One (Almost) Happy Multi-stakeholder Family At The Annual Internet Governance Forum24/11/2009 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.If you don’t count China, it was difficult to find people speaking against an extension of the non-decision-making Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of the United Nations at last week’s gathering. An overwhelming majority of the 1,800 participants at the Egyptian tourist destination Sharm El Sheikh seemed to be in favour of the “multi-stakeholder” discussions taking place during the IGF events because they allow for better understanding on overarching issues like human rights and privacy or access problems in developing countries, but also the specialised problems with the internet infrastructure like internationalised domain names and the next generation internet, IPv6. The final decision on the continuation of the IGF after the end of its five-year mandate in 2010 will be taken be the UN General Assembly next year and some say that there have been tangible results since the forum started in 2006. Intellectual property was touched on in several workshops organised by non-governmental groups, for example in what way IP issues should be framed under the human rights regime.IGF, You Did ThisIt is with regard to the hot topic of critical internet resources that the IGF in fact has delivered results, said Rod Beckstrom, the new CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in his first speech at the IGF. The dispute about critical internet resources – domain names, internet protocol addresses, and the system of the root servers of the domain name system (DNS) – was the reason to start the forum in the first place. As UN member states failed to agree on how to internationalise oversight of such resources during the 2003-2005 World Summit of the Information Society, the IGF and a process of enhanced cooperation were agreed to discuss “internet governance.”The IGF has long since outgrown the original core issue. But Beckstrom said it was pressure from the IGF that resulted in the release of ICANN from a US-only oversight model to a more internationalised and multi-stakeholder oversight. “You have delivered,” he said, “some very clear messages to the members of this community over the last three years. You have been heard.” The same was true, according to Beckstrom, with regard to internationalised domain names that were made a big topic at the IGF by ICANN and the Egyptian host by the opening of the application window for non-Latin-based country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs), using a fast-track procedure accepted by the ICANN board earlier this month.But despite Beckstrom’s charm offensive, the request for next steps with regard to internationalisation not only of ICANN the institution, but also the infrastructure part – the domain name system root zone – was made several times during the meeting. While everybody welcomed the recent Affirmation of Commitments between ICANN and the US government, Egyptian Communication Minister Tarek Kamel in his closing remarks to the IGF said: “I sense consensus among our participants for my call to the US administration to start an earlier dialogue in 2010 about the IANA contract before its expiration in October 2011.”IANA is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, with sole responsibility for underlying changes to the global internet. The IANA contract is what knits the root zone oversight to the US Department of Commerce. EU Commissioner Viviane Reding told Intellectual Property Watch: “We will talk about next steps with US representatives while here in Sharm El Sheikh.”Old Power Struggle, New YearThe somewhat hidden power struggle between ICANN and its competitor, the Geneva-based UN International Telecommunication Union, is going to yet another round in the coming year. In Sharm El Sheikh, the ITU proposal to establish a sixth IP address registry was debated in the main infrastructure session and in at least one special session co-organised by the two rivals. The ITU proposal laid on the table at a recent ITU Council meeting, to be further elaborated until the ITU Plenipotentiary meeting next year in Mexico, envisages an alternative IP address allocation channel where governments instead of industry would preside over policies.While representatives of the ITU pointed to requests from developing countries for this channel in order to include developing country viewpoints, Ghana internet pioneer Nii Quaynor said he was happy that developing countries from Africa had their own channel with AfriNic, the IP address registry started several years ago to take bottom-up decisions on allocation policies and also allocate addresses throughout Africa. Beckstrom in the critical infrastructure session stated that he could find nobody who had problems in getting IP addresses.Access, Human Rights, PrivacyIn general, affordable access to the internet in developing countries is one of the major deliverables people hope the IGF might come up with. But progress has been slow. Malcolm Hutty from the London Internet Exchange talking to Intellectual Property Watch said there had been some movement with regard to setting up internet exchanges – facilities that allow local internet service providers (ISPs) to exchange local traffic and hook into internet traffic from the outside. At the time of the first WSIS there were only three exchanges that allow cheaper connections for internet users in African countries; now there are over 30, according to Hutty.Yet Mouhamet Diop, an information and communications technology consultant from Dakar and member of the African Union Commission, said many of the listed exchanges only had very few ISPs connected to them. So far, he said, there are under 10 that are working well. The issue will come up at the African Union meeting in January 2010 , and he said he expects a strong commitment to set up exchanges in every country. A meeting of African communications ministers on 2-5 November made a recommendation in this respect.According to experts in the access session, licensing and taxation regimes in the region are sometimes a barrier to the set-up of the exchanges. Also unresolved is the problem of locked-in countries, countries that do not have access to the many sea-cables now available along much of the African coast.Two of the top issues of the fourth IGF were human rights and privacy. It was “heartening,” said Mogens Schmidt from the UN Economic, Social and Educational Organisation (UNESCO) during the meeting of the Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression, “how many speakers have focused on openness and freedom of expression