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[AMM 23.10.2000] short report on meeting with esther dyson

AMM 23 OCT 2000

somewhere inbetween i had the chance to meet esther dyson in berlin.

I never met her before, so this can be nothing but a subjective collecting
of bits. Everything I write is an interpretation of things she said, not a
transcript. If you quote, quote me, but ask Esther for her own quotes.

She seems to be very happy to be getting out of the job at ICANN. Starting
from the end she told me, that we gonna change seats and she will become an
outside critic of ICANN. What she said is, that she didnīt like the job
very much, cause she was blamed all the time for the decisions of ICANN she
had to promote, which often have been decisions against her personal vote
in the board. I did not ask for what or whom she was doing something like
this, even if I do ask me this question.

So, after we agreed that we donīt suspect each other to eat up small
children and could just talk to each other as open and honest as the
situation allows, where lotīs of other parties expect each other to report
about the other. After she said, what I guess she had to say, that ICANN
does not act in the issue of copyright, and I said, what I had to say, that
ICANN does act in the field of intellectual property and the more power it
has, the more misuse of this power will be upcoming, we had established
some kind of handshake.

What I wanted to know was of course something about the possible room for
decisions within ICANN and the possibilities to move in the direction to a
more open root zone file and a more decentrally structure of administration
and technical realisation.

After she teached me again the well known "no we donīt govern and also we
have nothing to do with copyright issues" she pointed out, that the space
for decisions within ICANN has never been very big, cause the governments -
not only the USG - put great pressure on the control of the DNS and also on
ICANN in general.

So, any kind of ideas she ever had - that is at least the way she described
it to me - was not very much able to adress officially; also because she
had no real legitimation, she was not voted by anyone and so she suspected
me to be in a much better situation, cause I was elected and might even
say, what I think. Which is something new at ICANN.

What she didnīt said and I can only guess is that the representatives of
the governments (in and outside the GAC) donīt see this problem of
legitimation for themself.  So, in her words, the basis for anything to do
actively within ICANN has been very thin. That might be true in my eyes,
but not very much when this shall mean "we have never been making great
decisions". We argued a little bit about the possibilities of claiming the
name space as a public space in policies (for ccTLD etc.), what she said is
that the ICANN board never wanted to get any trouble with any of the
countries so they never did try to do anything in this direction.

Also, it would not be the ICANN board in general, but the representatives
of the GAC that donīt wanīt ICANN to be transparent or open for anything
the users want, cause the government claim to be the official
representatives of the citizens of this planet. Well, what a bullshit.
Maybe someone should mention, that governments have their own interests.

Within this discussion I had one specific question about one of the current
directors, Hans Kraaijenbrink. He astonished me at last weeks EC-POP
meeting in brussels, when answering to the question of the four directors
which should be still elected, cause he said that this was not under
discussion any more. The protests from the people in the room just did not
seem to reach him on the one hand side, but on the other hand side, I did
not have the feeling that this man was acting for his own interests. So,
what I asked Esther was, what she could tell me about the people,
organization or entity Mr. Kraaijenbrink is working for. She gave at least
a totally clear and bright answer saying, that she didnīt now if Mr.
Kraaijenbrink is working for any governments, but also that he is one of
the most resistance directors against transparency and participation of
users. When I can beleave her, not all, but some of the directors beheave
like him and donīt want to see any organization of users or the "at large
members"; even the meeting organized by the CPSR on sunday before the
official meeting is beeing watched with great fear.

Of course we talked about other things, examples of problems, a little bit
about the official agenda for the november meeting (it is not planed to be
much more than discussion of gTLD and maybe a UDRP-update discussion), but
the whole discussion was a bit hard to sharpen. So Iīll take the picture
she gave me and - even if it is a picture based on the truth - this is not
a very nice one. Itīs a picture of ICANN that is just pushed by
governmental interests in the one and in the other direction, and any space
for decisions there has ever been, was misued for commercial interests in
the network solution style.

She said it in nice words: the current steps - extension of the gTLDīs,
having at least some directors legitimated and able to speak for user
interests - would be steps in the right direction. That might be.

But if this institution - driven now by governmental and industrial
interests - can be changed to anything based on the diversity of netizens
and citizens interests enabling a decentralized structure, that respects
different entitys, free flow of information even if this means the end of
controlling non-material goods, is a complete other question. So, for me it
is an open question, if this is an ICANN issue.