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Re: WIPO computing perspective (fwd)

  ---------- Forwarded message ----------
  From: gordoni@base.com (Gordon Irlam)
  Subject: WIPO database treaty letter -- please sign
  [Please feel free to forward this prior to Friday, 22nd November.]
  The U.S. government is working to create an international treaty that
  creates a dangerous new form of intellectual property that applies to
  databases.  A database is defined as any non-trivial collection of
  facts and information.  Copyright law already applies to databases.
  This international treaty seeks to create new laws that limit people's
  ability to make use databases.  In addition, none of the the fair use
  provisions that apply in the case of copyright would apply to database
  under this treaty.
  I've drafted the following letter on the proposed database treaty.
  I'll be sending it to the government on Thursday.  Please drop me or
  wipo-signature@base.com an email immediately if you are willing to
  allow me to include your name on this letter.  Please include a line
  that looks like this:
      Gordon Irlam, Software Engineer -- Mountain View, California
  along with a comment if there is anything about you that is
  distinguishing, and may be worth noting.
  Since the database proposal is being proposed as an international
  treaty by the executive branch, the usual congressional public review
  processes have been bypassed.  Unless this treaty is stopped,
  irrespective of any independent assesment, congress will be required
  to pass legislation that implements this treaty to fulfill
  international obligations.
  Currently the only opportunity for public comment on the proposed
  treaty requires all comments be submitted by this Friday, November
  22nd, 1996.
  Comments against the proposed treaty have been, or are being filled
      National Academy of Sciences
      Institute of Medicine
      Association of Research Libraries
      American Library Association
      Consumer Project on Technology
      The ad hoc Law Professors group
  For more information on the treaty visit: http://www.public-domain.org/
  [Draft letter.  Still subject to minor editorial revision, however, no
  substantiative changes will be made.]
  Mr. Keith Kupferschmid
  United States Patent and Trademark Office
  Dear Mr. Kupferschmid,
  We are responding to the request published in the Federal Register of
  October 17, 1996 for Comments on the Chairman's Text of the WIPO
  Diplomatic Conference on Certain Copyright and Neighboring Rights
  These comments are directed at the Chairman's Text of the Basic
  Proposal for the Substantive Provisions of the Treaty on Intellectual
  Property in Respect of Databases.  We do not seek to offer comments on
  any of the other proposals on the table at this conference.
  As software developers, we are at the forefront of the National
  Information Infrastructure (NII) and the emerging Global Information
  Infrastructure (GII), and as such hope we may be able to offer a
  number of insights into some of the possible effects of this treaty on
  the NII and GII.
  We believe that the Internet represents the foundations of the GII,
  and as such we look to the Internet to assess the effects of the
  database treaty on the GII.
  (1) The effects of the database treaty on the routing infrastructure
      At the lowest level, the computers forming the Internet,
      communicate through the exchange of packets of information.  These
      packets pass from one system to the next until they reach their
      destination.  Typically a packet needs to pass through around 20
      different systems before it reaches its final destination.
      Analogous to the postal system, each packet has an address printed
      on it that identifies the final destination.  These addresses are
      effectively 9-digit numbers, and are known as IP addresses.
      Unlike the postal system these addresses are not defined
      geographically.  Instead, a particular IP address might be located
      anywhere in the world.  Intermediate systems are aware of the
      topology of the Internet, and know where the computer with a
      particular IP address is located.  Each intermediate system knows
      who to forward a packet to next to ensure it reaches its final
      Intermediate systems know where each IP address is located through
      the exchange of what is termed routing information.  The systems
      exchange information identifying where each IP address is located.
      Computers send messages to connected systems to saying: "I am
      here", and the connected systems then collect up and send on this
      information to other systems on the Internet.  This information is
      sent in the form of routing tables listing a set of IP addresses,
      and for each IP address listing its current location.
      These routing tables fall under the domain of the proposed
      database treaty.  As such, a network provider would be able to
      claim ownership of the routing table constructed from the routing
      information provided by its subscribers.  Doing this would allow
      the network provider to prevent, or control the way in which
      others can make use of such routing information.  Apart from the
      network provider, there is no other practical method of obtaining
      this routing information.  Such routing information is essential
      for network connectivity, and, as such, could be used as a price
      lever by large network connectivity providers (PSI, UUNet, MCI,
      Sprint) to force smaller providers out of the marketplace.  An
      example end-user license for the use of such routing tables might,
      for instance, prohibit the exchange of the information contained
      in the routing table with anyone other than a customer of one of
      the large network providers.
  (2) Effects of the database treaty on the domain name system
      Users on the Internet aren't required to know the IP address of
      the hosts to whom they are talking.  Instead, they refer to
      computers through textual names, such as "www.uspto.gov".  The
      Domain Name System is the component of the Internet responsible
      for translating these textual host names into IP addresses to
      which packets can then be sent.
      The domain name system is administered by Network Solutions
      Incorporated under a time limited contract with the NSF.  Parties
      contact Network Solutions telling them the names of new machines,
      and Network Solutions publishes a database on the Internet that in
      effect contains the IP address of each machine.
      The domain name system meets the definition of a database given as
      specified by the treaty.  No practical way exists to obtain the
      information contained in this database other than either directly
      or indirectly through the data supplied by Network Solutions.
      Since it was drafted prior to the treaty, it isn't clear from the
      Network Solutions's contract with the NSF, whether Network
      Solutions would be able to claim ownership of the DNS database, or
      if the database belongs to the NSF.  It seems plausible that
      Network Solutions would be able to claim ownership.  We are
      however unable to make this claim with certainty.
