NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 34 March 9, 1998
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


The Internet Is For Everyone
- Sign-on statement supporting free speech principle for the Internet
About NetAction Notes

The Internet Is For Everyone

Do you envision the Internet as an electronic "strip mall," or as a forum in which non-profit organizations and community groups can continue to post web sites? The position of the Clinton Administration and many large corporations is that domain names and other basic elements of Internet operation should be controlled by large private companies.

The "Green Paper" on "Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses," prepared by the White House and Department of Commerce and released in draft form on January 30, 1998, proposes that a private, non-profit corporation have control of crucial technical and policy issues related to the Internet's operation. This framework will work only if this private corporation is guided by the right governing principles -- principles that protect all users of the Internet.

For several months, the Domain Name Rights Coalition (DNRC) and NetAction have urged the White House and Department of Commerce to adopt a governing principle which requires those who will run the Internet to preserve and protect the right of all Internet participants -- small and large, private and public, commercial and noncommercial -- to use domain names. Without such a principle, it will be possible for Pony International to assert that it owns all rights to the word "pony," and for McDonald's to assert that it owns all rights to the word "McDonald's," keeping anyone with the family name of McDonald from ever operating a personal web site. (If you think we are exaggerating, see the DNRC's web site. The DNRC has been fighting this battle for two years.)

Before it is too late, we need your help to change the view of the Clinton Administration and convince decision makers that the Internet belongs to all users -- not just large, powerful corporations. The DNRC and NetAction are seeking support from organizations and individuals in asking the Clinton Administration to add a basic and fundamental principle to the final version of the "Green Paper:"

"Open Communication -- The Internet provides individuals, organizations, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes with a unique ability to communicate with a worldwide audience. Domain names are the identifiers used to designate and locate expression and communication. Domain names may also refer to people, institutions, events, products or services, and be an important part of the message being communicated. The private governance process here established for the Internet, to the extent possible, should preserve access to domain names for all Internet users and protect the use of domain names for all forms of expression and communication."

The longer and more formal statement that the DNRC and NetAction will submit to the White House is included below. Please read the statement and, if you agree, sign on. We need a strong and united voice from the Internet community in order to persuade the Clinton Administration of the need for this principle.

Individuals and representatives of organizations willing to sign in support of the Comments can sign the document on the DNRC web site, or by sending an email message to by Monday, March 16, 1998. Individual signers should include their name, email address, and state of residence (since we may also contact Congress about this issue); representatives of organizations should include their name, title, and email address, along with the name of the organization and the state in which it is located. The URL for the organization's web site may also be included.

Questions about the principle should be directed to Audrie or to the DNRC's General Counsel and Co-Founder, Kathryn A. Kleiman, at .

The Domain Name Rights Coalition, a working groups of the Association for the Creation and Propagation of Internet Policies (A-TCPIP), is the first public interest group to represent individuals, small businesses, and entrepreneurs on domain name and Internet governance issues. The DNRC has represented the public interest on these issues before the White House, the World intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, the U.S. State Department, and other agencies and organizations.

The complete statement that DNRC and NetAction will submit to the Clinton Administration is included below:

The Internet is For Everyone:

A-TCPIP/Domain Name Rights Coalition Calls for the Addition of a Principle to the Green Paper Protecting Free Speech and Open Communication

March 6, 1998

I. A-TCPIP/Domain Name Rights Coalition, Together with the Parties Below, Support the Addition of a Fifth Principle to the Green Paper: A Principle Protecting Open Communication and Free Speech in Internet Governance.

Management of Internet addresses is a technical issue laced with policy considerations. Internet protocol addresses and domain names are the hooks on which all communication over the Internet is hung. It is by our domain name addresses that people, organizations and companies place their speech on the Internet, and by these addresses that others locate that speech to read and use it. An Internet address provides access to ideas, organizations, services and products from email addresses to FTP sites for plain text documents to websites for text, graphics and multimedia. The range of personal, political, academic, medical and commercial communication that this "technical system" has fostered is stunning and astounding.

The laissez-faire policies of the National Science Foundation management of the Internet over many years allowed the Internet to accommodate the broadest range of global open communication, including speech among academics, government employees, students, doctors and researchers. The global flow of ideas led others, including commercial companies, to seek entrance onto the Internet. As we move towards a private governance system for the Internet, there must be room for both newcomers and old-timers, for the commercial and the noncommercial streams of communication. The governance system of the Internet must embody our fundamental value of open communication and free speech.

In the Green Paper, the White House and Department of Commerce set out principles to guide the development of a private Internet governance system. The four principles of the Green Paper are central ones: Stability, Competition, Private and Bottom-up Coordination and Representation. However, the most important principle is missing.

The Domain Name Rights Coalition, NetAction, and Professor Milton L. Mueller, Director of the Graduate Program in Telecommunications and Network Management and author of the Cato Institute paper on Internet Domain Names: Privatization, Competition and Freedom of Expression, together with the organizations and individuals listed below, strongly support the inclusion of an additional principle. To the Green Paper's "Principles For The New System," we urge inclusion of the following language:

Principle 5. Open Communication.

