Globalisation, the Internet and the Law

Addressing the impact of the Internet on society and its laws

Stream Leader: Colin Jackson


Growing global economic integration has been helped by the emergence of rapid communications, including the rise of the Internet. The reality of greater economic integration has been creating pressures for more global legal frameworks to open the world to trade and investment. The Internet, while helping that process in some ways, presents it with challenges in others: its very openness threatens many traditional business models and established economic interests. Caught up in the debate are arguments about the way the Internet itself is governed, and whether its open nature can be preserved.

This stream explores these issues and should leave participants with a clearer idea of the linkages between these global changes and pressures on local industries, and on local lawmakers.s.


The Law of the Net

Facilitator: Colin Jackson, Independent Consultant

In the early days of the Internet its users argued that governments had no place in controlling it. Yet a few years later the same people were begging governments to pass laws against unwanted email, or spam. Most people would agree that governments have some kind of role on the Net, but governments often see the Internet as just another part of their domain that should obey the same rules as everything else.

The situation is complicated by the transnational nature of the Net – what is acceptable in New Zealand may well not be in Saudi Arabia, for instance. Yet it is one Internet, and at least in part it has to be governed as a unit.This session will be discussing the areas in which we should expect governments to control the Net, and the areas in which government control should be resisted.

We will also look at alternative non-government governance models such as ICANN, and at consensual models like codes of practice for content and access providers.

Intellectual property or toll-gates on the information highway?

Facilitator: Rick Shera, Lowndes Jordan

The Internet has expanded from an academic curiosity into the biggest single piece of infrastructure in the world in less than three decades. Its rate of expansion has been staggering; far faster than television, radio or the telephone system. Part of the reason for this expansion has been the open architecture of the Internet. At its very deepest level, the Internet has openness “baked in”. The openness of the Internet collides head on with the notion of “intellectual property”.

This impact is most apparent in the area of copyrighted entertainment, where bodies representing movie and music producers have been trying, abetted by the US Government, to get governments to pass laws to remove allegedly infringing item from the Internet and even to disconnect the Internet from accused infringers.

To some, this is legitimate enforcement of a property right. To others, it is akin to erecting a roadblock on a highway and demanding money from passers-by. For some people, even the term intellectual property is misleading as it incorporates a variety of different limited rights enforceable over intangible materials. This session will be discussing whether copyright can coexist at all with an open Internet, and if so, what modifications we will have to make to both of them?

The Internet as a revolutionary tool

Facilitator: Brian Calhoun, Independent Consultant and co-chair of NZRise Inc

The Internet has played a role in civil unrest and regime change in many countries over recent years, to the extent that governments under pressure from citizens have sometimes tried to shut the Net down in their territories.

This session explores how the Internet empowers individuals and groups, and the extent to which it threatens governments. We will attempt to answer what rights governments have to withdraw the Internet from their citizens, or even from the citizens of other countries, and what people can do about attempts to shut the Net down.

Forbidden knowledge

Facilitator: Ross LaJeunesse, Google’s Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs for Asia Pacific

Controlling the flow of knowledge was a lot easier before the Internet. Now, politicians and government officials are expected to submit detailed expense lists for their constituents to analyse on the Internet, and the Wikileaks phenomenon shows that material that governments and companies do not want published at all has a way of coming to light.

This session explores how the Internet changes the balance between accountability and privacy for governments and corporations. It will also look at the effectiveness of name suppression in an era of global publication, and at censorship of the Internet as practiced in New Zealand and other countries.

Who runs the Internet?

Facilitator: Judge David Harvey

Even though the Internet was designed as completely decentralized network, some of its aspects require coordination. The main examples are the domain name system and IP numbers, but the very technical standards that the Net is built from also require a central process to develop and agree them. This session will be exploring how these mechanisms work, the roles of national registries such as .nz, and the ways in which they are accountable to the people and companies that use the Internet.