WS>>Proposed Treaty Threatens Internet

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Fri Aug 10 21:21:36 MDT 2001

                          by Wes Vernon
                    Wednesday, June 27, 2001

          WASHINGTON - A  new  proposal  coming out  of an inter-
     national conference threatens the freedom  you enjoy through
     "the people's  medium,"  the Internet.

          James  Love,  writing in News Viewz, reports  that  the
     just-concluded  conference at the Hague in  the  Netherlands
     would  impose  "a  bold set of rules  that  will  profoundly
     change  the internet" and "extend the reach of  every  coun-
     try's intellectual property laws," including those that  are
     not related to the Internet.

          Last  December, reported on efforts  within
     the  U.S.   government  to make Web  sites  responsible  for
     everything  said  by the other sites to which  they  provide

          In other words, if a nonprofit Web site provides  links
     to  a partisan political site, the nonprofit would lose  its
     tax-exempt  status  because that would count as  a  campaign
     contribution.   This is widely feared to be a leftist  reac-
     tion to the Internet's ability to get around the  mainstream
     media and expose the public to the other side of issues.

          That would apply even to those sites that provide links
     to both the Republican and Democrat parties.  It would put a
     lot  of sites out of business or constrain their ability  to
     reference other sources.

          A similar concept envisioned on an international  scale
     by  the Hague convention could "effectively  strip  Internet
     service  providers  of protection from litigation  over  the
     content they carry." As Love puts it, the new  international
     treaty, if it takes effect, "will strangle the Internet with
     a suffocating blanket of overlapping jurisdictional  claims,
     expose  every web page publisher to liabilities  for  libel,
     defamation and every other speech offense from virtually any

          Membership  in the Hague Conference now includes  China
     and  Egypt.   One can hardly imagine an  American  Web  site
     relishing being held to the "speech standards" prevailing in
     places where repressive civil actions that crush dissent are
     commonplace.   But  the European delegates  would  not  even
     consider adding favorable speech language.

          In  answer  to an inquiry from,  Love  said
     that  "every country can refuse to enforce a judgment  if  a
     judge  finds that to do so would be manifestly  incompatible
     with public policy, a fairly high standard, but not impossi-
     bly high." Those who have observed the antics of some of the
     more  activist judges in this country can imagine some  sig-
     nificant lines being crossed and precedents being set.

          Love also told NewsMax that under the Hague convention,
     "nations  agree to enforce each other's judgments,  if  they
     follow  a  common set of rules regarding  jurisdiction.   In
     terms  of the Internet and speech, just about everyone  gets
     jurisdiction,  which causes all sorts of problems."  One  of
     those  "problems" is that the treaty would give  "businesses
     who  sell goods and services the right to dictate  via  con-
     tracts countries where disputes will be resolved and  rights
     defended."  What  caused  all this activity  to  muzzle  the
     Internet?  Get this:

          "European negotiators were also unhappy with the gener-
     ally  free  and unruly nature of the Internet, and  saw  the
     convention as a mechanism to reign in hate speech." To some,
     that raises a red flag and sounds eerily similar to frequent
     leftist  rhetoric in the United States.  Who  defines  "hate
     speech"?  Is it defined by the prevailing ultra-left tone on
     many  of  America's  campuses where  professors  lose  their
     positions  and students are suspended or refused  graduation
     for speaking against politically correct orthodoxy?

          The News Viewz paper adds: "Europe was also alarmed and
     jealous  of the U.S.  leadership in the development  of  the
     Internet.   European  negotiators pushed hard  to  impose  a
     treaty  based on the European Union's  Brussels  Convention,
     not only to preserve the European approach, but to lead, for
     once,  in an important area for the  Internet."  Presumably,
     there  will come a time when the president will be asked  to
     submit  this  treaty to the U.S.  Senate  for  ratification.
     Look  for  another  controversy over  yet  another  document
     which, according to the report cited above, would  "diminish
     national sovereignty

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