ArtsWatch: Internet Debated In Dubai

International regulatory conference tackles Net proposals, alarming lawmakers and activists

GRAMMY.com
Philip Merrill

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ITU Summit To Produce New Internet Treaty
The International Telecommunications Union's World Conference on International Telecommunications commenced in Dubai on Dec. 3 and is scheduled to have a new Internet treaty drafted and signed by Dec. 14. This will be the first international update to global Net regulations since 1988. Given the Internet's still-burgeoning central role in contemporary society, a broad-based spectrum of strong opinions is deeply engaged. For example, some argue that regulations that could assist criminal copyright enforcement could be misused by repressive governments to invade privacy and stifle free expression. Also, some nations resent the United States' dominant but hands-off approach to Internet governance, largely managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and network operators have proposed requiring popular content providers to pay additional distribution fees for their digital traffic. As could be expected, Google and its evangelizing founder of the Internet Vint Cerf have lobbied public opinion, seeking to define what would constitute undesirable change. As ably summarized by Cnet News, other strong views have included the U.S. Congress, European Parliament, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, the AFL-CIO, and Internet activists such as Public Knowledge. On the more strident side of the Internet activist spectrum, Fight for the Future and the Internet Defense League launched an awareness campaign at InternetCoup.org, inflaming worries that the ITU has struggled to quiet. Attention has also been focused on U.S. Ambassador and delegation head Terry Kramer, whose updates about America's proposals have produced ongoing coverage. On Dec. 5 hackers entered the fray, launching denial of service attacks on ITU websites. Details regarding how these opposing forces will be resolved are still unknown and the intensity of this week's continuing news coverage is likely to continue.

Internet Activists Pressure Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Negotiations
A new round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement took place on Dec. 3 in Auckland, New Zealand, and are scheduled to run through Dec. 12. Public interest groups, Internet activists and other stakeholders assembled from around the world to make the most of a Dec. 7 stakeholder event that allowed them to present their concerns to negotiators, including their dislike of conventionally secret draft proposals. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Knowledge Ecology International and nearly a dozen other groups have complained about being shut out from the regular negotiations and are conducting a Digital Rights Camp to help build and unify their activism. With its focus on the agreement's intellectual property provisions, EFF commented, "Take action now to demand that the U.S. government open up the TPP drafts to the public, and that the government negotiate for your interests, not the entertainment companies."

Critics Of FCC Concerned Over Media Ownership Consolidation
Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and consumer activists Free Press stand out among a growing group of critics concerned that the Federal Communications Commission will loosen restrictions on media ownership and harm media localism and diversity. New FCC data confirmed that ownership by women and minorities remains in the single digits. News that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated proposed draft language for looser regulations among his fellow commissioners sparked distrust and even fear the FCC would authorize new rules in a private vote. On Dec. 3 FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake blogged in defense of his agency's transparency, but Free Press President/CEO Craig Aaron responded, "The FCC should retract this misleading statement. ... The FCC's push for more harmful media consolidation has been anything but transparent." On Dec. 2 former FCC commissioner Michael Copps blogged, "It is time for the FCC to take a deep breath, change direction, and get on with the huge challenge of encouraging a diverse media environment that serves all of our citizens and that nourishes a thriving civic dialogue."

New Zealand Court Awards Kim Dotcom Access To Surveillance Records
On Dec. 6 a New Zealand High Court granted criminal copyright infringement defendant Kim Dotcom discovery of the Government Communications Security Bureau surveillance that formed the basis of the raid on his home and his arrest in January. Improprieties in the bureau's procedures led to a public apology to Dotcom from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in September. The court also awarded Dotcom the right to seek financial damages from GCSB.

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