12/1/99 -- Comet Systems is the source of the clever little program that lets websites offer you a new look for your cursor, replacing the familiar arrow with cartoons and other trade symbols specific to the websites you view. A one time, ten second download equips your computer to display the image selected by that website, or any participating website you visit later. One big comet customer is Warner Brothers, which pesters you to download the ability to surf the WB site with "cool WB cursors", including popular Warner Brothers cartoons. AP reported yesterday that Comet's software was tracking and recording what web pages the 16 million consumers who had installed the cursor software were viewing. The software, which incorporated a unique identifier number for each computer on which it had been installed, regularly transmitted reports of the websites viewed back to Comet. In response to widespread outrage, Comet posted a defensive statement reaffirming its commitment to privacy and a software patch enabling Comet cursor users to delete their unique identifier numbers. Read AP's followup.
11/30/99 -- The British Broadcasting Corporation, which owns and operates websites at bbc.com and bbc.co.uk, has decided that it caanot live without owning bbc.org as well. It has sent a bigfoot email to Big Blue and Cousins, a Canadian computer users club that has been operating in British Columbia for more than 15 years, and has run a website at bbc.org since 1995. Read Tim Richard's story for the Register.
Thanks again to Prof. Michael Froomkin
11/30/99 --The New York Times CyberTime's Jeri Clausing reports that The Direct Marketing Association has announced that it will expel the Columbia University Graduate School of Business for refusing to comply with the DMA's lax standards for ensuring Web surfers' privacy through industry self-regulation.
9/1/99 -- Volkswagon is a large multinational automobile company. Virtual Works is a small Internet Service Provider in McLean, Virginia. Volkswagon has a website at www.vw.com, having registered the vw.com domain in 1995. Virtual Works has a website at www.vw.net; it registered the vw.net domain in 1996. Volkswagon sent Virtual Works a bigfoot letter last year and asked NSI to transfer the vw.net domain under NSI's domain name dispute policy, on the ground that Volkswagon owned a trademark registration for "VW". Now, Reuters reports that Virtual Works has filed suit against VW and NSI to prevent the suspension or transfer of its domain name.
11/30/99 -- Virtual Works won this round. C|net's Patricia Jacobus reports that the district court has denied Volkswagon's request for a preliminary injunction. In other domain name news, Bloomberg news reports that Barry Diller has collected a default judgment in his suit against Cybermultimedia.com over its registration (and efforts to sell) barrydiller.com. Indeed, cybermultimedia.com seems to have decamped entirely.
11/24/99 -- In a story by Mark Boal, the Village Voice Reports that the FBI took offense at an allegedly subversive web page maintained by the filmmaker "Mike Z", and requested that he take it down. When Mr. Z declined, the FBI didn't bother to get a court order, finding it more expeditious to threaten Mike Z's web host, who agreed to remove the web page immediately.
11/25/99 update -- The Village Voice story inspired a storm of online protests and a slew of mirror sites. The ACLU is said to be looking into bringing a suit on Mike Z's behalf. WIRED's Craig Bicknell posted this story. Copies of Mr. Z's video are here and here. You can find a text transcript of the video here.
11/22/99 -- Arthur Miller is the Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is not, despite appearances to the contrary, a member of the faculty of the Kaplan test preparation company's unaccredited virtual law school at the apparently imaginary Concord University ("The nation's premier online lawschool, with a history of over 60 years of education excellence.") . Miller does, however, teach Concord's Civil Procedure Course, after a fashion. This past summer, he made videotapes of his Civ Pro lectures, and Concord students enrolled in Civ Pro watch these lectures over the Internet. Testing, grading, question answering, and the like are all apparently performed by someone on Concord's regular faculty. The Wall Street Journal reports that Harvard Law School, which has policy prohibiting faculty from teaching at other law schools without decanal permission, has insisted that Miller cut it out. Miller has refused, and accused everyone on his faculty (the real one) of hypocrisy.
11/22/99 -- The FCC, which has steadfastly opposed subjecting cable operators to any obligation to allow their Internet Service Provider competitors access to the broadband cable infrastructure adopted rules on Thursday requiring telephone companies to allow their Internet Service Provider competitors access to the broadband DSL telephone line infrastructure. TechLaw Journal posted a story. Click here to read Professor Jon Weinberg's account of how we got into this pickle.
11/22/99 -- Jeri Clausing has a perceptive article summarizing pending Internet legislation in today's New York Times.
11/21/99 -- On its way out of town, Congress passed the Trademark Cyberpiracy Bill, tucked in among a bunch of other riders to the bloated omnibus budget bill. Read Carolyn Lochhead's story on the cyberpiracy bill for the SF Chronicle. The actual text of the cyberpiracy portion of the bill is identical to the text of S. 1948; Senator Lott inserted a section by section analysis into the Congressional Record here.
11/11/99 -- The L.A. Times reports that it has won the first round of the copyright infringement lawsuit filed last year by the Times, the Washington Post, and other publications against FreeRepublic.com, a conservative webzine that encourages its subscribers to post current news stories and then discuss them. Free Republic had argued that its activites were protected by the copyright fair use privilege. The court disagreed. The Free Republic's posting of the L.A. Times article, and the ensuing subscriber discussion, are HERE.
11/11/99 --ICANN has now posted the agreements among it, NSI and the US Department of Commerce. NSI has temporaily finessed the question of who owns the shared registration system software that permits multiple registrars to register domain names in the .com, .org and .net domains by promising that it will publish the system protocol by year's end, so that it the protocol can be the basis for a standard interface in other domain name registration systems.
