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The UN, copyright extremism and you


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner, Network World
November 01, 2011 09:40 PM ET


In September representatives from India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) got together to talk about the Intern= et. Their conclusion: The 'Net needed help from the United Nations in the areas of developing policies, technical standards, operation, dispute resolution and crises management.


The improbable conclusion that the = U.N. could actually provide any help in any of these areas has been discussed in various Internet-savvy forums and roundly dismissed as a very bad idea. But that did not stop India from formally proposing it to the U.N. on Oct. 26. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is trying its best to come up = with an even worse idea for Internet governance.


Fundamentally, the IBSA proposal is= to take Internet management away from the motley collection of organizations a= nd companies that have made a roaring success of the Internet, which is now us= ed by billions of people and serves as the mechanism supporting trillions of dollars of commerce, and turn it over to the diplomatic core, a group not n= oted for its ability to do anything other than talk and obstruct. Or, to put it another way, the IBSA proposal is based on the premise that the Internet is= too important to leave to those people who know what they are doing. This would= be a good way to ensure that the Internet of the future would not resemble the dynamic and innovative Internet we know today.


Currently the Internet is basically unregulated, from the point of view of traditional telecom regulators. Tech= nical standards for Internet protocols and applications<= /a> largely come from the Internet Engineering = Task Force (IETF), the World Wide Web Consorti= um (W3C) and many private companies. The Internet runs over new as well as traditional telecommunications standards from organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engine= ers (IEEE) and the U.N.-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU).


But there are no meaningful international Internet-specific regulations or policies. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and= the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and N= umbers (ICANN) serve as voluntary multi-stakeholder forums for discussion and coordination of Internet policies and operation, but have little decisional power (on purpose). Both organizations held meetings last month in Africa. =

(See opening remarks from Larry Strickling of the U.S. Department of Commerce for a = good description of the multi-stakeholder concept and Kieren McCarthy's review of the IBSA proposal for more detail on the IBSA prop= osal and its impact.)


Back in the United States, a similar proposal to destroy the future usability of the Internet has been proposed = by some members of the House. The = proposal, with the neat handle of the "E-PARASITE bill," seems to be a conscious effort to take the already awful PROTECT-IP bill and make it wors= e.


This bill removes any remaining pretense that its House supporters consider the interests of the people that voted for them at all relevant to their existence. It also removes any pret= ense of due process from the consideration of copyright on the Internet. I will = not say that it is copyright extremism at its worst, because I expect they will endeavor to make it worse as it proceeds. As you might expect, the Internet technical community thinks these proposals are a very bad idea technically, but the bill's support= ers dismiss information from people who know what they are doing. Copyright is important, but the U.S. Constitution balances copyright interests with thos= e of society -- these bills do not -- the only parasites here are the copyright holders.


Why does this matter to you? The E-PARASITE bill provides your competitor or disgruntled customer endless wa= ys to make your life miserable and even cause your website to disappear altoge= ther without you even being asked for your side of the story. (See http://www.techdirt.com/articles/2011= 1027/00083116531/e-parasites-bill-end-internet-as-we-know-it.shtml for details.)


Extremism seems to be a common appr= oach to the world these days and the Internet is just the latest target, both domestically and internationally.


Disclaimer: Harvard will find out my opinion when it reads it in Network World, and the university played no role in developing this semi-extreme view. =


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