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    NETmundial Internet Governance Meeting Closes With Less Than “Rough Consensus”

    Published on 25 April 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Russia, Cuba, India and the civil society stakeholder group did not agree to the final outcome document of the NETmundial internet governance meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil yesterday.

    Humbly labelled as the “NETMundial Multistakeholder Statement” of Sao Paulo, the document did not move far enough from the status quo, Niels ten Oever, acting head of the Article 19 group, said presenting the dissenting opinions of civil society groups. Russia, Cuba and India also read their objections into the record of the meeting. But Vinay Kwatra, deputy secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India, added, that he had learned a lot from NETmundial’s process.

    The controversies over how to address surveillance in the first multistakeholder developed Internet Governance Principles text on the global level, the dispute about net neutrality and to some extent also the rift about protection of intermediaries form liability took their toll in the end of the ambitious, two day conference.

    Fundamental Rights Focus – Still Too Weak?

    “We are disappointed because that outcome document fails to adequately reflect a number of our key concerns,” ten Oever said. “The lack of acknowledgement of net neutrality at NETmundial is deeply disappointing. Mass surveillance has not been sufficiently denounced as being inconsistent with human rights and the principle of proportionality. And although the addition of language on Internet intermediary liability is welcomed, the failure of the draft text to ensure due process safeguards could undermine the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.”

    The intermediary liability subject is too much about business and not enough about human rights, said Robin Gross, executive director of IP Justice.

    The draft proposal for protection of intermediaries read: “in order to ensure that these rights (information and access rights) are available in practice, it is essential that internet intermediaries are protected from liability for the actions of their users within the limitations of law.”

    The final version was reworded to say: “Intermediary liability limitations should be implemented in a way that respects and promotes economic growth, innovation, creativity, and free flow of information. I this regard, cooperation among all stakeholders should be encouraged to address and deter illegal activity consistent with fair process.”

    IP Protection Wins, Net Neutrality Loses

    “We are supposed to ‘cooperate’ to protect IPR,” Gross sighed, acknowledging at the same time, that there were some positive points, including the reference to Article 19 free expression of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and “we got some language on democracy.”

    Another big disappointment for civil society, but to some extent also for the Brazilian hosts, was the lack of consensus on net neutrality – regardless of all the applause for the newly passed Marco Civil which includes net neutrality. Together with the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in internet governance, jurisdictional issues and benchmarking systems to check the application of Internet Governance Principles, net neutrality was put on a “non-exhaustive list” of points to discuss further.

    Reconciling Multistakeholder and Multilateral

    The quarrel about the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders in internet governance was one of the most divisive points between governments. Representatives of Russia, China and Saudi Arabia pushed for the acknowledgment of sovereignty and multilateral internet governance solutions, in short, a special role for states.

    One of the goals of the Brazilians had been to reconcile the traditional multilateral and the new, shiny multistakeholder approach.

    Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in her opening speech had already touched on the issue, pointing out, “We see no opposition whatsoever between multilateral and the multistakeholder nature of the internet.”

    The opposite to multilateral “would be a one-sided unilateral internet which is untenable,” she said. At the same time an internet subject to intergovernmental arrangements that would “exclude other sectors of society is not democratic,” she said. The attempt to bring both concepts closer turned out to be one of the overly ambitious goals.

    Russia’s delegation in their objection to the NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement argued that NETmundial itself failed the very transparency and inclusiveness rules postulated by the multistakeholder model, because in the end the High Level Multistakeholder Committee compiled the document weighing what they had got. Russia’s proposals – especially ideas on a UN or International Telecommunication Union mechanism for internet policies – had been neglected.

    Way Forward – Keep Process Innovation

    The process of the 23-24 April meeting was 1.5 days of plenaries on the two major subjects, with the High Level Group going back to make additions, which could be watched at least by those in Sao Paulo.

    The Committee then finalised the text on the final night, and came back to present the text, read out by Jeanette Hofmann (roadmap) and Adam Peake (principles). The readout was applauded, followed by the dissenting opinions. (Peake is a research fellow at the Center for Global Communications [GLOCOM], a research institute in Tokyo, and Hofmann is director of the Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft, Berlin.)

    For most participants, it was the very process at NETmundial that was the genuine added value. Bringing participants in Sao Paulo together with people gathered at 30 hubs all over the world – plus other remote participants – and allowing everybody “equal footing” in contributing to the text allowed a glimpse into what multistakeholder might mean in practical policy making.

    NETmundial Chair Virgilio Almedia said during the closing session, “This meeting is an undeniable proof that inclusiveness has its rewards, resulting in transparent and a democratic spirit towards a common goal.“

    The process had been designed as an open one, acknowledged Jeremy Malcolm, IP law expert and a contributor to internet governance processes for years. Malcolm wrote in his evaluation of the process that NETmundial illustrated “that multi-stakeholder Internet governance remains a work in progress.”

    It was still possible for industry lobbyists to dictate language when the text moved from plenary to smaller drafting groups. “But even then, those groups were exposed to public view, with the drafting process being open to all stakeholders to observe. This lies in stark contrast to the closed process of negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, whose negotiators often claim that text on contentious issues cannot be negotiated in public – a claim that NETmundial now shows to be false.” Malcolm wrote, he hoped the innovative processes would be kept when going forward at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul in September.

    Tangible Outcomes – Funding for IGF

    Discussion over the issues – including the transitioning of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority towards a new oversight arrangement – will go on over the coming months.

    “It remains to be seen if this crucial multistakeholder meeting marks the beginning of a new journey or just another phase in the ongoing World Summit on the Information Society process,“ commented Jovan Kurbalija, director of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP).

    Only time would “show how many ‘followers’ the NETmundial document will attract,” GIP experts wrote in their quick analysis of NETmundial. The biggest achievement for GIP for now was “the clear stand with regard to the continuation of and support for the Internet Governance Forum.”

    That clear stand for IGF already translated into some tangible outcome. The President and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA), Byron Holland, announced that he had gathered a group of stakeholders willing to fund the IGF with no less than US$100,000 annually over the coming years. More funding ideas included: using some parts of the domain name fees to sponsor more participants from poorer regions to the next internet governance event or open source and free software developments.

     

    Monika Ermert may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Civil Society Urges BRICS To Create New Model Of Internet Governance | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      […] in light of the knowledge of high levels of surveillance and lack of rights on the internet (IPW, ITU/ICANN, 25 April […]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

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