Earlier installments in the soap opera are here.
11/9/99 -- Last week, RealNetworks got into trouble when the New York Times reported that its software surreptitiously collected information about users and transmitted it to RealNetwork's server. RealNetwork promised to turn over a new leaf, and TRUSTe decided not to investigate RealNetwork's bad acts, because the secret collection of consumer data did not take place at the RealNetworks web site. (TRUSTe viewed its jurisdiction as limited to website-based violations). All is not, however, forgiven. California lawyer Jeffrey Spencer has filed a $500 million class action suit against the company, claining that its distribution of software that secretly collected and transmitted consumer data violated California state law. Read the story in the New York Times.
11/10/99 -- WIRED News reports that a second class action lawsuit has been filed against RealNetworks, this time in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
11/12/99 -- Make that three. USA Today reports that a second federal class action suit has been filed in Chicago, alleging that RealNetworks violated computer fraud statutes and common law privacy protection. RealNetworks' CEO called all three suits frivolous.
11/5/99 -- Today was Microsoft day. Microsoft didn't do too well. The New York Times has posted a copy of Judge Jackson's findings of fact.
11/5/99 -- The Amazon trademark litigation has settled. Amazon Bookstore, a feminist bookstore that has used the Amazon service mark since 1970, sued behemoth Amazon.com for trademark infringement earlier this year, and the case had been scheduled to go to trial in February. Mercury Center reports that plaintiff agreed to assign its rights to the AMAZON name to Amazon.com, and to always refer to itself in the future as "Amazon Bookstore Cooperative." What Amazon.com had to pay for this resolution has not been disclosed.
I hope it was a lot of money.
11/5/99 -- The National Federation of the Blind has filed suit against America Online for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. NFB complains that AOL's proprietary software is incompatible with programs that convert text to audio or braille. After unsuccessful efforts to persuade AOL to use existing technology to modify its software, NFB filed the lawsuit. Internetnews.com's Patricia Fusco describes AOL's reaction to the lawsuit:
An AOL spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the lawsuit, and that they would make it a priority to make their brand of Internet accessible to the disabled. AOL's next software upgrade will include features that would make it usable for the blind. But the software is not scheduled for release until next year.
11/5/99 -- The Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has affirmed the injunction prohibiting enforcement of New Mexico Sta. Ann. § 30-37- 3.2(A), which sought to criminalize the dissemination by computer of material that is harmful to minors. Meanwhile, CyberTimes's Pamela Mendels reports on the November 4 oral argument before the 3d Circuit in the COPA litigation.
RealNetworks uses GUIDs for statistical purposes and to personalize the services that are offered within our products. We may use GUIDs to understand the interests and needs of our users so that we can offer valuable personalized services such as customized RealPlayer channels.
Update --Everything moves more quickly when it runs on Internet time. By late afternoon of the same day as the Times article, TRUSTe had announced it was investigating whether RealNetworks had breached its privacy contract. RealNetworks, for its part, released a free software patch to disable the data collection and transmission feature, and promised to remove it from future RealNetworks products. Read Leander Kahney's story for WIRED.
Another update -- 11/9/99: TRUSTe has announced that RealNetworks' surreptitious data gathering is outside of the scope of the TRUSTe privacy seal program, because " the transmission of user data through RealNetworks' RealJukebox program did not involve collection of data on the RealNetworks Web site". TRUSTe thus maintains its so-far perfect record: it has never concluded that any acts by any TRUSTe licensee warrant revocation of a site's license to display the TRUSTe privacy seal. Read Chris Oakes story for WIRED.
10/27/99 -- The House has passed its own version of the Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act, which expands significantly on the Senate version. The House Bill covers "famous personal names" as well as trademarks. Trademark owners and famous personal name owners may sue for the bad faith registration of domain names that are confusingly similar to or dilutive of the mark or name. Bad faith is defined more broadly in the House version than it is in the Senate version. The House eliminated a provision passed by the Senate that would have given a wrongfully dispossessed domain name registrant an opportunity to regain the domain name by bringing suit to establish that its registration and use of the domain name was legitimate. In addition, it permits trademark (and famous name) owners to bring in rem suits to force the transfer or cancellation of a domain name by filing an in rem complaint in the registry's or registrar's jurisdiction and sending a copy of the complaint to the postal and email addresses supplied to the registrar by the registrant. (That last seems unlikely to survive constitutional challenge. Unfortunately, the rest of the bill is probably not unconstitutional, merely monumentally stupid.)
10/28/99 -- The World Wide Web Consortium has been at work for several years on P3P, or "Platform for Privacy Preferences." P3P is a technology that will enable individuals to program their browsers to compare the user's individual privacy preferences to the privacy policies of any websites the user visits, and to transmit information only to websites with privacy policies that satisfy the preset preferences. The consortium planned to make P3P available as an open standard. Intermind, one of the companies that collaborated on P3P, however, secured a patent on technology it claimed was essential to P3P, and announced its willingness to license P3P for a substantial annual royalty. The World Wide Web Consortium vowed to contest the patent, and hired a patent lawyer to analyze the potential patent infringement. Today it announced that the patent analysis confirms that P3P does not infringe the Intermind Patent. Intermind, presumably, won't agree.
