Techdirt

by Christian Dawson




Christian Dawson Of I2Coalition's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the and-a-few-not-so-favorites dept

I've decided to use my most favorite and least favorite Techdirt posts of the week to illustrate a bit about the state of the Internet from where I sit, shining a light on a few additional intriguing posts along the way.

I loved reading Mike Masnick’s update on what Trent Reznor is doing today, and not just because Mike needed to get off the phone with me a few days ago as Trent was calling. I see this story as an update to one of Mike's greatest hits, his 2009 Trent Reznor Case Study. So many of us who fight for intellectual property reform -- who were on the front lines of SOPA and PIPA -- are huge music fans and movie nerds. We respect artists and want to encourage their innovation and evolution. Mike continues to show us ways that the new economy can be great for artists of all kinds, and that we shouldn't burn down the new economy to preserve the old.

My least favorite post this week by far was the one on PhoenixNAP, which also referenced an earlier post about ServerBeach -- both criticizing those providers for overreach on content takedown procedures.

The companies I work with build the "nuts and bolts" of the Internet. I run a web hosting company called ServInt, and I am Chairman of a policy-centered trade association of web hosting, data center and cloud providers called the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, or i2Coalition. Though neither of the two companies are in our association, hosting is a small community. I know those guys personally, and while I am not intimately familiar with either case, I know the challenges this industry faces quite well.

I totally understand Mike's point that these companies seem to have thrown the baby out with the bath water. However, it's important to put them in context. Placing them in the same category as those who seek to censor speech or stifle innovation is unfair, and damages our collective ability to keep focus on activities that damage our collective goals.

ServerBeach and PhoenixNAP have a really fine line to walk; one that my company walks all the time. It's important to remember that what Internet infrastructure companies are trying to do is provide for their customers while avoiding becoming contributory infringers. I'm sure that ServerBeach and PhoenixNAP, like ServInt, have well established procedures to help avoid this risk. However, sometimes a company's infrastructure setup may not correspond exactly with either the "right" way of complying with a statute, or even the "best" way. It's important to keep in mind that infrastructure companies are in the business of moving information as quickly and cost effectively as possible, and not taking sides on any speech issue. My issue with Mike's post is that it appears to take the position that either company should have structured their environment to maximize speech or minimize the effects of the DMCA or other laws. Neither position reflects the business we're in.

My industry faces challenges, and we can gain great insight into what those challenges are simply by reading Techdirt each week. The things that Techdirt generally fights for they do so on behalf of an open Internet and its users, and that includes Internet infrastructure providers. Just this week you can go to Techdirt and see what we're faced with, including: Now that we've looked at some of the best from this week on Techdirt, let's draw parallels between my most and least favorite posts.

Trent Reznor, who is back with a major label after years innovating on his own, sat down with Mike to dispel rumors that he sold out his principles over a big check. I read the piece and was convinced that any pre-conceived notions I had about the move were likely wrong, or at least more complicated than I had given them credit for.

Similarly, I don't know an Internet infrastructure provider who likes to kick off a client. I am left feeling we don't have the whole PhoenixNAP or ServerBeach story. When you've got one side wanting to air their grievances, and the other that is by necessity respecting customer confidentiality and not talking, it's hard to be definitive about what went wrong. I've been in those shoes. Though I may have some sympathies for the predicaments of PhoenixNAP and ServerBeach, I agree that hosts need better tools and procedures in general to address complaints in ways that are more fair to consumers.

All in all, it was a fascinating week on Techdirt, and like most weeks I can draw direct parallels to what we read on Techdirt every day and what challenges we face here on the front lines of the Internet. That's why I love making Techdirt a part of my day, everyday, and why I was thrilled to get a chance to recap a very poignant week.

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  1. identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, 27 Oct 2012 @ 3:03pm

    Two notes

    For infrastructure companies this creates a particular problem: since they generally can't access a customer's server, if only a couple of bits of information are bad, and the customer refuses to take action, the entire server may have to be taken down.


    This seems confused. If PhoenixNAP is a hosting company, then it has physical possession of the servers and root access to those servers and can selectively disable specific content on them and need not overblock.

    On the other hand, if PhoenixNAP is providing only bandwidth -- that is, is the upstream connectivity provider of a hosting company rather than the hosting company -- the DMCA notice-and-takedown rule does not apply to them as they aren't hosting any third-party content on any servers of their own. The downstream hosting company would be the one that had to comply with a takedown notice -- but would have physical possession of the servers to disable access to specific content. Their connectivity provider can completely ignore a DMCA notice that is mis-sent to them, and again they need not overblock.

    Basically, either the servers are yours, the DMCA applies, and you can disable specific content (because the servers are yours), or the servers are someone else's and that someone else is the one who has to handle takedown requests.

    The only possible gray area is if you do something weird, like physically possess the hardware but give up control of it (even the root account) entirely to a customer. In that case, I would think the law should consider the one who has control of the machine's content to be the proper party for a DMCA notification, though -- it's effectively their server and you're more like a company renting office space or a self-storage shed they keep it in, and possibly renting the hardware too. You're again not the actual web host -- whoever has the root password and controls the httpd on the machine is the web host. You're again a type of upstream provider in that circumstance, and upstream providers certainly aren't supposed to be targets of DMCA notifications -- if they are, what's next? DMCA takedowns sent to Con Ed to turn off the electricity at a data center that is serving allegedly-infringing content?

    I shouldn't be, but I am still shocked when I come across legislators who have no understanding of our industry whatsoever and seem unwilling to understand our industry. They always seem to be the ones who most want to regulate it.


    They fear what they don't understand. And they seek to regulate what they fear.

    Also, consider who actually pays them, and the old adage that it's difficult to get someone to understand something if his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.

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