Just as Canada and the U.S. were gearing up for a holiday weekend, there was a flurry of noteworthy policy developments. I expect that I will have more to say about each in the weeks ahead, so I only pause to comment briefly on each (in order of media coverage they generated) Internet governance, Internet pharmacies, and the conclusion of the Hague Conference Treaty on Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments.
First, as many have discussed, the U.S. articulated a new (some would say old) position on Internet governance. While ICANN says that it is still working achieve independence, the U.S. might as well have said don’t bother, since the NTIA now maintains that the U.S. position is that it "intends to preserve the security and stability of the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS). It will maintain its historic role in authorizing changes to the authoritative root zone file."
The bright light here is that the U.S. may have opened the door to a new deal on ccTLDs that would recognize national government sovereignty over their domains ("Governments have legitimate interest in the management of their country code top level domains (ccTLD)."). Assuming the U.S. retains ultimate control, however, they would essentially be "giving" countries the right to do as they see fit within their national borders, which is no more than a right they already have. The tougher question surrounds the right associated with a national domain in the global root zone file. If the U.S. isn’t budging here, that spells a potential showdown as few countries are content to leave final control over a key resource to the U.S.
The Canadian position on Internet governance is certainly worth watching. Industry Canada issued a call for comments last week on Internet governance that said little about where Canada stands, other than noting that security and reliability are paramount issues. Canada has traditionally been supportive of the U.S. position, but one must wonder whether such unconditional support is warranted given the recent U.S. policy shift.
Second, the Canadian government is apparently planning to address the Internet pharmacy issue by restricting bulk sales of pharmaceuticals to the United States. This actually represents a shift in what most might have predicted several months ago. Reduced bulk sales will have some impact on Canadian Internet pharmacies, but won’t kill the industry. This issue has the same feeling engendered by the copyright file: Canada tries to establish a policy that meets its national interest and seeks to provide its foreign partners (ie. the U.S.) with some satisfaction. The U.S. responds by saying thanks, but not good enough.
Third, amid absolutely no media coverage, the Hague Conference on Private International Law has apparently concluded a treaty on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments. The Internet presents significant challenges for traditional laws and many observers have expressed the view that the best solution may lie in developing international agreements. I am skeptical of that view, but negotiators at the Hague have worked for more than a decade on a treaty that would address some Internet jurisdiction issues (though the treaty is not Internet specific). No final language yet, but Manon Ress has some details on what transpired.