10/22/99 -- TeacherReview.com, run by students from San Francisco State University and the City College of San Francisco, features unedited, anonymous, student reviews of teachers and courses. Reuters reports that one poorly reviewed teacher has sued the site and City College for libel. According to Professor Curzon Brown's lawyer, anonymous student postings labeled Brown "homomaniac," "racist," "emotionally unbalanced," and "mentally ill." One student claimed that Brown's teaching included "violent mood swings, irrational personal attacks on students, and insane progressions in thought." Brown's lawyer concedes that the students may legally form and express these opinions, but disputes their right to do so anonymously.
10/20/99 -- The Federal Trade Commission has issued final regulations requiring web sites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13. Read CDT's analysis.
10/14/99 -- Breathtaking examples of trademark-owner hubris keep coming down the pike. Attorneys for Don Henley have sent a threatening letter to Don Henley, owner and occupant of an evangelical Christian website at don-henley.com. Whitehouse apple juice has sued whitehouse.com for dilution of its famous WhiteHouse trademark. Now, and arguably most outrageous, is the trademark infringement suit filed by the website WhatsHappenin.com against the website QuePasa.com. Read Chris Oakes's story for WIRED.
Meanwhile, Congress continues to encourage trademark owners to claim extravagant rights in domain name space. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve the Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act, which would for the first time impose statutory damages in trademark cases, if the trademark infringements involve cyberpiracy (defined too broadly for comfort). The bill also includes an expedited "in rem" procedure that allows trademark owners to oust domain name registrants without actually having to haul them into court.
Thanks to Prof. Michael Froomkin for alerting me to the quepasa.com controversy.
10/14/99 -- Somehow, Priceline.com persuaded the PTO to grant it three patents that it says cover the business method of selling products over the Internet by inviting consumers to name their own price, and has been licensing its business model to other online businesses. Recently, Microsoft's online travel business, Expedia.com rolled out a service matching customers to hotel rooms by allowing the customers to name the prices they wanted to pay for the rooms. Priceline has responded by filing a patent infringment suit. Read Miguel Helft's story for the Industry Standard.
10/12/99 -- EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Federal Trade Commission, seeking disclosure of records reflecting privacy complaints and the agency's investigation of them. EPIC suggests that the records will reveal that the agency has failed to take action on many Internet-related privacy complaints. Jeri Clausing has a story on the suit in CyberTimes.
10/11/99 -- This past August, California passed Senate Bill 1016, which would have required employers to notify employees of its workplace privacy and electronic monitoring policies before secretly monitoring employees' personal email or personal computer files. Governor Gray Davis vetoed the bill Sunday night, because it would compromise employers' rights. Read Deborah Kong's report for the San Jose Mercury News.
In an unrelated story, APBnews.com reports that California Software company Disappearing, Inc. has announced the prerelease of software that will encrypt all email messages, keep records of who reads them, and delete them finally and completely from local PCs, mail servers and backup tapes.
10/5/99 -- Cher Castillo, an aide to Rep. Alcee Hastings, apparently wanted her coworkers to know about an exciting new diet pill that helped her friend lose 40 pounds. At least, that's what she wrote in the spam she sent to thousands of her colleagues in the House of Representatives. According to to WIRED's Declan McCullagh, many recipients were so furious that they typed an angry response and then clicked "Reply ALL", sending their complaints to all of the original recipients and crashing the system. When interviewed by McCullagh, at least one irate staffer blamed the system's email software, Microsoft Exchange, which only showed a few dozen recipients in the field rather than several thousand.
10/3/99 -- Last May, the 9th Circuit issued a decision holding government's Export Administration Regulations (which restrict the distribution of encryption software) an unconstitutional prior restraint under the 1st Amendment. Judge Fletcher's majority opinion held:
"We find that the EAR regulations (1) operate as a prepublication licensing scheme that burdens scientific expression, (2) vest boundless discretion in government officials, and (3) lack adequate procedural safeguards. Consequently, we hold that the challenged regulations constitute a prior restraint on speech that offends the First Amendment."
9/28/99 -- The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on Friday that the inclusion of freelance articles in electronic databases without express contractual authority infringed freelance authors' copyrights. Touro Law Center has posted the opinion; it's also available via Findlaw. The New York Times is one of the losing publishers; it has posted a news story here. Lexis-Nexis, one of the losing defendants, has not yet made the decision available on its service. (In fairness, neither has Westlaw. Opinions show up on free web services more quickly these days than they do on either Lexis or Westlaw.)
9/23/99 -- EETimes's Junko Yoshida reports that disputes within the SDMI consortium over the terms of licenses for the screening technology required by the SDMI specs will prevent SDMI compliant devices from hitting stories in time for Christmas. Even more contentious, Yoshida writes, are the terms for the SDMI trademark license and compliance agreement. Record companies are reportedly insisting that device manufacturers make exorbitant antipiracy promises before being permitting to use the SDMI logo.
Earlier MP3 stores are here.
9/23/99 -- When first time author Madelene Sabol wrote a how-to book about Internet dating, she decided to publish it herself, name it "You've Got Male", and sell it from her website, youve-got-male.com. She has sold 300 copies so far. America Online, fresh from its losing lawsuit against AT&T, in which the court ruled that AOL's YOU'VE GOT MAILtm trademark was generic, has insisted that Sabol either change the title or stop selling the book. Read the Reuters news report.
(Interestingly, AOL apparently has not gone after youvegotmale.net (a Michigan online gay community) or youvegotmale.com (a pornographic site). Youvegotmail.org remains available.)
