Unchecked Corporate Power Threatening Right To Sue And The Very Bones Of The Internet

Two kind of totally unrelated stories here but they both illustrate the way corporate power in the U.S. is completely out of hand. 

First up, the pox that calls itself "tort reform" but is really a hugely successful attempt to choke off access to the courts for ordinary citizens. Here's an op-ed by filmmaker Susan Saladoff about her new documentary "Hot Coffee":

Taking away people’s rights to access the courts is not that new for corporations. It has been going on for more than 25 years. It has been done through legislation, judicial elections, contractually and supported by a massive, corporate-funded public relations campaign.

Most Americans, however, have no idea – and, again, don’t seem to care — until something bad happens to them personally. Then, people understand, usually for the first time, how their constitutional rights — which stem from the 7th Amendment — have been taken away.

And after the jump is some info on the new corporate assault on ICANN, the entity that manages top level domain names on the Internet.

The bad guys are the loathsome Association of National Advertisers. They're launching an attack on ICANN. Here's what they're up to:

ICANN’s plan to open up the domain name space to new top level domains is scheduled to begin January 12, 2012. This long overdue implementation is the result of an open process that began in 2006. It would, in fact, be more realistic to say that the decision has been in the works 15 years; i.e., since early 1997. That is when demand for new top-level domain names, and the need for other policy decisions regarding the coordination of the domain name system, made it clear that a new institutional framework had to be created. ICANN was the progressive and innovative U.S. response to that need. It was created to become a nongovernmental, independent, truly global and representative policy development authority.

The result has been far from perfect, but human institutions never are. Over the past 15 years, every stakeholder with a serious interest in the issue of top level domains has had multiple opportunities to make their voice heard and to shape the policy. The resulting new gTLD policy reflects that diversity and complexity. From our point of view, it is too regulatory, too costly, and makes too many concessions to content regulators and trademark holders. But it will only get worse with delay. The existing compromise output that came out of the process paves the way for movement forward after a long period of artificial scarcity, opening up new business opportunities.

Now there is a cynical, illegitimate last-second push by a few corporate interests in the United States to derail that process.

The arguments put forward by these interests are not new; they are the same anti-new TLD arguments that have been made since 1997 and the concerns expressed are all addressed in one way or another by the policies ICANN has developed. Their only new claim is that they have the ear of powerful people in the United States government, including Senator Jay Rockefeller.

In effect, U.S. corporate trademark interests are openly admitting that their participation in the ICANN process has been in bad faith all along. Despite the multiple concessions and numerous re-dos that these interests managed to extract over the past 6 years, they are now demanding that everything grind to a halt because they didn’t get exactly what they demanded — as if no other interests and concerns mattered and no other stakeholders exist. What they wanted, in fact, was simply to freeze the status quo of 1996 into place forever, so that there would be no new competition, no new entrepreneurial opportunities, no linguistic diversification, nothing that would have the potential to cause them any problems.

Tags: icann, hot coffee, tort reform, 7th amendment, association of national advertisers (all tags)

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