WIPO is CyberHQ; Daybreak dawns on IPC McCarthyism

by Judith Oppenheimer

Last fall I published "CyberHQ - THE NEW IMPERIALISM," writing in part:

We now face a coup, 21st century-style imperialism: quite literally, a corporate sponsored government takeover. It turns the cyberspace territory as we've known it, into CyberHQ - cyber corporate headquarters. Attacking on two fronts, the global trademark lobby is bulldozing its supremacy agenda through ICANN, an eager participant, and the U.S. Congress, itself no stranger to "bending over" for corporate cause...

The year is 2002, and the century's first great war is over. The corporate sponsored takeover of Joe Q. Netizen's "unclaimed" territories and trade routes is complete. The dust is settling over a shiny new global corporate-centric, trademark supremacist internet landscape.

Welcome--if you're among the privileged few--to CyberHQ.

Boy, was I wrong. CyberHQ is coming, alright, but its here now!--barely six months into Y2K. Razing past U.S. borders at cyberspeed, the Trademark Lobby is attacking on multiple fronts, packing hurricane force.

Last week the governments of the United States of America, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, and France asked the WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization--Big Business--CyberHQ!, to develop a set of policies aimed at wiping out so-called cybersquatting.

Here it is, folks: government by and for corporate interests (with a surprising WTO twist; read on).

ICANN's UDRP, it seems, is ineffective for non-U.S. companies because it doesn't apply to country domain names under the jurisdiction of local registries--registries, you'll remember, that are reticent to cede to ICANN's leadership or pay its fees.

So the idea is for WIPO to draw up guidelines and policies that governments can adopt in any intellectual property laws they need to update "for the Internet age."

(I can see it now..."We the Trademark Owners of the World," they gleefully draft, "in Order to form a more Privileged Oligarchy, establish Internet Ownership, insure Global Enforcement, provide for the Common Confusion, promote the General Ignorance and Apathy, and secure the Blessings of Regulated Entitlement to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Trademark Owners of World...)

Helping lead the charge: one Dr. Paul Twomey, the Chief Executive Officer of Australia's National Office for the Information Economy, convenor of the landmark international meeting on cybersquatting held in Sydney in February--and chairman of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC).

Twomey, sources tell us, has been doing systematic marketing for GAC as well as ICANN, injecting select documents into many government websites, giving them "legitimacy" in the eyes of Internet users and players from those parts of the world.

Its worth noting that GAC adopted its procedures from the World Trade Organization (WTO).* Many of the protests against the WTO have focused on its procedures, characterized as non-democratic, closed, etc. Therefore, GAC, and certainly ICANN, merit many of the same criticisms as the more publicly berated WTO.

Laying the foundation for WIPO's enforcement against supposed 'cybersquatters': a proposed Hague Convention to determine the rules for collecting private judgments across borders, including those pertaining to trademarks. Note that the U.S. vote *against* language in Article 7 of the proposed convention that would permit consumers to always sue in their country of residence.

The U.S. State Department is instead, in favor of the business proposal that you could be forced to waive that right, as a condition of doing business.

(...chip, chip, chip--can you hear it? That's the persistent sound of your rights wearing away...)

Had enough? Me too, but we're not done...The Intellectual Property Constituency of ICANN (IPC - ICANN's WIPO contingent) last week drafted its response to ICANN's call for comments regarding the introduction of new top-level domains, morphing Sunrise + 20 into "Daybreak."

The basis of Daybreak revolves around regulating entitlement for trademark owners, with policing and enforcement of guilty-until-proven-innocent non-trademark owner domain name activity, at the registrar and registry levels.

Owners of trademarks and service marks would be able to register their precise marks as domain names on a first-come-first-serve basis before the domain is opened to the general public. Additionally, the marks have to be registered in a national trademark office for at least one year -- nice anticompetitive touch there, excluding smaller state, and newer federal trademarks.

And the IPC is demanding, with startling McCarthy-esque fervor, that ICANN not accept registry proposals from any companies with a "known cybersquatter" as an officer!

Domain name owners need a funded politic-savvy constituency in the WIPO, and in ICANN; and a permanent lobby at the State Department and on the Hill.

...the year is 2000, and the century's first great war is in full gear. The corporate sponsored takeover of Joe Q. Netizen's "unclaimed" territories and trade routes is nearing completion. The dust is settling over a shiny new global corporate-centric, trademark supremacist internet landscape.

Welcome--if you're among the privileged few--to CyberHQ.

*See Singapore, March 2, 1999 GAC meeting minutes: "Agenda Item 4 - Draft Operating Principles. The Chair indicated to the GAC that the Draft Operating Principles have been based on the Rules of Procedure for Sessions of the Ministerial Conference and Meetings of the General Council of the World Trade Organisation, and on ..."

June 27, 2000

Judith Oppenheimer is President of ICB Inc., purveyor of accurate 800 & Dot Com News, Intelligence, Analysis, Consulting. http://icbtollfree.com/, http://1800theexpert.com/ Copyright 2000 ICB Inc. All Rights Reserved.