9/23/99 -- The Federal Trade Commission announced that its new Internet Lab had uncovered a pagejacking scheme in which Australian and Portugese proprietors of pornographic web sites made exact copies of millions of web pages (including their imbedded code and metadata) and then inserted redirect commands to send viewers to pornography sites, which incorporated Java routines preventing browsers from backing up or exiting the sites. The scammers then submitted the copied pages to search engines, so that a query would return URL of the copied page as well as the URL of the original page. The Harvard Law Review's web site was one of the unfortunate victims of this scheme. Read Keith Perine's story for the Industry Standard.
9/21/99 -- Judge Jackson heard closing arguments in the Microsoft antitrust case on Tuesday. WIRED's Declan McCullagh filed a report. The government has posted an archive of its filings in the case at the Justice Department's web site; Microsoft has posted its own collection.
9/17/99 -- On Thursday, President Clinton announced that the government was relaxing its crypto export policy, simplifying the licensing and reporting processes, and permitting the export of 56-bit cryptography. Read Jeri Clausing's story for CyberTimes for the congratulatory account, or Declan McCullagh's story for WIRED for the cynical version. Don't know who to believe? CDT has posted the documents along with its analysis.
9/15/99 -- The Senate Judiciary Commitee held a Hearing on "Hate on the Internet" on Tuesday morning, and simul-cyber-cast it from the Committee website. You can read the testimony and look at the pictures of the witnesses. To mark the occasion, Senator Hatch announced that he was reissuing an updated version of the Judiciary Committee staff report Youth, Violence and the Media.
9/16/99 -- In a story by Beth Lipton, c|net reports that Sony Music has added a clause to its recording contract giving it the exclusive right to create, maintain or host any website relating to its recording artists, and to register URLs incorporating the artist's name. Lipton reports that the contract would give Sony control of URLs incorporating the artist's name and webpages that feature her even after the recording relationship terminates. (Seems unlikely, but Sony Music refused to comment.)
9/13/99 -- Doubleclick has announced that the PTO has granted it a patent "for the dynamic delivery of Internet advertising by a third party ad server to a network of Web sites or an individual site." Doubleclick says that it is willing to license the technology for appropriate license fees. Read Chris Oakes story for WIRED.
9/9/99 -- Meanwhile, in Munich, the Bertlesmann Foundation is hosting what it bills as the Internet Content Summit: a meeting of major public and private sector Internet industry players as part of an effort to put in place a "voluntary" system that protects minors from encountering harmful or illegal content on the Internet, relying primarily on industry self-regulation. (Read this and this for cogent analyses of why such a system might be a bad idea.) The summit will feature a memorandum that, Bertlesmann promises, "contains key recommendations for the Internet industry, policy makers, law enforcement authorities and users. These recommendations are based on reports by leading experts from four universities around the world..." To maximize media attention, Bertlesmann has kept the specifics of the memorandum secret, but all of us will be able to download copies of our own on Friday, September 10. Advance reports indicate that the memorandum will recommend a worldwide Internet content rating system, somewhat similar to the MPAA film ratings system. Read Chris Oakes's story for WIRED. The Global Internet Liberty Campaign insists that Bertelsmann is on the wrong track. Read Pamela Mendels's and Carl Kaplan's story for Cybertimes.
9/27/99 -- Harvard Professor Jean Camp attended the Bertlesmann summit, and has posted her account of the conference on Harvard's Kennedy School website.
9/7/99 -- Robert Lane's Blue Oval News posts hot news about the Ford Motor Company, "based on actual internal Ford documentation or information that was obtained from a reliable source." Apparently, Blue Oval really does know whereof it posts; Ford has sued Lane for disclosing its valuable trade secrets. Judge Nancy Edmunds denied Ford's request for a preliminary injunction today. Read Justin Hyde's story for Techweb.
9/7/99 -- USA Today reports that the online auction site eBay has removed listings for two kidneys and three human infants from its site. The kidneys drew bids in excess of five million dollars; the highest bid for the babies was only $107,000. (eBay says that it believes that all five auctions were hoaxes.) Presumably it's only a matter of time before the putative proprietors of the infants realize how much money they could make if they sold the babies for parts.
9/3/99 -- AP's Laurence Arnold reports that the National Fruit Company has taken aggressive action to protect its famous mark White House Apple Juice® from dilution, by sending domain name speculator Dan Parisi, operator of an x-rated site at whitehouse.com a letter demanding that he surrender the whitehouse.com domain name to National Fruit. Parisi has filed a declaratory judgment action against National Fruit, insisting that his site is "one of the largest and most famous Web sites in the world." (He may be right about that; mention of Parisi's site seems to be obligatory in any discussion promoting Internet content filtering software.)
We are committed to protecting your privacy. We use the information we collect on the site to make shopping at Amazon.com possible and to enhance your overall shopping experience. We do not sell, trade, or rent your personal information to others.It also says:
Your consent: By using our Web site, you consent to the collection and use of this information by Amazon.com.
8/27/99 update -- That didn't take very long. Stung by a slew of nasty reports, Amazon.com (which has demonstrated repeatedly that it reads its own press notices) announced an opt-out feature for its purchase circles. Reuters posted a story.