and universality in the opening sessions.”Even Egypt’s Prime Minister and Communication Minister declared that they support freedom of expression and freedom of access in Egypt. Asked at a press conference about Egypt’s sometimes tough stance towards critical bloggers, Tarek rejected the notion that there is a problem, but local reporters told Intellectual Property Watch that in fact one could write what he wanted, yet he faced the risk to lose his job or even go to jail afterwards.China during the Sharm el Sheikh meeting requested a halt to the handing out of leaflets calling for a free Tibet and also complained about a poster speaking of the “great Chinese firewall” outside of a room that saw a book promotion event of one NGO. The poster removal under the guideline that no posters – neither commercial nor non-commercial – are allowed at the IGF led to a major outcry in the international media. Yet the book promotion for the “Access Denied” took place, and an event on the status of filtering throughout the world also went on without any restriction.Many of the more than 100 workshops at the IGF – so many that some delegations called for a reduction next time – talked about the privacy issue, and several proposals on how to reach a set of common standards were presented. Rebecca McKinnon presented the Global Network Initiative’s approach to benchmark privacy and human rights standards of companies. The benchmarking, according to McKinnon, will help companies to make decisions on how to react when confronted with requests from countries in which they operate that are in conflict with international human rights standards. So far Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have joined the initiative, McKinnon said. The Global Network Initiative is intended to be an alternative approach to legislation.Standards-based approaches to protect privacy against trends of cloud computing and massive data mining and behavioural targeting in cloud computing and social media were also presented by the Council of Europe. Council of Europe experts pointed to an upcoming review of the privacy convention of the Council (Convention 108). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also will start a review of its privacy guidelines that have their thirtieth birthday next year. With regard to privacy, it looks as if there will be an oversupply of standards sets. The Civil Society Global Voice Coalition and international data protection officials recently also passed their respective declarations.In the process of the reviews, both OECD and Council of Europe can be expected to take much more into account what civil society has to say than when the guidelines were first designed. This again underlines that the IGF brought at least one change to the discussion about internet governance problems. The multi-stakeholder principle has been embraced to various degrees by organisations like the OECD and the CoE, according to observers and representatives of the organisations.Lee Hibbard from the CoE said in a personal statement, “without the Internet Governance Forum over the last years, I don’t think that the Council of Europe would have been able to be as reactive in developing many tools and guidelines in the field of human rights, for example, as it has been.“His colleague Michael Remmert said that the Cybercrime Convention, which had been criticised because it was negotiated behind closed doors, today could not be negotiated like it had been. The opening up of some international organisations to multi-stakeholder debate is seen by some as another tangible result of the IGF.On social media, already discussed at last year’s IGF meeting in Hyderabad, India, a new coalition was formed in Sharm El Sheikh to discuss questions of rights and responsibilities in social media. Pavan Duggal, president of Cyber Law Asia, during a session on emerging issues outlined the new coalition’s goal to discuss data protection and privacy, but also ownership, retention and transmission of social media content. So far, there are no common legal answers on these issues and no platform for discussions between legislators, social media platform providers and user groups, making this the topic well placed in the IGF.Intellectual Property: Access is a Human RightSocial media besides child protection and accessibility for people with disabilities were big issues during this IGF. The Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability, for which the ITU and the European Broadcasting Union organised a series of workshops at the Egypt IGF, in their message to the meeting asked for example to develop standards with accessibility for disabled persons in mind.While some of the dynamic coalitions that are seen as the possible source for concrete recommendations were very active the dynamic coalition on access to knowledge did not even meet in Sharm El Sheikh. Several of the IP-related sessions were attended of a dozen people only, a small crowd given that the IGF had 1,800 attendees. British IP law experts Abbe Brown, lecturer in information technology law at the University of Edinburgh, told Intellectual Property Watch the topic of intellectual property nevertheless is a recurring topic, appearing also in panels on “green” IT or social media.A major discussion in the IP session moderated by Brown was a reframing of intellectual property rights as human rights. Lea Shaver, associate research scholar and lecturer in law at Yale Law School, said with regard to existing human rights to development and access to scientific and cultural development, “This might be the entry to a revision of the copyright regime.” Shaver and researchers from Egypt, Brazil and other countries portrayed the existing copyright law as overprotective and detrimental to development, especially in the developing world.While the reframing of the IP discussion might lead to a better balancing of rights especially in developing countries, some experts warned against risks. Nagla Rizk, associate professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, warned that in countries where the discussion about human rights was focussed on freedom of expression and was in danger because of the political system in power “we might be shooting ourselves in the foot.”Tobias Schonwetter, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, said a mere transfer of the IP discussion to the human rights framework might not bring progress. “I see the same discussion we know from IP is just shifted to the human rights sphere. The same arguments were used by copyright owners to say that copyright is a human right and therefore has to be protected while copyright users say that it’s