“Dynamic Coalitions,” The New Sword In Internet Governance Debates 05/11/2006 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 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 World Summit on the Information Society told the world to build “dynamic” coalitions to address problems related to the Internet, and this week, the world responded. At the four-day Internet Governance Forum here ending 2 November, seemingly more than a dozen coalitions emerged on every topic of concern related to the Internet. The informal coalitions are open to any Internet stakeholder and will work on their issues over the next year until the second forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in November 2007. Online collaboration will be assisted by the official Internet Governance Forum website, www.intgovforum.org, according to an official. Many stakeholders at the forum said the event was positive, though some complained about the physical Internet connectivity at the site and neighbouring hotels. Discussions of Internet governance tend to range from whom is doing the governing to what is being done, mainly focusing on continuing problems such as access, security and rights. On the “who,” the primary debate is over the role of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the heir to the Internet’s creators. ICANN insists it is strictly a technical cooperation body for the domain name system, but others see it reaching into policy issues. The international foil to ICANN is the United Nations, mainly through the International Telecommunication Union, which organises the WSIS and forum process. Also on the stage is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, especially on control of unsolicited email, or spam, and the UN Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which asserts itself on the issue of online content, and loosely speaks more for global content users. The UN World Intellectual Property Organization also has a role on intellectual property rights, and could be said to speak more for content owners and creators. As to “what,” it is a reflection of Internet users and profiteers. There are coalitions on everything from privacy to openness, gender, age, language, funding and several on variations of access. The coalition to promote access to knowledge and online free speech said a broad range of companies, civil society organisations and governments had joined together. The group includes IP Justice, Google, Council of Europe, Consumer Project on Technology (CP Tech), Sun Microsystems, Yale Law School Information Society Project, Free Software Foundation Europe, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Franklin Pierce Law School, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the IP Academy of Singapore. Members of the group said at a coalition press briefing that they would try to document how countries have found balances between the free flow of information and protection of rights and security, and would help countries to craft laws. “The focus is on the proper balance of intellectual property rights on the Internet to promote freedom of expression,” said Robin Gross of IP Justice, which has acted as an organizer for the group. “There are a few specific issues that the group will be addressing next year.” These include limitations and exceptions to intellectual property, technological protection measures, third-party liability (related to Google and others), access to online publications such as scientific journals, and how free and open source software helps promote access to knowledge, alternative business models for creating knowledge goods, and cultural diversity and freedom of speech issues “such as takedowns of domain names), according to a draft statement. Andrew McLaughlin of Google said, “We’re not a lobbying group. We’re not necessarily aligned on a lot of issues.” Suzy Struble of Sun Microsystems said she wants the group to look at software patents, best practices and an open format for exchanging electronic documents. Struble gave the example that the European Patent Office has online patent application filings but it is only possible in one format. There also is a separate coalition on open standards and an open document format, with many of the same actors (IPW, Internet and Communications Technology, 1 November 2006). Coalition on Privacy Garners Wide Support The dynamic coalition on privacy said it will address issues of digital identities, the link between privacy and development, and the importance of privacy and anonymity for freedom of expression. The nearly three dozen members so far include Privacy International, the Privacy and Identity Management in Europe project, Association for Progressive Communication, Microsoft, Amnesty International, the French government, the Canadian privacy commissioner, among others. Other forums will target access and participation for disabled Internet users, women and young people. Human rights concerns are infused through different groups. A coalition also formed on developing a framework of principles for Internet governance. There also was discussion about working to merge existing charters and statements on rights and duties related to the Internet into an Internet bill of rights. The forum is a somewhat ambiguous approach, with no clear decision-making capacity though it includes government officials. James Love of CP Tech said the forum “can do some norm-setting, even under the current terms of reference.” Many groups are considering developing recommendations or other outcomes over the year. Love said the dynamic coalition process is not “anything goes” but rather, a different approach to dealing with norms. “It is easier to present proposals, but one has to look toward buy-in among like minded parties, rather than a voting or consensus type outcome,” he said. There are numerous examples of this model outside the forum process, he added. Still, it remains to be seen how well the forum processes will work, he said. “These experiments, the dynamic coalitions on A2K, Internet governance and open standards will be important and difficult tests.” Workshops Address Range of Issues During the week, there were a number of workshops as well, many covering the issues of the coalitions. A workshop on content creation organised by the World Broadcasting Unions reached conclusions such as: free and balanced flow of information and content on the Internet is in the common interest of all people, and local content creation and dissemination cannot exist without freedom of expression. The workshop found barriers to enhancing content creation worldwide, highlighted “citizen journalism,” linguistic diversity, and viable business models for new media as critical. The International Chamber of Commerce called for freedom of expression on the Internet, better cooperation with governments on security, coordinated rollout of internationalised domain names (in non-western tongues), and broader access to the Internet. ICC Secretary General Guy Sebban called the forum “an opportunity to stimulate a more inclusive debate, share information, and foster a wider web of working relationships among business, government, civil society, technical experts and intergovernmental organisations on the information society.” Other workshops addressed building local legal capacity on Internet governance, Internet infrastructure and security, the fight against spam, the use of information technologies to increase transparency, multilingualism, equal access on the Internet, and management of the domain name system (DNS) and root zone file. The DNS workshop included a discussion of an Internet governance proposal aimed at a compromise way forward on US control (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 31 October 2006). A heated political debate broke out in the DNS workshop, perhaps providing a glimpse of what will happen if management of the underlying structure of the Internet is opened up in a political rather than technical way. Right now, the structure remains primarily under US control, which is troubling to many but staunchly defended by the current managers of the Internet. In the workshop, Riaz Tayob of the Third World Network outlined an argument for alternative root systems. But he said developing countries “have been bullied in this matter.” Now they want “legitimacy,” he said, and had been willing to increase their involvement in the Government Advisory Committee of ICANN but were ignored. Tayob criticised US “unilateral” control, and pointed to US government spying on its citizens, and the war in Iraq. Two industry representatives, from Pakistan and India, stood up and shouted him down as he spoke before being restrained by the workshop chair. Iranian and Cuban officials, frustrated with US policies, also took the floor during the plenary session to air criticisms. Meanwhile, after the opening day, US officials were nowhere to be heard at the event. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 "“Dynamic Coalitions,” The New Sword In Internet Governance Debates" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.