8/23/99 -- Displaying the same sensitivity to personal privacy concerns that it showed in connection with last month's FIDNET debacle, the Clinton Administration has drafted a Cyberspace Electronic Security Act that would give federal law enforcement officials the authority to obtain escrowed encryption keys secretly, or to install devices that enable the government to recover plaintext versions of encrypted communications secretly (entering the suspect's home if necessary) when no encryption keys have been escrowed. Once again, the folks at the Center for Democracy & Technology are on the case, and, once again, the Clinton administration's privacy advisors appear to have been caught off guard by the controversy. Read James Glave's story for WIRED.
8/22/99 -- Amazon.com, which operates virtual bookstores at www.amazon.com, www.amazon.de, and www.amazon.co.uk, announced that it had filed a lawsuit alleging racketeering, extortion, mail and wire fraud, trademark infringement and dilution, and copyright infringement against Greg Lloyd Smith, who operates a website at www.amazon.gr, for a business that calls itself "Greece's Biggest Bookstore". Smith apparently informed Amazon.com of his new website and invited it to invest a million or so dollars in his company. Smith has posted a press release responding to the suit.
9/2/99 update -- C|net reports that Smith continues to operate at www.amazon.gr, but has changed the name of the site to Greekbooksonline.com.
(The litigious Amazon.com is also a defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the Amazon Bookstore, a feminist bookstore in Minneapolis that has been operating under the "Amazon Bookstore" mark since 1970. Read Bob Woods's story for Newsbytes.)
8/21/99 -- In reponse to the success of the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy You've got Mail, AT&T Worldnet added features to its Internet services for the would-be Megs and Toms among its subscribers, and called them things like "You Have Mail" "Buddy List" and "IM" (instant messaging). America Online, which used those very same terms first (and presumably hoped that the film placement would give it a boost among subscribers of a certain age) sued AT&T for trademark infringement. On August 13, US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled that all three claimed trademarks are generic.
8/21/99 -- Nazi hate literature , like Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , is banned in Germany, so German citizens have apparently been buying the book from US E-tailers amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. The Simon Wiesenthal Center knows this because one of its German researchers successfully ordered the books from both websites. It complained to both booksellers and to the German Justice Ministry. The New York Times reports that Amazon.com's response was that it does not offer such books on its German site, but that it doesn't restrict what books non-US residents buy from the US website based on laws in the receiving country. "We are a U.S. store. We view this as though a German was on vacation here and went into a physical bookstore and bought the books." Barnesandnoble.com, though, is owned by Bertelsmann, a German Company, and Reuters reports that Bertlesmann instructed its subsidiary to block sales of Nazi and hate literature to German customers, and to stop selling Mein Kampf entirely from its French or English sites as well as its German one. What Bertelsmann knows and Amazon.com may not is that, last year, a German municipal court prosecuted and convicted the managing director of the German division of Compuserve for disseminating "publications morally harmful to youth" -- that is, permitting US customers of Compuserve USA who were in Germany to gain access to violent online video games Doom and Heretic and to pornographic Usenet news groups, by furnishing those customers a connection from German dial-up modems to the US Compuserve host. (Compuserve.de is also a Bertlesmann company.)
11/4/99 -- ICANN has completed its Los Angeles meeting. Harvard's Berkman Center webcast the meeting, and has posted an archive containing video recordings of the proceedings along with real-time scribe's notes of everything that happened. ICANN formally approved the agreements with NSI and the Commerce Department.
11/4/99--ICANN is scheduled to approve the tentative contracts between it, NSI and the Commerce Department today. Nobody seems to be happy with the contracts, but they object to different things. The Registrars who are supposed to be NSI's competition are especially unhappy with the advantages the deal gives to NSI. Read Jeri Clausing's story for CyberTimes. Keith Perine's article for the Industry Standard reports that if, as expected, ICANN adopts the contracts essentially unchanged, Nameit.net,one of the new registrars, has threatened to file suit.
11/1/99/ -- ICANN is holding its annual meeting in Los Angeles, November 1-4. Those of us who aren't in Los Angeles can listen to and watch the proceedings over the Internet, and even participate remotely, courtesy of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center. You may want to be careful, however, whose computer you use when you peek in or speak up. The Internet transmission uses RealNetwork's RealAudio and RealVideo software.
10/28/99 -- ICANN's supporting organizations have completed their election of ICANN Directors. ICANN has posted biographical information on the new members of the Board. Nine "at large" directors remain to be selected, according to a procedure that is currently undergoing revision. For a taste of the nastiness accompanying that process, check out a few of the comments posted at www.icann.org/comments-mail/comment-bylaws/maillist.html.
10/26/99 -- ICANN has formally adopted its controversial Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. All accredited domain name registrars are now required to incorporate the policy into their domain name registration process. Anyone with rights in a trademark or service mark who alleges that a domain name is confusingly similar to the mark, that the registrant has no legitimate interests in the domain name, and that the domain was registered or is being used in bad faith, may avail itself of a mandatory summary dispute resolution procedure, which may result in cancellation or transfer of a domain name registration. In connection with the adoption, ICANN staff has posted a report explaining why it felt it inappropriate to revise the policy in response to the comments it received urging it to do so.
