Stewart Brand's pithy little aphorisms that seem to say something very profound at first, but end up just causing a lot of confusion and arguments."
    –Lance Rose

      Read the whole interview:

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"While there are a lot of people talking about the intersection between the Internet and democracy, there are not that many writing the code."
—Alex Sheshunoff, founder of E-The People, in Wired


"[T]he primitive Church was a kind of Internet itself, which was one of the reasons it was so difficult for the Roman Empire to combat it. The early Christians understood that what was most important was not to claim physical power in a physical place but to establish a network of believers—to be online."
—French Bishop Jacques Gaillot, in the New Yorker

"For years, free software has been seen as part of the counterculture; a hacker thing. But as is so often the case, the counterculture is really the new mainstream in disguise."
—Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates, in Web Review


"The Net needs balance between public and commercial space, just as in real space we need public schools and parks, libraries and art museums, as well as corporations. Is cyberspace to be a commons or just a mall? Now is the time to build global parks in cyberspace—to open, nurture and maintain vibrant non-commercial spaces where people can freely create, learn, and play."
–Professor Charles Nesson, director of the Berkman Center; at the Second International Harvard Conference on Internet & Society


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January 15, 2008