<-- The Filter --> March 2000, 2

March 29, 2000
No. 2.12  .  The Filter  .  3.29.00

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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> Microsoft's Crime—and Punishment?: With reports surfacing that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is delaying his ruling in the Microsoft antitrust case in order to allow the parties more time to reach settlement, new theories are afoot as to likely outcomes. Although sources concur that the Department of Justice has distanced itself from structural remedies such as a company breakup, conduct provisions outlined in Microsoft's eleventh-hour settlement bid reportedly failed to pass muster. In addition, differences in opinion between the Department of Justice and the state plaintiffs over the provisions are further complicating settlement talks. The parties now have until April 6 to forge a mutually acceptable out-of-court settlement.



***EXTRA:What is an appropriate information age definition of monopoly? How should we preserve innovation and free competition on the Internet? Berkman Professor Lawrence Lessig, tapped by Judge Jackson as a "friend of the court" in the Microsoft antitrust case, gives us his answer in "After Microsoft: The Open Source Society," linked below from DISPATCHES.

> ICANN—But Will I?: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) remained stalled at this month's public meetings in Cairo, Egypt on the details of two vexing questions: how to elect its own governing board and how to add new top-level domains to the Internet's existing structure. ICANN has faced persistent challenges to its legitimacy since inception, due in no small part to the fact that its initial governing board was appointed by the late Jon Postel rather than chosen by any electorate. In Cairo, ICANN yielded to pressure from public interest groups and reversed an earlier decision on the voting rights of At-Large members, giving members the right to cast direct votes for the At-Large directors.


Demonstrating anew the special challenges the organization faces as it grapples with technical issues increasingly fraught with political weight, ICANN's Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) working groups reported only minor progress after eight months of work. Declining to wait any longer on the bottom-up process, ICANN directed its Names Council to provide a report by April 20 on the areas where consensus had been achieved so that definitive action might be taken at the next meeting in Yokohama, Japan in July.



The Berkman Center was on hand at the Cairo meetings to facilitate remote participation. Complete multimedia archives—including video files cued by segment, real-time scribe's notes, and comments submitted by remote participants—are available at the below URL:


> A Remedy for Patent Madness?: The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) may revise the process by which it grants Internet-related patents, according to a recent Reuters report. The news comes in the wake of a highly public debate between famed computer book company president Tim O'Reilly and Amazon Corp. CEO Jeff Bezos over the granting of so-called "business methods" patents. O'Reilly gave voice to the concerns of many in the legal and technical communities when he posted an open letter to Bezos in February criticizing Amazon's enforcement of its patents on "1-Click" technology and "Associates Program," arguing that neither one passed "even the most rudimentary tests for novelty and non-obviousness" and further, represented a threat to innovation and free competition on the Internet. Bezos' reply surprised many: despite defending his claim to patents he already owns, Bezos is now advocating a radical revision of the patent-granting process—including cutting the life span for business methods and software patents from seventeen to three to five years.




Click on the link below to read the PTO's official "Business Methods Patents Initiative."


> Politics as Usual Stymie E-Tax Debate: The federal commission charged with developing US policy for taxing Internet sales failed last week to muster the votes necessary to push through a formal recommendation to Congress. Vociferously championed by chairman Governor James Gilmore III (R-VA), the foundered recommendation proposed such controversial measures as permanently banning taxes on Internet access and establishing special tax exemptions for businesses that sell digitally-distributable products like software, books and music. Gilmore was backed by a simple majority of commission members, many of whom are politicians with ironclad anti-tax platforms or representatives from Internet industry companies like Gateway and AOL. Repeatedly voting against the recommendation were National Governors Association head Governor Mike Leavitt (R-UT) and others who argued that its provisions would ultimately weaken state and local economies, draining an estimated $25 billion per year in lost tax revenue. The commission must now submit to Congress a "report" rather than a recommendation on its forthcoming April 21 deadline.




Despite its failure to achieve consensus on tax policy, the commission did manage to agree on the importance of addressing the privacy concerns to which any new electronic tax scheme is likely to give rise. Its recommendation—hearings before Congress—is the latest in a series of recent, hotly debated efforts on Capital Hill to involve government in establishing privacy standards on the Internet.




The Harvard Journal of Law and Technology's annual symposium on April 8 explores the costs and benefits of taxing electronic commerce and features panel discussions on the tax proposals Congress will shortly consider. Follow the link below for details.


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This week we're featuring "After Microsoft: The Open Source Society," a selection of articles in American Prospect magazine that explore the future of the Internet and the importance of openness as a value in shaping it.


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> CLE Offering Examines Domain Name Disputes: Berkman Fellow Diane Cabell is leading a new online series on ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), the first globally enforceable anti-cybersquatting remedy and the Internet's first mandatory deliberation mechanism. The series is designed to introduce practitioners to UDRP rules and explore its impact on trademark and domain name owners. Lecturers include policy drafter Rita Rodin and ICANN counsel Louis Touton. The series is offered for three hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit in selected US jurisdictions at a modest cost. Follow the link below for details.


Interested in learning more about ICANN and dispute resolution? Check out Ms. Cabell's "Domain Names: World Standard Set for Key Internet Disputes," from the Winter 2000 issue of American Bar Association's Dispute Resolution magazine:


> Going Digital—The Future of the Internet in Greater China: The Berkman Center is co-organizing a conference on how the Internet market will evolve in China, taking place on May 6, 2000 at Harvard's JFK School of Government. Industry experts, executives and policymakers from China and the United States will partake in discussions revolving around five major themes: Internet and Society, Commerce, Connectivity, Content and Internet startup opportunities in Greater China. Presenting the conference are the Harvard China Review and the South China Morning Post. More details, including how to register for the event, are available at the below URL.


> The Power of Information—Opportunities and Ethical Dilemmas in the Internet Age: The Third International Harvard Conference on Internet & Society, taking place May 31-June 2, 2000 on the Harvard University campus, is an opportunity for leading scholars, practitioners and futurists to take a far-reaching, interdisciplinary look at how the Internet is impacting society. Conducted in a non-commercial forum, the conference explores pressing issues in the areas of e-commerce, health, ethics, and education. Harvard's 1996 and 1998 Internet & Society conferences attracted participants from all over the world and included leaders from the spheres of business, technology, academia, government and law. Space is limited, so we encourage you to register now. Please join us!


Although we're participating, the Berkman Center is not organizing this year's conference; please call +1 (617) 204-4234 or email "is2k@harvard.edu" with any questions you may have.

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* Technocrat.net


A Slashdot-style magazine and discussion forum focusing on technology policy.

* llibulletin-patent


Cornell University Legal Information Institute's patent bulletin, which provides summaries of important patent appeals decisions.

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"Join us now and share the software;
You'll be free, hackers, you'll be free.

Hoarders may get piles of money,
That is true, hackers, that is true.
But they cannot help their neighbors;
That's not good, hackers, that's not good."

—Excerpt from Free Software movement founder Richard Stallman's "The Free Software Song."


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

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A publication of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School

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Last updated

January 15, 2008