10/25/99 --Congress included a provision in the conference report accompanying H.R. 2670, the appropriations act covering the Commerce, Justice and State Departments, directing the GAO to prepare a report examining whether the Commerce Department has any legal authority to do what its been doing:
The conferees direct the General Accounting Office to review the relationship between the Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and to issue a report no later than June, 2000. The conferees request that GAO review: (1) the legal basis for the selection of U.S. representatives to ICANN's interim board and for the expenditure of funds by the Department for the costs of U.S. representation and participation in ICANN's proceedings; (2) whether U.S. participation in ICANN proceedings is consistent with U.S. law, including the Administrative Procedures Act; (3) a legal analysis of the Department of Commerce's opinion that OMB Circular A 25 provides ICANN, as a ``project partner'' with the Department of Commerce, authority to impose fees on Internet users for ICANN's operating costs; and (4) whether the Department has the legal authority to transfer control of the authoritative root server to ICANN. In addition, the conferees seek GAO's evaluation and recommendations regarding placing responsibility for U.S. participation in ICANN under the National Institute of Standards and Technology rather than NTIA, and request that GAO review the adequacy of security arrangements under existing Departmental cooperative agreements.
10/19/99 -- The DNSO has elected the first three members of ICANN's Board of Directors: Alejandro Pisanty will serve a three year term. Spanish law professor Amadeu Abril i Abril will serve a two year term. Canadian trademark lawyer Jonathan Cohen, who engaged in vigorous log-rolling and vote-trading in order to ensure his election (at one point suggesting to his supporters among the intellectual property owners community that they call voters and "let them know that I'm not the most "virulent" IP person - apparently this is what they want to hear.") will serve a one year term. CyberTimes's Jeri Clausing reports that members of the House Commerce Committee are expected to make a fuss over the fact that none of the first round of board members is a US citizen.
10/15/99 -- The public comment period on ICANN's controversial Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy is now over, and comments are posted on ICANN's web site. Professor Michael Froomkin's comments are especially worth reading.
10/15/99 -- The terms of last month's deal among NSI, ICANN and the Commerce Department are drawing protests from the registrars who are supposed to compete vigorously with NSI just as soon as NSI lets them. The registrars complain that the provisional agreements give NSI overwhelming additional advantages over its putative competitors. Read Evan Hansen's story for c|net.
10/11/99 -- ICANN has begun the byzantine process of electing its real board of directors. The Domain Name Supporting Organization has posted a list of qualifying nominees for the three DNSO Board positions. Voting has already begun. Jeri Clausing's story for CyberTimes suggests that the process is designed to ensure the election of insiders.
10-12-99 -- ICANN is posting comments on the controversial Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy as it receives them (the comment period expires October 13). The majority of comments posted thus far criticize the policy as slanted in favor of trademark owners, but the International Trademark Association takes a different view. INTA proposes a number of changes to make it easier for trademark owners to capture domain names from registrants. In particular, INTA's comments include a lengthy and impassioned objection to a provision of the policy that would interpret evidence that a domain name registrant had registered his or her own name as a domain name as tending to show that the registration was legitimate.
9/30/99 -- ICANN continues to demonstrate a curious approach to procedural fairness. At the Board's August meeting in Santiago, it adopted a controversial Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy, designed to require the submission of trademark/domain name disputes to mandatory arbitration. The Board accepted a draft of the policy written by NSI and other registrars as a starting point, but instructed the President to appoint a small drafting committee to draft a narrower definition of the disputes subject to mandatory arbitration (limiting it to cases involving cybersquatting), to revise the draft dispute policy, which was tilted in favor of trademark owners, to make it fairer to domain name registrants, and to define and adopt measures designed to minimize reverse domain name hijacking. ICANN staff counsel proceeded to appoint a small drafting committee, but initially kept its existence and its membership secret.
9/29/99 -- The Department of Commerce, ICANN, and NSI have cut a deal. NSI seems to have won this round. It gets to keep control of the .com, .net., and .org registries, and at least temporary control of the root. ICANN, which has insisted against all evidence that it never does anything that doesn't reflect a consensus of the Internet Community, promises to abide by a complicated definition of concensus that will make it more difficult to do anything. In return, NSI promises to let accredited registrars use WHOIS data and to stop making trouble for ICANN. House Commerce Committee Chair Tom Bliley has issued a statement claiming credit for the deal on behalf of his committee. Others are less pleased. Read Brian McWilliam's story for InternetNews.com.
9/27/99 -- NSI has designed a new license plate for the state of Virginia and persuaded the state to adopt it. The plate lauds Virginia as the "Internet C@pital" and features a six character license number followed by a ".com". Vanity plates are available. Read Craig Bicknell's story for WIRED. In accord with NSI's established practice, Virginia will soon announce a new policy to suspend the driving privileges of any driver whose six character license number is identical with a registered trademark.
9/27/99 -- Ralph Nader spoke over the weekend to the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and presented a 13 point proposal for reforming ICANN. Read Jeri Clausing's article for CyberTimes.
9/23/99 -- As ICANN's secret drafting committee struggles to finalize a draft of ICANN's controversial Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy that both "reflect[s] the clarified and revised principles that were approved by the Board in response to public comment" and keeps trademark owners happy, ICANN has posted a draft of the procedural rules that will govern disputes under the policy. The rules allow complaints to be initiated by trademark owners against domain name registrants, but not by domain name registrants against trademark owners engaging in reverse domain name hijacking.
9/21/99 -- ICANN has announced that it has accredited 12 more domain name registers, who can now take their places in the queue of accredited registrars that cannot actually register any domain names until NSI gets around to them.
9/18/99--As disgruntled email about the "secret drafting committee" circled the Net, ICANN realized it had a public relations problem, and emailed a belated announcement identifying the committee's members and promising that its work product would be posted for public comment next week. After complaints started flying about the ability of the announced committee members to represent the interests ICANN had promised to consult, ICANN quietly added two additional members to the secret drafting committee. It has posted a revised announcement and FAQ on its site.
