AMM 23 OCT 2000
Somewhere inbetween i had the chance to meet esther dyson in berlin. I never met her before, so this can be nothing but a subjective collecting of bits. Everything I write is an interpretation of things she said, not a transcript.
She seems to be very happy to be getting out of the job at ICANN. Starting from the end she told me, that we gonna change seats and she will become an outside critic of ICANN. What she said is, that she didn´t like the job very much, cause she was blamed all the time for the decisions of ICANN she had to promote, which often have been decisions against her personal vote in the board. I did not ask for what or whom she was doing something like this, even if I do ask me this question.
So, after we agreed that we don´t suspect each other to eat up small children and could just talk to each other as open and honest as the situation allows, where lot´s of other parties expect each other to report about the other. After she said, what I guess she had to say, that ICANN does not act in the issue of copyright, and I said, what I had to say, that ICANN does act in the field of intellectual property and the more power it has, the more misuse of this power will be upcoming, we had established some kind of handshake.
What I wanted to know was of course something about the possible room for decisions within ICANN and the possibilities to move in the direction to a more open root zone file and a more decentrally structure of administration and technical realisation.
After she teached me again the well known "no we don´t govern and also we have nothing to do with copyright issues" she pointed out, that the space for decisions within ICANN has never been very big, cause the governments - not only the USG - put great pressure on the control of the DNS and also on ICANN in general.
So, any kind of ideas she ever had - that is at least the way she described it to me - was not very much able to adress officially; also because she had no real legitimation, she was not voted by anyone and so she suspected me to be in a much better situation, cause I was elected and might even say, what I think. Which is something new at ICANN.
What she didn´t said and I can only guess is that the representatives of the governments (in and outside the GAC) don´t see this problem of legitimation for themself. So, in her words, the basis for anything to do actively within ICANN has been very thin. That might be true in my eyes, but not very much when this shall mean "we have never been making great decisions". We argued a little bit about the possibilities of claiming the name space as a public space in policies (for ccTLD etc.), what she said is that the ICANN board never wanted to get any trouble with any of the countries so they never did try to do anything in this direction.
Also, it would not be the ICANN board in general, but the representatives of the GAC that don´t wan´t ICANN to be transparent or open for anything the users want, cause the government claim to be the official representatives of the citizens of this planet. Well, what a bullshit. Maybe someone should mention, that governments have their own interests.
Within this discussion I had one specific question about one of the current directors, Hans Kraaijenbrink. He astonished me at last weeks EC-POP meeting in brussels, when answering to the question of the four directors which should be still elected, cause he said that this was not under discussion any more. The protests from the people in the room just did not seem to reach him on the one hand side, but on the other hand side, I did not have the feeling that this man was acting for his own interests. So, what I asked Esther was, what she could tell me about the people, organization or entity Mr. Kraaijenbrink is working for. She gave at least a totally clear and bright answer saying, that she didn´t now if Mr. Kraaijenbrink is working for any governments, but also that he is one of the most resistance directors against transparency and participation of users. When I can beleave her, not all, but some of the directors beheave like him and don´t want to see any organization of users or the "at large members"; even the meeting organized by the CPSR on sunday before the official meeting is beeing watched with great fear.
Of course we talked about other things, examples of problems, a little bit about the official agenda for the november meeting (it is not planed to be much more than discussion of gTLD and maybe a UDRP-update discussion), but the whole discussion was a bit hard to sharpen. So I´ll take the picture she gave me and - even if it is a picture based on the truth - this is not a very nice one. It´s a picture of ICANN that is just pushed by governmental interests in the one and in the other direction, and any space for decisions there has ever been, was misued for commercial interests in the network solution style.
She said it in nice words: the current steps - extension of the gTLD´s, having at least some directors legitimated and able to speak for user interests - would be steps in the right direction. That might be. But if this institution - driven now by governmental and industrial interests - can be changed to anything based on the diversity of netizens and citizens interests enabling a decentralized structure, that respects different entitys, free flow of information even if this means the end of controlling non-material goods, is a complete other question. So, for me it is an open question, if this is an ICANN issue.