<-- The Filter --> July 2001

July 23, 2001
No. 4.3  .  The Filter  .  07.23.01

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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> US v. Sklyarov—the Real Copyright Violation?: Not long ago, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig was praising Adobe Systems—"maker of many things great"—for using software, not physical copy-protection devices, to control use of its digital materials. This, according to Lessig, meant that the company was rightly rejecting a system of "perfect control" over digital content, instead "designing into its code equivalents to the freedoms that exist in real space." Now, in the wake of the arrest last week of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, Lessig's words have taken on an added layer of meaning. Sklyarov, who developed a program that bypasses the encryption in Adobe's eBook files, was arrested by federal agents—reportedly at Adobe's urging—during a visit to the US to present his work at the Defcon "hacker" convention. He is among the first to be criminally charged under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the distribution of "any technology, product, service, device, component or part" that circumvents a copy-protection mechanism. "If software can't give Adobe perfect control over the use of digital goods, software backed by law evidently can," says Berkman Fellow Wendy Seltzer. "Now the question becomes whether the courts and Congress will reaffirm the public's right to speak freely in, and about, new media."





> Ready, Aim...Process?: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) two weeks ago fired the latest salvo in the increasingly contentious debate over policies and procedures for adding new top-level domains to the Internet's domain name system: it posted a public reply to "alterna-root" service provider New.net's proposal for the introduction of market-based principles into domain name governance. The debate revolves around two central questions: Should there be a single, authoritative root for the domain name system? And if so, who and what should determine which top-level domains will be included in the root? New.net's proposal asserts that the current "legacy, consensus-based" system "inherently cannot serve the diverse and large groups that have varying and even diametrically opposed stakes in how today's Internet is operated." ICANN argues otherwise. "The ICANN process is far from perfect; it is often contentious, sometimes tedious, and frequently tests the patience of all those participating," states the corporation's posting. "ICANN is intended to and does accommodate and attempt to resolve many different viewpoints and perspectives, many of which are in conflict with each other. That is a feature, not a bug."



In related news, Berkman Affiliate Benjamin Edelman published a study last month indicating that the number of unique registrations and active registrations in two alternative top-level domain name spaces—.biz and .web—may be lower than previously supposed. The study is sparking fierce debate among ICANN-watchers, with much of the discussion focusing on the question of whether "size matters" when determining how much weight or credence to give to the interests and viewpoints of a particular constituency.

Below, Berkman Fellow Rebecca Nesson takes the question a step further. Her editorial, ".Biz, .Web and ICANN's 'Open' Process," suggests that Edelman's study may shed light not only on the alternative root debate but also on the ICANN process as a whole.


> If You Can't Beat It, Bypass It: Meanwhile, Representatives John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation before Congress that, if passed, would circumvent the ICANN process entirely. Under the terms of the bill, ICANN would be required by the US Department of Commerce to add .kids to the domain name system; in addition, .kids operators would be required to follow rules designed to ensure that only "kid-friendly" content is allowed in the domain. While Markey aide Colin Crowell praised the bill as a means of promoting the "general public interest," it has met with a cool reception by key Internet standards and governance bodies, including the venerable Internet Society (ISOC). "ISOC strongly urges the US Congress to reject any attempts to micromanage the domain name system," states a recent ISOC press release. "The developing procedures of ICANN to create new top level domains are the best avenue for promoting the fuller development of the Internet domain name system."



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On July 2-6, the Berkman Center conducted the residential segment of our first-ever Internet Law Program of Instruction, which took place here on the Harvard Law School campus. For five days, program chair Professor William Fisher III and four other outstanding educators in the field—professors Yochai Benkler, Lawrence Lessig, Charles Nesson, and Jonathan Zittrain—led participants from 26 nations in a series of thought-provoking lectures and discussions addressing the full range of pressing issues in Internet law and policy. Among the topics explored were the economics of intellectual property on the Net, Internet governance, free speech and privacy online, and cybercrime and jurisdiction.

Filter reporter Cedar Pruitt was on hand to record her observations. For a close-up, in-depth look at ILAW, follow the link below to our Filter exclusive: "ILAW 2001: One Observer's Class Notes."


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> ILAW 2001 in the News: Our inaugural Internet Law Program of Instruction, spearheaded by Berkman Center Faculty Co-Director Professor William Fisher III and expertly helmed by Assistant Director Sylvie Agudelo, was a fresh experience in more ways than one. In addition to featuring a unique mix of online and in-person instruction, the program also provided many opportunities for the ILAW team to experiment with the Berkman Center's growing suite of educational software tools. At ILAW, these tools—many of which were developed by Berkman Affiliate Benjamin Edelman—proved both useful and fun.

Check out the URLs below for TechTV's coverage of the program— featuring an interview with all five faculty members—and the Berkman Center's Classroom and Meeting Tools website, which provides brief overviews of some of the technology used at the program.



> Brrrr...Berkman Center & EFF Collaborate on "Chilling Effects": How often do legal threats silence lawful Internet activity? Cease-and-desist notices can be powerful tools against those who lack the legal know-how and resources to fight back. The Berkman Center has partnered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to create a Chilling Effects Clearinghouse for analysis and response to these legal threats. Through the Chilling Effects website, we will invite Internet users to submit C&D notices they have received (or sent), and will develop a database of analyses of the letters' claims explaining their legal grounding—or lack thereof. The database will also support research into the effect of legal threats to chill lawful activity and, conversely, the extent to which unlawful activity on the Net proves resistant to legal action.

Follow the below URL to view the Berkman Center's prototype Chilling Effects website, now under development.


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* Salon Comics: "This Modern World"


Recent Tom Tomorrow cartoon for Salon, giving his unique take on the cyberlaw issues du jour.

* Trend World Virus Tracking Center


Computer virus-tracking site that features real-time maps, a daily summary report on the most virulent of global viruses, and free anti-virus software tools.

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"The world does not buy what this company says, even if it must buy what it makes."

—Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, on the challenge Microsoft still faces in convincing the public that it is willing to compete on level playing field.


"I can't open your mailbox, but I can sequence your DNA. Is that OK?"

—Stephen Fodor, discussing privacy and technology at a recent New Democrat Network meeting. Fodor is chairman and CEO of Affymetrix, leading maker of DNA-reading computer chips ('biochips').


"Any technical endeavor that ignores social aspects is doomed to failure. It's like making soup without liquid."

—John Oliver, a San Diego-based systems administrator, on the apparent sudden death of the Open Relay Behavior Modification System (ORBS), the famed "black hole" anti-spam organization.

"The Net I knew and loved is dead, killed by uncivilized greedy incompetents who came barging in, without caring that when you barge into a foreign culture it behooves you to learn how they do things. This would not have been a problem, except that they arrived in sufficient numbers to overload the mechanisms that normally would have either brought newcomers up to speed on the culture or rejected them; as a result they killed off the culture we had, the only culture I've ever seen work based on mutual friendship and helpfulness on a large scale." —"Der Mouse," the handle of a Canadian anti-spam activist, mourning ORBS.


"Chinasucks.com is very big right now."

—Dan Parisi, who has managed to retain ownership of many a "sucks.com" site.


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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