The Idea Behind the Internet Law Task Force (ILTF)

The idea for creating a legal analog to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) occured to Peter Harter while writing an essay criticising Senator Exon’s “Communications Decency Act of 1995” (S.314). Click here to see this unpublished essay.) The following is a brief idea outline for the Internet Law Task Force , written prior to the launch of the task force in October of 1995 at Discovery Institute’s Internet Law Symposium 95. This idea was the genesis for what has become The Forum for Internet Law and Policy with further revisions coming from mebers and interested parties across the Interent community and around the world.

The Internet Law Task Force (ILTF) Project 

The idea for an Internet Law Task Force (ILTF) came from a solution proposed by Peter F. Harter in an essay he wrote and submitted to The New York Times for publication in their Op-Ed page. Although this submission is, as of the date of this presentation, still under consideration and despite the youth of this ILTF idea (less than two weeks old), it has gained support. The idea for an ILTF was unveiled publicly on 12 April 1995 at the Internet Society Summit, in San Diego, California. In addition to the initial sponsors listed in this memorandum, additional supporters have agreed to work together as part of an ad hoc “ILTF formation and steering committee”: Prof. Hank Perritt of the Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy; David Johnson, Chairman, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Bob Collett and Ron Plesser of the Commercial Internet Xchange; Jeffrey Ritter, Executive Director of OARNet and founder of the Electronic Commerce, Law, and Information Policy Strategies project; Jerry Berman, Executive Director, The Center for Democracy and Technology; Lance Rose, Esq.; Jan Constantine, VP and General Counsel, Delphi Internet Services; David Maher, Esq., and Co-Chair of the Internet Task Force of the International Trademarks Association; Prof. David Post. In addition, David Johnson has agreed to co-chair the steering committee with Peter Harter in order to determine what shape ILTF should take. 


TO: Tony Rutkowski, Executive Director, The Internet Society (ISOC) 

FROM: Peter Harter, Executive Director & General Counsel, The National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) 

RE: Draft Mission Statement for an Internet Law Task Force (ILTF) 

DATE: 8 April 1995 

CC: Ellen Kirsh, VP & General Counsel, America Online (AOL) George Clapp, General Manager, Business Development, Ameritech Advanced Data Services (AADS) 


Q. Can interoperable designs negate need for outside regulation? 

A. Yes, if an ILTF exists. 


I. Introduction.

An Internet Law Task Force (ILTF) can be the legal policy and norms forum for the Internet. An ILTF must be a large, open, international body consisting of practicing lawyers, in-house corporate counsel, legislative professionals, academics, business professionals, technologists, researches, network operators, publishers, system administrators, and other interested parties. All involved should be concerned with the evolution and growth of the Internet as a global electronic community that balances terrestrially bound and geographically defined interests with the decentralized and transborder nature of internetworked computer communications that is the Net. 

The ILTF shall be an analog to the IETF (the Internet Engineering Task Force) so that constituents of the Internet and its related industries and communities can remain self-regulating by determining and promoting legal policies that reduce risk and liability. If effective, an ILTF can reduce the need for governmental entities to regulate the use and operation of the Internet. Like the IETF, the ILTF can succeed by attracting the active and regular participation of professionals from around the world and by reaching out to as many cultures and nations in the world as possible in order to avert conflicts of law and to attain comity amongst disparate electronic communities and various computer networks rooted in different and distant countries. 

An ILTF can be begun formally and publicly at the Internet Society’s upcoming Summit in San Diego, California, on April 12, during and or after the legal panel presentation. At that time an acting advisory committee may be formed so that an ILTF can be properly constructed. This memorandum is only a sketch — a starting point from which the idea for an ILTF can be launched. 

The National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) wishes to work with other organizations and individuals to promote and further develop self-regulation and accountability within the collection of users and operators of the Internet. The Internet Society has agreed to help launch this idea with NPTN and has offered to form a secretariat and to seek funding. Ameritech Advanced Data Services and America Online have agreed to be the initial sponsors of the concept of an ILTF. Other organizations are invited to become initial sponsors. 

II. Why Create an ILTF?

Due to increasing scrutiny by mass media and by legislators and government officials in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, as well as in states, provinces, and other terrestrially based jurisdictions, the Internet is at risk of being Balkanized by inconsistent and ill-thought attempts at rule making and control. Recently, a Bill introduced in the U.S. Senate known as the Communications Decency Act of 1995 (S.314) and now likely to gain passage in that legislative chamber, threatens to impose liability on those least able to control indecent communications; it ignores the fact that users are held accountable for their actions already in varying formats by their system administrators and or network service providers. Users self-regulate their electronic communities and work with network operators to sustain the vitality of their networks. S.314 is also embarrassing: It blindly attempts to regulate a medium that is inherently international in design and destiny. For S.314 to try and control communications on the Internet assumes that the U.S. can impose its values on others from around the world and strips citizens of electronic communities of their right by contract to define what the acceptable uses of their communities shall be. 