freedom of expression and has therefore to be protected.”Schonwetter also spoke in a joint session of Consumers International and the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge Project (ACA2K) that presented research in several countries about the state of access to knowledge and existing hurdles set by copyright law. ACA2K researchers presented field studies on the status of copyright and patent protection, for example in the host country Egypt.For Consumers International, Jeremy Malcolm presented a project to rate the consumer friendliness of IP and access regimes in various countries. According to a summary by Malcolm in his blog, the “results from the 2009 ‘IP Watch List’ suggest that the biggest problems in copyright law worldwide are the lack of support of any country for non-commercial creativity and sharing. From the consumer survey, it is suggested that consumers would pay for better quality originals of copyright works if they were fairly priced. And the interim results from the national research suggest that consumer-friendly copyright exceptions may increase respect for the law.“ Consumer needs for access so far are not well addressed in legal systems worldwide.The Process is the ProductIs this cacophony of talk at the IGF something that should continue – this has been the question from the outset of the powerless body. Yet governments, industry and civil society applauded the talk forum.Business had been a long-term supporter of the IGF, said Herbert Heitmann, chief communication officer at software company SAP and chair of the Commission for e-Business, IT and Telecommunication of the International Chamber of Commerce. “Our discussions will enable us to take a more informed policy approach to internet governance,” he said. The value of the talk, he added, is “lack of multi-stakeholder involvement has often led to ill-informed decision-making, resistance in society, suspicions among the different players.” Heitmann, talking to Intellectual Property Watch, pointed to the resistance from citizens to developments like gene technology, for example.The IGF has prevented this so far with regard to internet technology and internet governance and therefore should continue, said Heitmann. Heitmann also promised the ICC would care for more participation of Asian, African and representatives of small and medium-sized businesses for the next IGF. IGF Chair Nitin Desai said the very “process was the product” of the IGF.Official delegations from the United States and the European Union and many other countries recommended a continuation without much change to the format. Given the level of support for continuance, the few who recommended consideration of ending the IGF like China were not seen as believing that they will stop it and instead would make proposals for a major change of format.For the EU presidency, Maria Hall from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications said that while having no decision-making powers, the influence of the IGF on European institutions was considerable. Hall praised the IGF as “exactly what we want, a place for civil society, business, the technical community and governments to engage in a dialogue.” Further proof was the start of many regional and local IGFs, said Hall.“If there were no value in this forum by all stakeholders, it would not have spun off the national and regional IGFs,” Hall said during the stock-taking session. Meanwhile, regional IGFs have been undertaken in Europe, East Africa, the United States, Latin America and many individual countries. Bertrand de la Chapelle, special envoy for the information society at French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, told Intellectual Property Watch that he expected the IGF would “live on on some form,” even if the UN decides against a continuation.Messages from the IGF?Several countries, like Brazil, Switzerland and Germany, recommended to allow a more official output document from the IGF that would be available as a reference for all sorts of internet governance questions. “The outputs could point to our guidelines and best practices that, though not mandatory should provide guidance for countries, multilateral organisations and the UN Secretary General on how to promote the cooperation in internet governance key issues,” said Felipe Costi Santarosa, head of the Information Society Division of the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations. Santarosa also requested finding ways to organise higher participation from developing countries.Thomas Schneider from the Swiss Federal Office for Communication also supported “a more tangible outcome, a written outcome,” though negotiations should certainly be avoided. Schneider pointed to the format the European IGF, EuroDIG, had created for this where “a document containing messages” has been produced.The “messages from Geneva” from the EuroDig 2010, he said, did “contain key issues discussed, including recommendations on which there was common ground, but also areas where there were differences of opinion“. Germany’s representative Peter Voss from the Ministry of Economy proposed to have “an IGF database of good practices identified during IGF meetings.” Voss also said remote participation in the meeting had to be further improved.Meanwhile, the message from official China was the most sceptical. Besides questioning the lack of developing country participation in the IGF, China mainly is unhappy with what it sees as a meagre outcome with regard of the internationalisation of critical internet infrastructure, namely the root zone management. “The current IGF cannot solve in substance the issue of unilateral control of the critical internet resources,” said the head of the Chinese delegation Chen Yin.Together with some Arabic country representatives, Yin requested that “the future IGF should focus on how to solve the issue of unilateral control of the critical internet resources” and proceed with the parallel process on “enhanced cooperation,” a process agreed by the WSIS but still not clearly defined.Without reform of the IGF, “it is not necessary to give the IGF a five-year extension,” Yin said. Reform, according to China, should also include the setting-up of a bureau which would mean much more government control than in the current lightweight secretariat that at the same time was welcomed as being responsible for the flexibility and openness of the IGF.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)RelatedMonika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."One (Almost) Happy Multi-stakeholder Family At The Annual Internet Governance Forum" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.