<-- The Filter --> April 2001

April 5, 2001
No. 4.0  .  The Filter  .  04.05.01

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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> Oops, ICANN Did It Again: Controversial since its formation in 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Monday took what is arguably its boldest step to date: approving a contract that allows VeriSign Inc. to retain its .com registry and registrar businesses until the year 2007. VeriSign last year bought Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), which in pre-ICANN days enjoyed an exclusive contract with the US government to operate as both registry and registrar of names in the .com, .net and .org domains. Since ICANN was recognized, NSI (now VeriSign) has been obliged to compete with a number of newly-formed, ICANN-approved registrars. Further, VeriSign's 1999 ICANN agreement called for the separation of its .com registry and registrar businesses, with divestiture of the registrar scheduled for May of this year.

Recent uproar notwithstanding, the VeriSign registry/registrar separation provisions remain in effect. In addition, the VeriSign registrar must still compete with other registrars. Now, however, in exchange for several key concessions including giving up control of .org in 2002 and submitting .net in 2006 for competitive rebidding, VeriSign will (pending approval by the US Department of Commerce) retain ownership of its .com registry and continue as non-exclusive .com registrar for at least another six years.




> Protocol-Squatting?: In related news, the venerable Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) hit a snag last month in its plans for developing a common standard for supporting foreign-language domain names. It turns out that while the IETF was working to craft a standard, a Michigan-based start-up company called Walid secured a patent for "[A] method and system for internationalizing domain names [...] which allows domain names to be entered in any language without having to modify the existing Internet domain name servers." Walid reportedly is claiming licensing fees "based on reciprocity" if the IETF adopts its approach; IETF officials, meanwhile, have asked the company to consider licensing the patent for free.



> Piracy Is As Piracy Does?: What does upstart Napster have in common with buttoned-down Lexis-Nexis? According to a group of freelance writers in a case argued last week before the US Supreme Court, the answer is piracy. In the Lars Ulrich role is Jonathan Tasini, who in 1993 brought suit against several major publishers, including The New York Times, Co. and Reed Elsevier (owner of Lexis-Nexis), after they began to make his work available in online databases—without asking permission or offering additional compensation. "The [Napster] analogy here would be that there is widespread theft going on in the freelance writer world—except the thieves are the very companies that are [ordinarily] arguing for copyright protection," says Tasini. "I find that slightly hypocritical."



Although copyright law presently allows publishers who have already secured rights to an author's work to republish it without permission, the work must appear as part of a "revised version" of the original publication—and there's the rub. While publishers in the Tasini case argue that an electronic database qualifies as a revised version in the same way a library's microfiche copy of a newspaper does, the freelancers contend that it constitutes a new product—and, significantly, generates a new revenue stream.

We'd like to know what you think. The day before the Supreme Court hearing, Berkman Affiliate Christopher Lydon presented "Freelancers and Digital Rights," a webcast discussion of the Tasini case featuring principals Jonathan Tasini, Laurence Tribe, Kenneth Star and others. We invite Filter readers to tune in to the webcast archive accessible via the URL below, then write a letter to the editor at filter-editor@cyber.harvard.edu to share your opinion as to who should prevail in this case. Selected responses will be published in a forthcoming Filter release.


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The Privacy Foundation issued a report last month revealing the kind of customer data TiVo(TM)—an increasingly popular interactive television device—collects to send back to the company for analysis.

This week we're featuring two pieces on so-called spy gadgets by Filter reporter Cedar Pruitt:

"Spy Gadgets—Fast, Cheap and Out of Control," covers Privacy Foundation chief technology officer Richard Smith's talk at this year's Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference:


"Checking In With Richard Smith" is a one-on-one interview with Smith:


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> CORRECTION—"Is ISP Liability a Good Idea?" **April 17**: On April 17 (not April 27 as previously announced), Assaf Hamdani will present "Is ISP Liability A Good Idea?" as part of the Berkman Center's Legal Theory Workshop on Criminal Justice and the Internet. Mr. Hamdani teaches "Law and Social Norms: A New School?," a Harvard Law School seminar introducing students to the controversially-labeled "New Chicago School" scholarship that advocates the study of law and social norms.

Next up? Stephen Heymann of the US Attorney's Office will speak on April 24 on "Emerging Issues in Cybercrime: An Insider's View."


> Registration Opens for Digital Discovery CLE Series: While the digital revolution has enabled us to communicate in a more sophisticated and more efficient manner, it has also—largely inadvertently—caused us to leave behind data trails that more perfectly chronicle what we have thought and done than any other method of preservation/interaction in history. What are the rules for discovery in litigation of document files, email and data files from servers, desktops, Palm Pilots(TM) and back-up tapes?

From April 23-30, the Berkman Center is presenting "Digital Discovery," an online series offered to lawyers for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit that explores the emerging law of discovery in litigation of information stored in digital form. For further details or to register online, please visit the below URL.


> 'E-Commerce: An Introduction'—Free!: In addition to "Digital Discovery," the Berkman Center from April 30-May 11 will present "E-Commerce: An Introduction," a series offered free to the general public. A CLE-accredited version may also be available to lawyers in some jurisdictions on a fee basis.

The series, led by Diane Cabell, a Berkman fellow and supervising attorney of our Clinical Program in Cyberlaw, will examine the major legal steps required to launch an online enterprise.

"We'll be looking at a range of sticky issues that businesses confront when starting an e-commerce venture," says Cabell. "This includes the ins and outs of hosting and development agreements, domain name registration, click wraps, digital signatures, encryption, consumer rights, jurisdiction and online dispute resolution."

For further details or to register online, follow the link below.


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* 04/17/01—Is ISP Liability a Good Idea?

* 04/23/01-04/30/01—Digital Discovery CLE

* 04/26/0—Hiawatha Bray

* 04/30/01-05/11/01—E-Commerce

* 05/10/01—Paulina Borsook

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* Roving Reporter


Section of tech writer Keith Dawson's "Tasty Bits from the Technology Front" that covers the ICANN beat.

* Need to Know


Wickedly funny UK tech news publication; features a "Geek News" section for those who "need to get out less."

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"If you go into public service you better be ready to resign, so you can (eventually) get away from the bad things you'll be associated with.
You always get one free speech: on the day you resign."

—Peter Swire, former Chief Counselor for Privacy in the US Office of Management and Budget, reflecting on career choices at last month's eleventh annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference here in Cambridge.


"The NSI/Verisign negotiators are clearly masters of the art. We ought to ask them to negotiate for the US in the Middle East. If they have the same degree of success that they've had when facing NSF/NTIA/ICANN we can expect Iran and Iraq to not only seek immediate peaceful relations with the west but also to petition for US Statehood."

—ICANN board member Karl Auerbach, self-described ICANN critic and one of three members to vote against the new VeriSign agreement.


"'Kids doing homework'? Get me a barf bag. Hey Larry, how about the freelancers' kids getting some shoes?"

—Tom Mashberg of the Boston Herald, criticizing, via an open letter on Poynter.org, Laurence Tribe's arguments on behalf of the publishers in Tasini v. The New York Times, Co.


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

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Last updated

January 15, 2008