9/12/99 -- ICANN, having resolved last month to appoint a drafting committee to iron out some of the problems in the controversial trademark/domain name dispute policy it adopted, has apparently determined that extreme discretion is the best part of valor. No announcement has been made; and insiders are apparently encouraging interested observers to believe that ICANN has not yet selected members of the committee (and is still trying to ensure that important interests are well-represented). It appears, however, that the committee has already been appointed, has been meeting in secret, and seems ready to cut some ill-advised (and probably unpopular) deals before the identity of committee members is publicly disclosed.
9/10/99 -- The shared registry testbed, in which NSI is supposed to assist a total of 59 new domain name registrars to compete with it in the domain registration business, but doesn't, was initially scheduled to run from April 26 through June 24. NSI has been so effective, however, in dragging its feet, that the testbed has been "extended" three times on the ground that the prospective competitive registrars hadn't yet had much of a chance to register any domain names. The extended testbed was scheduled to expire, finally, on Friday September 10. Ten of the 59 accredited registrars are reported to be doing some business, although it is tough to tell, since NSI's shared registry site carefully avoids mention of who its new competitors might be, and certainly doesn't have any information on which of them are online. (ICANN, for its part, has posted links to all 59 accredited registrars, but the links in many cases don't lead to webpages reflecting the registrars' registration activities.) As expected, the Department of Commerce announced that such great progress has been made during the testbed that it would be extended once again, this time until September 30.
8/26/99 -- ICANN had its first open Board Meeting in Santiago. It made the decisions everyone expected it to make. In particular, it voted to approve the controversial uniform dispute resolution policy for domain name-trademark disputes, with some largely precatory concessions to the nay-sayers. Everyone and her brother will be posting personal observations soon. Harvard's Berkman Center cybercast the meeting live, and has made recordings available on its site. If you lack the patience to tune in to the cybercast, you can instead read the notes of the real time scribe, posted at the Meeting Archive.
8/25/99 -- NSI has sent the House Commerce Committee a not very persuasive justification for its claim to own all registrant data in the WHOIS database. The gist of the argument is that, although the language of the contract between NSF and NSI would seem to provide to the contrary, NSI and NSF entered into the agreement with the expectation that NSI would own any intellectual property generated in the course of the agreement, and the registrant data, although unprotected by any federal intellectual property statute, is the sort of data that would qualify as a trade secret under the law of the state of Virginia (if it were secret). WSU Professor Jon Weinberg, who testified about this mess in a House Oversight Hearing last July, critiqued NSI's legal claim at the House Commerce Committee's request, to devastating effect.
In a story for InternetNews.com, Brian McWilliams reports that NSI has announced a partnership with Doubleclick to enhance the WHOIS database that it says that it owns with targeted banner ads.
8/22/99 -- ICANN has temporarily solved its cash flow problems, by taking out large loans from MCI and Cisco. Read Jeri Clausing's story for CyberTimes. ICANN has also posted the agenda for its August 24-26 board meeting in Santiago. Unlike earlier meetings, the Santiago Board meeting will be open to the public.
8/10/99 -- The last of the original five testbed registrars, AOL, is now online. Five down, 52 more to go. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
8/11/99 -- Make that 59 more to go. ICANN named seven new registrars, all of whom are now eligible to join the testbed queue.
8/6/99 -- To nobody's surprise, the Commerce Department and NSI agreed to yet another extension of the shared registration testbed in which NSI agrees in principle to let other registrars compete with it in the .com, .net and .org registries, but then pulls every trick it can think of to keep its putative competitors from posing any actual competitive threat. This time, the remaining 52 potential domain name registrars that have been accredited by ICANN, and have waited impatiently to join the shared registration system, will be permitted to participate in the testbed, at least in theory. Only 4 of the 5 accredited registrars invited to join the testbed back in April have managed to get up and running. Besides, NSI insists it lacks the resources to add more than a few new registrars each week. The government and NSI have thus far failed to resolve their outstanding disputes. NSI has agreed, temporarily and without prejudice to its outrageous intellectual property claims, to lift the restrictions it had imposed on access to and use of the "whois?" database for the duration of the extended testbed. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
8/5/99 --The negotiations between NSI and NTIA to further extend the registration testbed went on in the shadow of a flurry of Congressional correspondence sparked by last month's hearings. House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley fired off letters to ICANN and to Janet Reno complaining about internal ICANN email indicating that ICANN's general counsel had communicated with the Justice Department about the antitrust investigation of NSI. On August 4, ICANN responded to Chariman Bliley, with a letter that insisted that ICANN was simply exercising its consitutional right to petition the government. Also on August 4, Chairman Bliley sent off another letter, this time to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, inquiring about two June email messages alluding to a promise by the White House to support ICANN's private fundraising efforts. Bliley suggests that such support would have been illegal. Read Maura Ginty's story for Internet.com. Meanwhile, Senators Dewine and Kohl of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee sent off their own letters to NSI, ICANN and NTIA, chiding them for carrying on their feud to the point where it threatened the stability of the Internet. (ICANN will presumably respond that the right to feud is constitutionally secured by the first amendment's freedom of association.)
