<-- The Filter --> December 1999

December 8, 1999

No. 2.6  .  The Filter  .  12.08.99

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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> AT&T's Open Access—Just a Pipe Dream?: AT&T and MindSpring Enterprises' too-good-to-be true deal to share AT&T's high-speed cable Internet wires, announced Monday in a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard, is rousing suspicion among industry experts and consumer advocacy groups who see the move as a possible red herring intended to deflect regulatory scrutiny of AT&T's high-speed rollout and MediaOne merger.



Berkman Center Director Charles Nesson is representing the cities of Cambridge and North Andover, Massachusetts pro bono in their fight against AT&T on the issue of open access. Follow the links below for background articles on the cases and tune in soon to the Berkman Center site for an update on progress.

      http://www.internetnews.com/isp-news/article/0,1087,8_224061,00.htm l

      http://www.internetnews.com/isp-news/article/0,1087,8_231481,00.htm l

> First Atlanta, Now Redmond: The Department of Justice and 19 states filed their proposed conclusions of law on Tuesday, urging Judge Jackson to find Microsoft guilty of violating sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Liberally interspersing their arguments with quotations from Jackson's findings of fact, the plaintiffs argued that Microsoft illegally maintained its monopoly by strengthening barriers to entry, tied its browser to the operating system, entered exclusionary agreements, and attempted to monopolize the browser market. Plaintiffs did not, however, tip their hands as to the remedy they would like to see Jackson impose.



> WTO—A Taxing Situation: Analysts sifting through the rubble of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, Washington are finding it difficult to decipher what real agreements were made among the beleaguered parties involved. One point of clarity, however, is the WTO's decision not to adopt the permanent global moratorium on taxing Internet sales sought by US trade officials. The organization instead agreed to an 18-month to two-year tariff ban, a move US Commerce Secretary William Daley is trumpeting as victory.


Meanwhile, Michigan's recent decision to tax its residents for "remote sales" purchased via the Internet elicited strong negative reactions from anti-tax members of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce (ACEC), the group appointed by Congress last year to develop e-commerce tax policy. One member went so far as to say that the only Michigan residents likely to pay the tax were the "weak and easily intimidated."


The ACEC meets in San Francisco, California next week to formally consider proposals it solicited from the public on the issue. Click on the link below for details on the agenda.


> ICANN Wants You: In a move the media undoubtedly filed under "good news and hence no news," the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) took the under-reported step last week of calling for volunteers to sit on its Membership Implementation Task Force, a new group that will drive the organization's efforts to build and maintain a truly representative global membership. While some see the move as an indication that ICANN is opening its doors to the average netizen, critics argue that any membership the task force builds cannot be "representative" because as presently structured the membership has no defined role in ICANN's policy development nor a direct voice in electing the organization's governing board.



> InterNIC Comes Home: The hard-won agreements between Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), ICANN, and the US Department of Commerce in early November bore new fruit last week when NSI re-launched the InterNIC website as a public service site rather than a private directory. NSI unilaterally redirected the InterNIC directory eight months ago when it began to separate its branded domain name registrar services from its registry activities, moving WHOIS from its long-standing internic.net location to NSI's private networksolutions.com site. The new InterNIC site provides impartial registration information—including a full listing of the ICANN-accredited registrars with which NSI now competes.



> Patent-ly Obvious?: In a closely-watched case, a US District Court judge in Seattle, Washington last month granted Amazon Corp. an injunction barring direct competitor barnesandnoble.com from using the company's patented "1-Click" technology, the feature that allows customers to enter credit card information just once and avoid the need to re-enter it when they revisit the site. Legal experts see the decision as part of a troubling new trend in the courts to affirm broad—and some say unpatentably obvious—business process and technology patent claims. Barnesandnoble.com, which recently rolled out the low-tech, unpatentable business process called "bike messenger service," says it will continue to fight Amazon in the battle over the online ordering process and any future claim the company may make to widely used technology.


> Patent-ly Obvious, Part II: In an echo of the Amazon case, a New Zealand woman filed suit last month against Yahoo! Inc. for infringing on her patent for an online purchasing process. Secured in April through a US-based patent marketing firm, the patent is for a system that allows customers to compare prices for goods and services sold over the Internet, place items bought through different websites in a common virtual shopping cart, and be billed through a single location.


> From the Just Under Our Noses File: One week after a controversial anti-cybersquatting measure was signed into law, Harvard University put up its newly empowered dukes in a fight to defend the integrity of its famous name—under trademark for nearly 173 years. A local man bought 65 Harvard-related domain names with the intention of re-selling them to the university, including "harvard-lawschool.com," for which he asked no less than $10,000. Despite the fact that the new law allows trademark owners to recover substantial monetary damages, Harvard says it isn't after the money—it simply wants the man's "brazen" behavior to stop.


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> Webcast to Feature Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: Filter readers are cordially invited to tune in to this Friday's live webcast of a lecture by US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Entitled "The Work of the Supreme Court," the lecture is the final offering of Berkman Center Co-director Charles Ogletree's distinguished Harvard Law "Saturday School" program.

To view the webcast, go to the below URL shortly before 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday December 10. The Saturday School program will take questions and comments via email during the lecture and respond to them live during the closing question and answer period.


Previous featured speakers have been Judge Nathanial Jones and Don King. View the video archive of the webcast presentations at the below location:


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This week we're featuring a debate between Berkman Professor Lawrence Lessig and Wired's Declan McCullagh on the "regulability" of cyberspace. Captured on audio by PC-radio.com, the debate is available in MP3 format.


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* openNet Coalition


An ISP-backed Internet watchdog group site useful for monitoring developments in the open access debate.

* Y2kculture.com


Home of the Declan McCullagh-moderated mailing list devoted to the politics of technology and the Internet.

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"Comparative famousity—what a concept! Shall we start a list to show how absurd this approach really is? Who gets madonna.[tld]? The Catholic Church or the rock star?"

—Ellen Rony, co-author of The Domain Name Handbook: High Stakes and Strategies in Cyberspace in a recent "Internet & Society '99" course list-serve discussion regarding provisions in the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.


"Number of e-mail messages I needed to change a name server address with Network Solutions: 7

Number of faxes: 2

Number of phone calls: 2

Total number of days before the change was processed: 31"

—Win Treese, in the latest edition of his "Harper's Index"-inspired Internet Index.


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

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Last updated

January 15, 2008