Internet Governance Issues

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Article by I.O.Shchegolev, Minister of Telecommunication and Mass Communications of Russian Federation for Vestnik UNESCO

When discussing the Internet governance mere specifying of strategic breakthrough orientations of development is not enough. Their implementation will require consolidated effort of all the stakeholders: civil society, businesses, users, scientific research community and governments.

The problem of the Internet governance internationalization largely reflects present geopolitical, socioeconomic and domestic policy realities and challenges.

The international Internet community is already aware of the fact that, as President of the Russian Federation Dmirty Medvedev said, “The Internet cannot be a medium guided by the rules established by a single country however advanced and powerful it may be. It requires jointly elaborated international norms”.

At the World Summit in 2003 it was recognized that the Internet governance at an international level should be effected on a multilateral, transparent and democratic basis with the full involvement of governments, private sector, civil society and international organizations. The Internet governance should provide equitable distribution of resources and universal access as well as ensure stable and secure Internet functioning with due consideration to the multilingualism.

Russia has become the first country to obtain a top-level domain in its national language. The growth rate of domain name registration in .РФ zone has surpassed all expectations: during the first week since the domain name registration started the increase of domain names quantity in .РФ zone was about 25 – 30 thousand domain names per day which is ten times more than the number of domain names registered in the conventional .RU zone. At present there are 3.4 million .RU domain names and over 900 thousand .РФ domain names registered.

Working towards the internationalization of the Internet governance involves conceptual and institutional levels. From the conceptual point of view it should be clearly understood that a common idea that the Internet governance is a set of pure technical features which should only be considered by private sector, civil society, users and scientists is not correct. This approach leaves untouched the government’s role in national and intergovernmental policy concerning Global network-related issues. The Russian Federation upholds the principle of sovereignty of nations and governments with regard to the state policy issues in the national segments of the Internet.

The institutional aspect implies that Russia supports the dialog and cooperation development between all the organizations providing operation, standardization and regulation of the Internet. We stand for the increase of UNESCO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) role in the Internet governance in order to ensure rightful participation of the governments and national Telecommunication Administrations in global decision-making.

The Russian Federation denotes that ICANN is similar to natural monopolies by its functions and status. Moreover, despite recent positive changes, the key mechanisms of ICANN’s activities control are largely monopolized and operated by the US Government.

To our opinion any further internationalization of the Internet governance requires elaboration of procedures and coordination mechanisms. This is vital for providing actual influence of international community and all the key stakeholders on ICANN’s activities without detriment to the global connectivity of the Internet. Besides, we consider wider representation of all the countries in the Internet governing bodies to be very important for the proper balance of power and influence.

An important constituent of the Internet governance internationalization is a development of debate on the global and regional (national) Fora on the Internet governance. The Russian Federation held two national Fora on the Internet governance (RIGF) in 2010 and 2011 with the active support of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Mass Communications. The Deauville G8 Declaration of “Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy” states as follows: “As we support the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, we call upon all stakeholders to contribute to enhance cooperation within and between all international fora dealing with the governance of the Internet. In this regard, flexibility and transparency have to be maintained in order to adapt to the fast pace of technological and business developments and uses. Governments have a key role to play in this model”.

The Internet abuses can be provisionally divided into three types. The first type is the threat of the use of technologies for disrupting network operation. The second one is the posting of malicious content on the Internet including that related to terrorist activity. The third type of abuse is the usage of the Internet as a means of communication when planning, preparing and committing terrorist attacks “beyond cyberspace”.

Effective response to emerging threats requires consolidation of our efforts. To get a better understanding of present threats and find cooperative ways of fighting them Russia has been consistently launching initiatives for raising the issue of integrated assurance of international informational safety at the international level since 1998. Due to the efforts undertaken by Russia the subject has gained a tenable position in the agenda of a lot of international organizations, primarily the UN and the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO, OSCE, Council of Europe, G8, Internet Governance Forum.

The purpose of Russia’s initiatives is to prevent pulling the mankind into another round of the arms race at a new technological level and not to allow using cyber technologies for threatening the safety of the nations.

International principles for building the global information society were adopted by consensus at the World Summit on the Information Society (held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunisia in 2005) with active participation of Russia. Article 36 of the Principles discusses the support of UN activities “to prevent the potential use of ICT’s for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security, and may adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure within States, to the detriment of their security…”.

In accordance with these guidelines the cyber safety-related issues were included into the agenda of conferences and meetings of the International Telecommunication Union. Plenipotentiary Conference of ITU adopted resolution entitled “Strengthening the Role of ITU in Building Confidence and Security in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies” in 2006. The resolution takes into account the presence of new threats of “abuse of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist purposes”. In particular, the Resolution specifies the necessity of developing international cooperation mechanisms (agreements, memoranda, etc.) i.e. international legal framework for the international information security.

Another problem of great importance which we face today on the Internet is copyright protection. The model of copyright emerged on the basis of fee-simple model. Like proprietary right, the model of copyright is based upon a rigid definition of an intellectual property owner and protecting his/her rights in case of any intellectual property object use.

The current economic model is effective under conditions of “material world”, in case of copying to material media, under the conditions of objectively restricted possibility of duplication which enables considering and controlling turnover of these items. With the development of electronic means of communication including the Internet with its transborderness and possibilities for copying and data transmitting this model has become ineffective.

The issue of increasing efficiency of intellectual property protection on the Internet requires an integrated approach. This should be implemented within the framework of improvement of the legal regulation related to copyright and associated rights as well as by means of providing efficient technological solutions for responding to unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works on the Internet and increasing the usage of legal digital content.

Besides, there is a problem of “public domain”, the usage of copyright objects created, for example, by a community of Internet users. This problem can be solved by means of introduction of so-called “free licenses” (such as “creative commons” and “GPL” licenses) and their acknowledgement on national territories. They allow the author to assign part of the rights to an unlimited number of users, particularly the rights to distribution and revision (for commercial or non-commercial purpose).

At present, under the instruction of the President of the Russian Federation, we are elaborating changes in civil legislation of the Russian Federation to legislate the right for authors to grant their works to an unlimited number of people under the terms of free licenses (equivalent to Creative Commons, GNU FDL).

The Government of the Russian Federation has recently ratified state program “Information Society (2011 – 2020)”. This is an unprecedented state initiative by its scale, scope of finance and ultimate targets in modern Russia. One of the central positions in the program is occupied by the Internet as an important tool of its implementation as well as the object of the Government’s efforts.

Key issues with regard to the Internet development were enunciated at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. We consider “Information Society” program to be a means of their solving.