Cyber Ramblings - Sep 11, 2001

11 September 2001
New TLDs Passed by ICANN

The organization that oversees Internet addresses cleared the way Monday for top-level domain names ending in ".museum," ".coop," and ".aero," but postponed action on ".pro."

Contracts for ".biz,'' ".info'' and ".name'' were approved earlier by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit organization selected by the U.S. government to handle Internet address policies.

As ICANN concluded four days of quarterly meetings, its board authorized its staff to finalize contracts to run suffixes for museums, business cooperatives and the aviation industry.

But with .pro, the suffix for professionals, ICANN officials said a final agreement was delayed by disagreements between companies in the joint venture that plans to run .pro.

ICANN general counsel Louis Touton would not give details other than to say the dispute has been resolved.

The ICANN board set a deadline of mid-November, when it next meets, for staff to complete an agreement with RegistryPro Ltd. Board approval could come then. The delay likely means .pro names won't be usable until next year.

Future Control of Internet Debated at Meeting

Even though ICANN was busy doling out new TLDs at its quarterly meeting, a heated debate about the role and influence of the general Internet community took center stage.

Heated discussions raised questions about whether private business interests take precedence over the average Internet user's concerns. Critics also complained of a proposal to let only domain name owners vote for the group's officers.

ICANN was selected in 1998 to oversee Internet addressing policies as part of the U.S. government's efforts to give those responsibilities to the private sector. ICANN's decisions ultimately affect how Internet users reach Web sites and send e-mail.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, chairman of a committee studying the issue, acknowledged that some Internet users may not be able to afford the chance to participate. But he dismissed the world's wealth disparities as something beyond the scope of the study committee.

ICANN Rules Organization Domain Name Not Limited to Charities

A task force established by the organization that oversees Internet addresses said Saturday that the group has no plans to restrict the use of the suffix .org to nonprofit groups.

ICANN had indicated in the spring that .org might eventually be limited to nonprofits, sparking fears among other users that they might be forced to abandon the suffix.

But a task force convened by ICANN concluded that .org serves a role well beyond noncommercial organizations.

While the task force determined that marketing of the .org suffix should be targeted at nonprofits, others wishing to use .org will not be turned away.

Searching for Bobby Fischer Turns to the Net

A British chess grandmaster is convinced that Bobby Fischer, one of the game's most legendary and elusive figures, is playing again - anonymously on the Internet.

"I am 99 percent sure that I have been playing against the chess legend,'' Nigel Short told The Sunday Telegraph. ``It's tremendously exciting."

Fischer, an American, fascinated the world by winning an epic battle against a Russian, Boris Spassky, in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972. Then he disappeared, only to re-emerge from retirement in 1992 for a controversial rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia.

Fischer won and then disappeared again after U.S. authorities accused him of violating sanctions imposed against Yugoslavia by playing the match.

He has remained out of the public eye, and his whereabouts are unknown, although The Telegraph said he is believed to be living in Japan. Short said he does not know where Fischer is.

Short said rumors began circulating last year that the American champion was anonymously playing others in quick, three-minute games at the Internet Chess Club.

A few weeks later, Short said, he was approached by someone who identified himself as an intermediary for "a very strong chess player ... who wished to preserve his anonymity." The intermediary gave Short a special code word and arranged a time for a future game.

When the prearranged time came, Short was requested by the anonymous player to sign in as a guest instead of as himself. They played eight three-minute games. Short was crushed.

European Parliament Reaches Stalemate Over Spam Action

The European Parliament has failed to reach a decision on a proposal for a directive on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in electronic communications.

The draft Telecommunications and Data Protection Directive had included provisions for the possibility of banning of unsolicited commercial e-mail, better known as spam.

The draft legislation would have banned all sending of spam unless consumers agreed to receive it by consenting to an "opt in" clause.

This opt in approach was opposed by some individual member states, including the United Kingdom, which argued that consumers should specify if they do not want to receive spam, this being the "opt out" approach.

Despite voting to support the opt in approach, the Parliament voted to reject the legislation as a whole. The proposals will now be sent back to the European Parliament's Committee for Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs for a re-drafting.

eBay Successful in Court Case

The Internet auction site eBay has been successful in a U.S. copyright lawsuit filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The case was seen as an important test of the legal responsibility of a Web site that people use to sell items that infringe on copyright laws.

Robert Hendrikson, a filmmaker and owner of the U.S. company Tobann International Pictures, sued eBay in the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles, alleging that eBay was liable for copyright infringement in connection with pirated copies of DVDs and videos of a Charles Manson documentary for sale on the auction site.

eBay argued that it was protected under the DMCA, which exempts "qualifying Internet service providers" from copyright infringement claims.

The judge rejected Hendrikson's arguments.

Singapore Officials Blocking Political Sites

The government of Singapore is attempting to have ISPs in Singapore block any foreign political Web site, unless it registers with the government, through an amendment to the country's Parliamentary Elections Act, according to a report by ZDNet U.K.

If enforced, the law would mean that any foreign political site refusing to register would be banned in the same way that pornographic sites are blocked in the country.

Under the Singapore Broadcasting Authority Act's Internet Code of Conduct, ISPs in Singapore must make every effort possible to ensure that material prohibited by the government is not "broadcast" via the Internet to users in Singapore.

The government exerts control of Internet content by channeling all the material that ISPs in Singapore host through a government-controlled exchange before it can be displayed on the Internet.

Hackers Get Day in Court

Rogue traders were convicted last week in two separate U.K. cases for illegally selling pirated Microsoft software. They face a possible maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The first case involved charges against Paramjit Kaur Kanwal, sole director of Middlesex-based U.K. Computer Distributors, and his secretary, Jasbir Singh Uppal. The court found that the pair had sold pirate copies of Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows NT Server and Microsoft Office 97 Professional Edition.

Both men pled guilty at Harrow Crown Court to four charges under the Trademarks Act and one charge under the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act.

In the second case, Christopher Bottley of Tonbridge in Kent pled guilty to two charges under the Trades Descriptions Act. Pirated copies of Windows 98 were discovered in a raid of Bottley's premises that took place as a courier delivered pirated copies of NT Server to his doorstep in front of Kent Trading Standards officers.

Code Red Cost World Economy $2.6 Billion

Computer Economics, a U.S.-based independent Internet research company, has published the results of its research into the impact on the global economy of Code Red and other computer viruses.

It estimates that Code Red cost the U.S. economy $2.6 billion when this year it affected more than one million computer systems worldwide.

Of that $2.6 billion, around $1.1 billion was spent in cleaning up infected computer systems and returning them to normal service, as well as inspecting more than 8 million servers to determine the need for patches.

The remaining $1.5 billion was lost through the negative impact that Code Red produced on the productivity levels of system users, support staff, helpdesk staff and IT staff, as well as the negative impact on customers.

The company estimates that computer viruses have cost worldwide economies around $10.7 billion so far this year. This compares to $17.1 billion in 2000 and $12.1 billion in 1999.