<-- The Filter --> July 2000

July 14, 2000
No. 3.4  .  The Filter  .  7.14.00

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


In the News  |  Dispatches  |  Berkman News  |  Bookmarks  |  Quotable  |  Talk Back  |  Subscription Info  |  About Us  |  Not a Copyright

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> ICANN—Protocols as Politics: While much of the speculation surrounding the series of ICANN meetings this week in Yokohama, Japan revolves around which new top-level domains the organization will ultimately add to the Internet's existing structure, the objective at this stage is simply to decide upon principles for adding domains in a "measured and responsible manner." Many Internet stakeholders are nevertheless moving full steam ahead, submitting a variety of proposals for adding new domains that reflect the diverse—and frequently conflicting—interests ICANN represents: e.g. .biz, .gnu, and .kids. Others, including business group LPA, The Public Policy Association of Senior Human Resource Executives, are submitting commentary to persuade ICANN to exclude certain domains—in LPA's case, the "unecessary" .union.




*** EXTRA: The Berkman Center is on hand to facilitate remote participation at the ongoing ICANN meetings in Yokohama. To participate or to access the multimedia archive, follow the link below from DISPATCHES.

> Putting a Lien on Privacy?: When creditors came knocking last month on bankrupt e-tailer ToysMart.com's door, the Massachusetts-based company took steps to sell off one of its sole remaining assets: personal data it collected from consumers under a privacy policy stating that the information would "never" be shared. While the move was a blatant violation of ToysMart's contractual agreement with TRUSTe—a nonprofit organization that places privacy policy seals on websites—the possibility remained that the company would nevertheless be vindicated under state bankruptcy law. Now, however, in response to a complaint by TRUSTe, the Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against ToysMart to prevent the company from selling confidential consumer information. It may also file a notice of appearance and of pending action in the Massachusetts bankruptcy court. "Even failing dot.coms must abide by their promise to protect the privacy rights of their customers," said FTC chair Robert Pitofsky in a press statement. "The FTC seeks to ensure these promises are kept." ToysMart, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, is 60 percent owned by Disney.



On Monday, Representatives Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and William Delahunt (D-Mass) introduced a bill to make illegal the sale, sharing or transfer of information acquired on the Internet with a pledge that it would not be released—legislation that may be difficult to pass. While Congress has acted aggressively to buttress copyright on the Internet, it remains wary of enacting laws to establish an equitable "privacy right" online. In addition, the recent wave of failing dotcoms is likely to spur increased lobbying by creditors concerned that a dotcom's demise could mean extinction of what is often its only asset of significant resale value: the customer database.



As we prepared this issue of The Filter for release, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) also introduced a bill to prohibit the sale of confidential consumer information in cases of bankruptcy or merger: The Privacy Policy Enforcement in Bankruptcy Act of 2000.


> Carnivore Takes a Bite Out of Crime—and the Fourth Amendment: ToysMart (and DoubleClick) notwithstanding, Big Browser is by no means the only threat to privacy online. The ACLU submitted a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging it to bolster existing privacy laws to protect Internet users from potential Big Brother-style privacy invasions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The letter was prompted by news earlier that day that the FBI is using an online surveillance system called Carnivore to carry out what the ACLU characterizes as electronic "dragnets." "It is a system for intercepting huge volumes of email and it's a system that was never contemplated by Congress when it passed the [1986] Electronic Communications Privacy Act," said ACLU associate director Barry Steinhardt. "... Congress needs to put some real limits on what law enforcement can do."


The FBI failed last year to persuade the Internet Engineering Task Force to build support for wiretaps into the Internet's network protocols. Now, some Internet Service Providers—balking at the prospect of FBI Carnivores guzzling their traffic—are pledging not to install the system on their networks.


In late-breaking news Thursday, US Attorney General Janet Reno announced plans to review the Carnivore system "to make sure that we balance the rights of all Americans with the technology of today."


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This week we're featuring multimedia archives of the ongoing ICANN public meetings in Yokohama, Japan. Tune in to the below URL to watch the webcast proceedings, participate online, or access the daily archives:


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> New York DeCSS Case Moves to Trial: In a case that will test of the scope and constitutionality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anticircumvention provisions, Judge Lewis Kaplan will decide in a trial beginning Monday in the Southern District of New York whether 2600 Magazine's posting or linking to DeCSS—a program that descrambles the files on commercial DVDs—violates the Act. The plaintiff movie studios claim that the program illegally circumvents DVD access controls, while the defense challenges the studios' assertion of an absolute right to control the manner in which movies are played, arguing that DeCSS enables fair use of DVD media and facilitates the playing of movies on unsupported operating systems.

Participants in the Berkman Center's Openlaw/DVD forum earlier collaborated on an amicus brief in opposition to the plaintiff movie studios' motion to enjoin defendants from linking to DeCSS. Filed on May 30 in support of 2600 Magazine, the brief argues that the proposed restriction is an impermissible prior restraint on speech. Follow the links below for recent articles on the case and to read the brief:




Join us in the Openlaw/DVD forum for updates on the case and a lively ongoing discussion of the copyright and anticircumvention issues related to DeCSS at the below URL:


> Berkman Center Announces New 'E-Series' on Identity: The Berkman Center invites Filter readers to sign up to participate in "On Identity: Nature and Nurture, Race, Gender and Science," a new online lecture and discussion series examining the concept of identity in contemporary society. Free and open to the public, "On Identity" begins July 20, 2000 and will be led by Sarah Saffian, journalist and author of ITHAKA: A Daughter's Memoir of Being Found. Invited guest speakers include Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption and Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Although the non-credit series is open to all, registration may be limited, so sign up now! For more details, click on the link below.


Note: Please direct questions regarding the series to DL.help@cyber.harvard.edu.

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* Take Action! Register to Vote in ICANN's Elections!


The Center for Democracy & Technology's site to encourage widespread participation in ICANN's upcoming elections.

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"It is branded like a young calf with a unique number [...] This allows the network to get smarter."

—Professor Jonathan Zittrain, a faculty director of the Berkman Center, on the fundamentals of computer identification and Internet user tracking on the Web, to summer school students at Harvard's Institute of Politics.


"As will soon be apparent, Julia does not own or control this site. The content on this site is free from any influence whatsoever from Julia and her lawyers. [...] WIPO ordered that this site be turned over to Ms. Roberts on June 13th. Obviously, a lot of time has passed since then, and I still own and operate this site. What Julia and the illustrious reporters at Time did not know is that any grossly unjust WIPO decision that exploits the poor in favor of the rich and famous can be neutered, simply by paying $150.00 to file a civil action in a U.S. Court of Law.
I so adored you Julia. I wish you would have let me keep my 'Julia as sweet girl next door' daydream. Why couldn't you be a sweet and down to earth country girl like Ashley Judd?"

—Russell Boyd, beleaguered site operator of "www.juliaroberts.com," on the price of justice in cyberspace.


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

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Last updated

January 15, 2008