      The ability to claim ownership of databases such as the DNS
      database could have a potentially severe chilling effect on the
      Internet.  Network Solutions position as sole provider of the DNS
      database would enable them to charge a high price for access to
      it.  This information contained in this database is fundamental to
      a user's ability to navigate around the Internet, and essentially
      Network Solutions would end up owning the Internet.
      It seems vital to us that in evaluating the effects of this
      treaty, possible serious real world ramifications such as this
      must be very carefully analyzed and understood.
  (3) Effects of the database treaty on Internet search services
      There are a number of Internet search services which users use to
      find information on the Internet.  Examples of popular search
      services today include Alta Vista, Excite, Infoseek, and Verity.
      Information on the Internet is contained in individually owned and
      managed repositories called web sites.  Each web site contains
      numerous documents.
      The search services work by visting each web site on the Internet,
      retrieving the site's contents, and from the contents constructing
      an index of the information contained on the web site.  To perform
      a search, a user types in a few key words.  The search service is
      then able to use its indices to return to the user a list of all
      web sites containing the specified words.  The search services do
      not return the contents of the indexed web sites, but merely tell
      the user the names of the relevant web sites.
      The generation of an index for a web site currently does not fall
      under the scope of the Copyright Act.  Under the proposed database
      treaty, each website on the Internet fully meets the definition of
      a database.  And, under this treaty the ability to construct an
      index of a web site, which of necessity involves retrieving the
      information from the web site would appear to fall under the
      "right to authorize or prohibit the extraction" terms of the
      proposed treaty.
      It is impractical for search services to gain permission to index
      every web site on the net, and as a result the only options would
      be for search services to either flout the law, hoping that their
      infringements won't be prosecuted, or to cease providing this
      valuable service to the users of the Internet.
  We hope these comments help highlight some of the serious issues
  raised by the proposed database treaty.  We believe the treaty has
  been developed through abstract theoretical considerations, and that
  many of the practical consequences of this treaty have not been
  carefully considered.
  If recent U.S. court decisions make it necessary to make changes in
  database protection law, we believe this should be achieved through
  carefully considered legislative changes to the U.S. Copyright Act.
  No form of Sui Generis protection is desireable, and especially not
  one achieved via an international treaty.  We feel it will only be
  appropriate to consider an international treaty defining the scope of
  protection for databases if and when an acceptable set of changes have
  been made to the U.S. Copyright Act.
  The WIPO database treaty was based on an inadequate understanding of
  the scope of its applicability and its resulting effects.  We find the
  treaty to be ill-considered and inappropriate.  In view of the effect
  it would have on the Internet and the future U.S. computing
  infrastructure, we urge the U.S. work to have this treaty removed from
  further consideration at the WIPO conference.
  Thank you for considering our opinions.
      Gordon Irlam
              Internet Technology Analyst -- Mountain View, California
      L. Peter Deutsch
              ACM Fellow
              ACM Software System Award co-recipient
              President, Aladdin Enterprises -- Menlo Park, California
      Michael Tiemann
              Director, Cygnus Support -- Mountain View, California
      Luther Welsh, Jr.
              President, NDA Technologies, Inc. -- Tustin, California
      Steve Shannon
              President, Coffeehaus Networks, Corp. -- Boston, Massachusetts
      Rodney H. Kay
              President, Kay Communications -- Tampa, Florida
      Philip Peake
              CEO, Newberg Webcenter -- Newberg, Oregon
      Dean Anderson
              President, Plain Aviation, Inc. -- Nashua, New Hampshire
      Dan Connolly
              Research Scientist -- Cambridge, Massachusetts
      Tim Pearson
              Author of "Internet Marketing", published by John Wiley & Sons
              Director, FutureLink -- San Francisco, California
      Laura Kusumoto
              Director of Production, LVL Interactive -- Santa Clara, California
      Bodo Parady
              Staff Engineer, Sun Microsystems -- Menlo Park, California
      Joseph Kiniry
              Graduate Student & Consultant -- Pasadena, California
      David S. Miller
              Software Engineer -- East Brunswick, New Jersey
      James Salsman
              Systems Analyst -- Mountain View, California
      Greg Merrell
              Senior Network Consultant -- Cupertino, California
      Todd Clayton
              System Software Engineer -- San Francisco, California
      Jonathan Ryshpan
              Software Project Manager -- Oakland, California
      Frank Arnold
              Webmaster, Catholic Charities -- San Jose, California
      Marla Pereira
              Software Engineer -- California
      Adam Rifkin
              Graduate Student -- Pasadena, California
      Ray Baco
              Technical Support Supervisor -- Durham, North Carolina
      Stanley T. Shebs, Ph.D.
              Software Manager -- Mountain View, California
      John Stoner
              Internet Consultant -- Fox River Grove, Illinois
      Robert Stacy
              Law Student -- Chapel Hill, North Carolina
      Blaise Pabon
              Network Analyst -- Mountain View, California
      Fen Labalme
              Software Architect -- San Francisco, California
      Brian Harvey
              Lecturer, Computer Science Division, University of California,
              Berkeley -- Berkeley, California
      Prasad Wagle
              Software Engineer -- Mountain View, California
      John Sadler
              Software Engineer -- Palo Alto, California
      Richard Swan, Ph.D.
              Computer Scientist -- Portola Valley, California
      David Hough
              Software Engineer -- San Jose, California
      <other names to be added>
  To add your signature please send it to wipo-signature@base.com