8/2/99 -- NSI, apparently eager to exploit its monopoly before someone finally loses patience and takes it all away, has been sending unsolicited commercial email -- that is, spam -- to its entire customer list, which is to say the more than 5,000,000 domain name holders in the .com, .net and .org top level domains. This brought it to the attention of the Mail Abuse Prevention System, a volunteer anti-spam group that maintains a "realtime blackhole list", which MAPS describes as "system for creating intentional network outages for the purpose of limiting the transport of known-to-be-unwanted mass e-mail." The RBL is a list of allegedly spam-friendly networks. Internet service providers that want to protect subscribers from spam may, if they want to, refer to the RBL list and block all incoming mail from listed networks. This protects subscribers from receiving spam originating or relayed through those networks, and also prevents them from receiving legitimate email originating from or relayed through listed networks. After repeated unsuccessful requests to NSI to stop spamming domain name holders, Paul Vixie, the founder of MAPS, suggested that perhaps it was time to add Network Solutions to the RBL. NSI has threatened to sue if Vixie should try any such thing. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
7/29/99 --The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property held its own oversight hearing (again pitting NSI against ICANN) to "ensure Network Solutions and ICANN are aware of the Subcommittee's interest in maintaining an accessible, accurate 'Whois' database in order to protect American intellectual property interests." The House Judiciary Committee does not webcast its hearings, but the witnesses' written statements are online. The New York Times's Jeri Clausing reports that the Hearing quickly degenerated into a spirited discussion of the registration of vulgar and obscene domain names. MSNBC's Brock Meeks suggests that the government and NSI are
"headed toward a messy divorce. The custody fight for the „children,š some 5.2 million registered domain names, will likely make the gunfight at the OK Corral look like children playing with pop guns..."
7/28/99 -- The European Union announced that it had stepped up its antitrust investigation of NSI. ( You can read the European Commission press release on the Europa web site by entering the username "guest" and the password "guest".) WIRED posted a Report.
7/28/99 -- After NSI stunned members of the House Commerce Committee by claiming that its cooperative agreement with the government entitled it to claim the "whois" database of .com registrants as its sole intellectual property, it compounded the error by persisting in its plan to make a commercial version of the database available this week; meanwhile, it was denying access to the full database to everyone else. In the wake of the the July 22 oversight hearing, the US Department of Commerce sent a letter to NSI insisting that its claim to own the "whois" database was spurious. The Reuters news report quotes the government's letter: "nothing in the cooperative agreement, nor in existing law gives, NSI the right to restrict access to this information."
7/23/99 -- The ongoing dispute between NSI and ICANN over which one is really the boss of the Internet seems to get a little uglier with each passing day. The House Commerce Committee held a July 22 Hearing titled The domain name system: Is ICANN out of control?
On the eve of the House Hearing, ICANN released a letter to the Commerce Department responding to various criticisms. In response to complaints that ICANN insisted on making its decisions behind closed doors, the letter insisted that there was no global consensus that it should open its Board meetings to the public, that all of its decisions have in fact been made in full view of the public, and that private decisional meetings are indispensable to the Board's decisionmaking process. (Nonetheless, ICANN has agreed to open its next board meeting to the public.) Even more persuasive was ICANN's response to charges that ICANN has been overstepping its authority: the letter suggests that such a thing is simply impossible:
ICANN is nothing more than the reflection of community consensus. It is, of course, theoretically possible that such a consensus could develop around some proposed ICANN position that others would regard as overly regulatory, but the presumption in such a circumstance should be, we would imagine, that the community consensus was by definition not "overly" regulatory.Take that, Chairman Tom Bliley!
At the Hearing itself, NSI's new CEO was eager to demonstrate that NSI could best ICANN in both the hubris and inconsistent pleading departments. Insisting repeatedly that NSI had no monopoly advantage but was merely one player in a fiercely competitive market for domain name registration, Jim Rutt claimed that NSI owned the .com, .org and .net databases, and could take off with them if it chooses. He also suggested that NSI could manage the job of running the domain name system just fine without any interference from either ICANN or the United States Department of Commerce. Read Brock Meeks's story for MSNBC.
For even earlier items, click HERE
There seems to be a new MP3 story every day. The New York Times and WIRED both have continuing coverage.
9/13/99 --Eric Hellweg's article for Business 2.0 evaluates the business prospects for MP3 and SDMI, and concludes that SDMI is unlikely to succeed.
8/4/99 -- The Recording Industry Association of America and Diamond Multimedia have settled their lawsuit over the Rio portable MP3 player. The RIAA filed suit last fall, alleging that the Rio violated the Audio Home Recording Act. Diamond counterclaimed for antitrust and unfair business practices, accusing the RIAA of filing the lawsuit as part of a conspiracy to restrain trade in MP3 players. In June, the 9th Circuit held that the Rio was not subject to the Audio Home Recording Act. Meanwhile, the RIAA and Diamond had collaborated in developing SDMI, a set of specifications for encrypted copy-protected music. SDMI appears to have some potential patent problems (along with some PR problems), but Diamond plans to ship an SDMI-compliant Rio shortly. Read Mo Krochmal's story for Techweb.
To read New Developments from the spring and summer of 1999, click HERE.
WIRED's Courtney MacAvinta has posted a round up of Internet-related legislation passed in 1999.
There are more than 200 bills pending in Congress that make specific reference to the Internet. Here is a sampling:
If you don't have a viewer for PDF files, you can download an Acrobat reader free from Adobe, HERE
Look at the Current New Developments page
Look at the Spring & Summer, 1999 New Developments page
Look at the Fall, 1998 New Developments page
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