"The Internet provides individuals, organizations, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes with a unique ability to communicate with a worldwide audience. Domain names are the identifiers used to designate and locate expression and communication. Domain names may also refer to people, institutions, events, products or services and be an important part of the message being communicated. The private governance process here established for the Internet, to the extent possible, should preserve access to domain names for all Internet users and protect the use of domain names for all forms of expression and communication."

It requires a potentially dangerous leap of faith for us to entrust governance of a new and growing global communications system to a private corporate entity. It is a leap of faith we are willing to make - provided the governing principles that guide this private corporate entity include the fundamental right to open communication.

II. The Fundamental Right to Open Communication

Open communication is not a U.S. value, but a world value. It is a right found in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Human Rights Convention and the United States' Bill of Rights.

Written in 1948 and celebrating its fiftieth year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopts a right of communication so broad and encompassing that its words might have been written yesterday:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Article 19.

These words, drafted at the United Nations under the chairmanship of Eleanor Roosevelt, are not an abstract ideal, but an international standard "against which the human rights practices of all governments can be measured." President Ronald Reagan, Proclamation of Bill of Rights Day, December 9, 1983.

Similarly, the European Human Rights Convention, written in 1950 and signed by over 21 European countries, establishes a set of "Fundamental Freedoms which are the foundation of justice and peace in the world." Chief among these Freedoms is the right to impart information and ideas. Section I, Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention states:

"1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises."

Therefore, the United States Constitution, and its protection of free speech, is not a departure from freedoms around the world, but an expression of these freedoms for U.S. citizens. The words of the First Amendment are clearly among the most treasured of all paragraphs in U.S. law:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

While each country is under an obligation to protect the speech of its citizens under its own domestic laws, the United Nations documents and other treaties provide us with a mandate to protect information and communication at the highest levels of international Internet governance. This protection directs us to adopt a principle of open communication and free expression, which will include the right to register and use domain names for that speech. The Open Communication Principle we propose will place these protections among the fundamental principles of Internet Governance.

III. Response to Those Who May Oppose A Principle of Open Communication

Some may respond that open communication and free speech are not values shared by the entire world and not values that therefore needs to be incorporated into the basic principles of international Internet Governance.

We believe that this question has already been addressed in another arena. In its "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce," published on July 1, 1997, and available at, the White House advocates the use of the Internet to promote commercial values of competition and consumer choice. This open market approach is adopted for the Internet despite the existence of governments worldwide, which in some cases prefer centralized markets, monopoly businesses and limited consumer choice.

The open market values of the "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce" have been incorporated into the governing principles of the Internet in Principle 2 of the Green Paper with the following language:

2. Competition.

"The Internet succeeds in great measure because it is a decentralized system that encourages innovation and maximizes individual freedom. Where possible, market mechanisms that support competition and consumer choice should drive the technical management of the Internet because they will promote innovation, preserve diversity, and enhance user choice and satisfaction."

If the Green Paper can promote American-style commerce and economics, then it certainly can and should promote the cherished values of open communication and free speech. People, organizations and companies around the world have the right to continue to look to the Internet as a resource for personal and political ideas, commercial goods and services, and a worldwide network of information and resources. Perhaps their governments never intended for individuals, academics, companies, and organizations to have access to the Internet's range of information, but the pace of change and the progress of expression and communication cannot be reversed. The key to that change, and the link to the speech of the Internet, is the domain name.

Further, it is a treasured belief in democratic societies that open commerce and open communication are mutually dependent values. In his well-known work, "Capitalism and Freedom," Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman writes:

"Historical evidence speaks with a single voice on the relation between political freedom and a free market. I know of no example in time or place of a society that has been marked by a large measure of political freedom, and that has not also used something comparable to a free market to organize the bulk of economic activity." Page 9.

The recent collapse of Asian markets seems to bear out Professor Friedman's sage observation.

The foundation of political freedom is free and open expression - combined with the ability of others to find and use that expression. To preserve the Principle of Competition, we also must have a Principle of Open Communication.

IV. Conclusion

Open communication must be a protected value of the Internet and a governing principle guiding the new and private corporate entity, which will undertake governance of the Internet. Open communication and free expression are treasured values of countries worldwide, and protected rights under the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The key to free speech and open communication on the Internet is the domain name. The domain name is the address by which communication is published and found on the Internet.

It must be a guiding principle of the Internet that open communication and domain name addresses be available to all Internet users. We urge the addition to the Green Paper of the principle on Open Communication set out above. We believe that open communication together with open commerce will lead to continued growth, vibrancy and success for the worldwide communications infrastructure we have named The Internet.

(Homepage at
/s/ Kathryn A. Kleiman
Kathryn A. Kleiman, General Counsel and Co-Founder

(Homepage at
/s/ Audrie Krause
Audrie Krause, Executive Director and Founder

(Cato Paper at
/s/ Dr. Milton Mueller
Dr. Milton Mueller
Director, Graduate Program in Telecommunications and Network Management at Syracuse University

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