<-- The Filter --> July 1999

July 20, 1999
No. 2.1  .  The Filter  .  07.20.99

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


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> ICANN—or Can I?: In the wake of accusations by House Commerce Committee chairman Tom Bliley (R-VA) and others that its $1 per-domain funding fee represented an illegal Internet tax, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is now being called in for congressional hearings to determine whether or not it has, in fact, overstepped the bounds of its authority. The initial hearing, subtitled "Is ICANN Out of Control?," suggests the contentious atmosphere in which the corporation's representatives will testify. ICANN has put the $1 fee on hold pending review by a task force of registries and registrars.

The Berkman Center has been deeply involved in domain name system issues over the past year, and Executive Director Jonathan Zittrain will testify at the hearings.




Meanwhile, three renowned cyberlaw professors have joined to create "ICANNWatch," a website designed to help netizens track the corporation's movements. While the site's raison d'etre is to raise awareness about the public's stake in ICANN's decision-making process, its central assertion—that the corporation functions less as a technical coordination body than a governing body—remains hotly-contested.


> The Tax Man Cometh: On the heels of the uproar over ICANN's so-called Internet tax, the UN last week proposed just such a tax to help underdeveloped countries get access to the Internet. Despite the fact that the UN has no authority to levy taxes, the proposal raised hackles in Congress, prompting House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) to write a letter to his fellow congressmen denouncing the plan. The UN has since distanced itself from the proposal.


> A Micro-Soft Spot?: Hackers at the seventh annual DEF CON convention two weeks ago took the US government to task for inadequately protecting its computers. The criticism held extra valence in light of several successful attacks on government websites in recent months, which had resulted in the temporary downing of the White House, Senate and FBI sites. The government was faulted, in particular, for its reliance on Microsoft software despite the fact that a number of the company's programs have been shown to have serious security flaws.


***EXTRA: Filter readers weigh in on a related security issue, below in DISPATCHES.

> A Playmate By Any Other Name...Wouldn't Sell As Many Ads: A US District judge in California last month refused to grant Playboy Enterprises a preliminary injunction against Excite.com and Netscape Communications Corp. for selling banner ads to Playboy competitors whose websites turned up under keyword searches for "playmate" and "playboy." The court ruled that the words were being used generically and not in their trademarked (Playmate(R) and Playboy(R)) format. Neither confusion nor dilution was found to have occurred in this context.


> Don't Blame It On Rio: The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, California recently ruled in favor of the defendant in the closely-watched RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia case, effectively removing digital audio recording devices like Diamond's "Rio" MP3 player from the crosshairs of the recording industry.


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> DOJ Enters the OpenLaw Ring: The Berkman Center's first OpenLaw case, Eldred v. Reno, is entering a new phase. The Department of Justice last month responded to our challenge of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 with a motion for summary judgment. The DOJ contends that the Act's extension of copyright by an additional 20 years is indeed constitutional, and further, that the Constitution permits Congress to extend copyright essentially as it sees fit.

Berkman Center Co-Director Professor Arthur Miller is among the attorneys for amici curiae who submitted a brief in support of the government's motion. Follow the link below to read the full text of government memorandum and the supporting amicus brief, now posted on the Openlaw site:


What is the copyright extension's benefit to an author writing today? Because future income must be discounted to its present value, and these additional royalty payments are more than 50 years in the future, the answer is "not much." See for yourself with the extension value calculator, also available on the Openlaw site:


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This week we're featuring responses to Filter No. 2.0, in which we asked our readers to respond to the following question:

*The Microsoft antitrust trial has got us all thinking about the corporation and its dominance of the software industry; in particular, its monopoly of the OS. A recent security breach left the servers running up to 20 percent of the world's websites vulnerable to hackers. How credible is the argument that real danger lies in allowing Microsoft (or any other single software corporation) the kind of dominance it now enjoys? Does the existence of competing operating systems serve as a de facto protection measure against debilitating security breaches?

For a sampling of the answers, follow the link below:


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"Every time you turn around, it seems there is another agency or bureaucracy looking to get its greedy mitts on the Internet through new taxes."

—Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, on the UN's "greedy" proposal of an Internet tax to help fund access to the network in underdeveloped countries.


"This openness issue is something we must improve. We want to start a dialog on that."

—Leonardo Chiariglione, executive director of the Secure Digital Music Initiative, defending the music industry's decision to develop specs for its answer to MP3 behind closed doors (via Ditherati.com).


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* Probono.net


A novel way for public-interest lawyers to connect with those who need them.

* United States Copyright Office


Everything you need to know about US copyright registration.

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Comments? Questions? Opinions? Submissions? Send a letter to the editor at filter-editor@cyber.law.harvar d.edu

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Last updated

January 15, 2008