Online Content Among Many Issues At Internet Governance Forum 31/10/2006 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By William New ATHENS – The four-day Internet Governance Forum opened on 30 October by addressing many topics, among them the availability of content online. Content on the Internet will be addressed in a variety of ways this week, including ways to boost local content creation in developing countries, ways to protect intellectual property rights, the free flow of information and open standards for information technology. The forum is an outgrowth of the United Nations-led World Summit on the Information Society, organised by the International Telecommunication Union. It is a non-negotiating body, and it remains unclear what its focus will be. David Gross of the US State Department highlighted the need for more local content in developing countries and stressed the need for intellectual property rights protection. Others in the week likely will argue for less content regulation to ensure access. Meanwhile, after the first day, several participants expressed concern that the forum lacked focus. “Today’s conversation didn’t have a lot of structure,” said Vint Cerf, an Internet creator and Google vice president. “Until we have that, we probably will have a lot of trouble making progress.” Cerf described several layers to the Internet, with content near the top. He urged participants not to view Internet governance in an overly abstract way but to focus on specific problems and how to solve them. “The term ‘Internet governance’ is an extremely high level abstraction,” Cerf told Intellectual Property Watch. The discussion about governance “needs to be held at the right level of abstraction to have concrete results,” he said. Looking at the Internet in terms of layers is a “way of creating a taxonomy of players,” he said. There is a physical equipment layer, “link” layer, network layer (involving Internet service providers), transport layer (the user on his computer), and the application layer, such as email or Web servers. Problems with access or criminal activity in a country or region could stem from a variety of sources and require varying approaches and responsible parties. “You really have to parse this carefully to understand who is responsible,” he said. If not, it can become one big “tarball,” he said. Cerf also was placed in the position of defending the ICANN model as a monopoly, which he argued is a necessary structure to prevent disarray in the accessibility of websites worldwide. Others privately have challenged this argument as a “scare tactic.” Milton Mueller, professor at Syracuse University (US) and leader of the Internet Governance Project based there, said if the discussion is an end in itself then the meeting is not worthwhile for the investment in long-distance travel and time. He said the problem is caused by participants such as the US government who “do not want to conclude anything.” Some speakers on the first day said that most governance must be addressed at local and national levels, but most seemed to acknowledge there are some issues that may need to be addressed at the international level. For instance, Cerf and Karen Banks of the Association for Progressive Communications raised jurisdictional issues in cases of copyright infringement on a cross-border website. Cerf also raised the security and consistency of electronic signatures. Others during the day raised spam (unsolicited email) and security. Industry representatives pushed for development to be addressed as they see new markets. Non-governmental groups raised issues but some appeared to focus their attention on the panels planned over the remainder of the forum. UN Versus ICANN? An underlying theme to the event is the ongoing power struggle over which body should take the lead on Internet governance. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet technical oversight body, has a range of stakeholders but is seen as heavy on industry representation and too closely tied to the US government. “We’re trying to be a multistakeholder organisation rather than a governmental organisation, and we think we’ve done that,” said Cerf, who is ICANN board chair. But the ITU, which is driving the Internet Governance Forum process, also appears to have a stake, as do potentially other organisations with particular expertise. ITU Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi on 30 October urged participants to question the existing Internet structure. He said the Internet community is split between those who think the current system is working well and those who want change. He said the assertion that there are no problems is false. William New may be reached at email@example.com. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "Online Content Among Many Issues At Internet Governance Forum" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.