Fortunately, there are possible alternatives to S.314. On April 7, 1995, Senator Leahy introduced the “Child Protection, User Empowerment, and Free Expression in Interactive Media Study Bill” (S. 714). Leahy’s Bill directs the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to conduct a study to address technical means for empowering users to control information they receive over interactive communications systems such as the Internet, commercial online services, independent BBSs, and future interactive media. 

S.314, however, is not the first nor will be the last attempt at regulating the Internet; however, it drove one Internet lawyer to start pamphleteering about the issue. In an essay submitted on 29 March 1995 to The New York Times for publication in their Op-Ed page, Peter Harter of NPTN reasoned that if standardization and regulation of the Internet is to occur, it should come from the bottom-up — just as the technical standards for the Internet evolve via the IETF. After some online consultation with Tony Rutkowski of the Internet Society, it was agreed that an ILTF was an idea worth considering — a concept whose time has come. 

It is the desire of the creator and founding members of an ILTF that it form not to impose rules as a super-legislature. Instead, an ILTF must endeavor to educate elected officials and governmental entities so that they may better understand the technical and cultural nature and diversity of the networks that make up the Internet. ILTF must serve as a coordinator to and communicator between existing Internet law and policy efforts; ILTF must not aim to duplicate or displace such existing efforts. In doing so the ILTF can look to the IETF for structure and lessons as the IETF has had over thirty productive and substantive working meetings since 1986. 

III. Modeling the ILTF After the IETF.

A. Meetings. The ILTF should meet at least twice a year initially and perhaps more frequently (i.e., the IETF meets three times a year). It is proposed that the first public meeting of the ILTF be held, perhaps, on or near Bastille Day, and outside the U.S., so that the inaugural meeting may be inspired by the relevant symbolism and history as well as the international component that is integral to building an effective ILTF. By holding regular meetings the ILTF shall provide an open arena for working groups (see below) to coordinate development of legal and policy findings and, recommendations. 

B. Mission. The ILTF mission includes but is not limited to: 

  • Identifying and proposing solutions and or alternatives to legislative initiatives arising from any terrestrially based and or electronic governing body; 
  • Specifying the development of alternative forms of rules that electronic communities can opt to use in order to diffuse any conflicts; 
  • Facilitating the exchange of information between professionals in different countries so that there may be a better informed and more active legal and policy community; 
  • Providing a forum for the exchange of relevant information within the Internet community between system administrators, users, network operators, publishers, intellectual property holders, government agencies, businesses, academics, educators, and concerned citizens; and, 
  • Publishing online tools and information resources to be used by citizens of electronic communities, governmental agencies, businesses, and other interested parties. 

C. Working Groups. Leading up to the first meeting and in the time between meetings thereafter, the actual substantive work of the ILTF shall be done by working groups. Like the working groups that sustain the efforts of the IETF, workings groups for the ILTF shall be organized by topic into several areas. The following areas are suggested and additions and modifications are requested: 

Suggested Area Suggested Contact Person(s) 

  1. Content a. Copyright Lance Rose, Esq. b. Warning Labels David Johnson, EFF; Howard Shapiro, Playboy Enterprises 
  2. Trademarks & Domain Names David Maher, Esq. 
  3. Packet Monitoring & Liability ? 
  4. Packet Economics Hal Varian; Jackie McKie-Mason 
  5. Indecency Jerry Berman, CDT; David Johnson, EFF; Howard Shapiro, Playboy Enterprises 
  6. Governance Issues – AUPs Ellen Kirsh, AOL; Peter Harter, NPTN 
  7. International Law & Comity Ulrich Lohmann, Esq. (of Munich 
  8. Law Enforcement ? 
  9. Privacy Ron Plesser, Esq. 
  10. Network Interconnection Alen Werwick, Esq.; David Johnson, EFF; Jim Parker, ANS 
  11. Metaphors & Definitions Hank Perritt, VCILP 
  12. Mediation & Arbitration Hank Perritt, VCILP 
  13. Encryption ? 
  14. Technical Matters IETF Representatives 

[Nota Bene: The foregoing list of lawyers is subject to change and non-exhaustive. No contact has been made to any of the above with the exception of Ellen Kirsh and George Clapp. It is recommended that the acting advisory committee ask individuals to join the initial slate of working groups.] 

Each working group area would have a director that would be a member of the Internet Law Steering Group (ILSG) (see below). Under each director would be a collection of one or more working groups breaking out to tear through various issues that make up the larger area. As necessary, each working group within an area could have its own director who would be a part of an area directorate which reports its findings to the area director which are then to be communicated to the ILSG. While a very large pyramid of people can be created here, it is important to have small and focused efforts in order to cut through issues and not get bogged down in larger and somewhat alienating meetings. Rough consensus and not strict voting shall be the proactive rule. 

Also, it would be wise to have liaisons set up between ILTF and the IETF, W3, the U.N. Internet Project, and other organizations and programs as deemed necessary so that the ILTF may maintain open and interactive communications links between other organizations to which the ILTF should work in concert with either intermittently and or regularly. 

D. Management. Management of the ILTF shall be handled by individuals who volunteer to lead a particular topic area and or who represent a particular region or interest group at large. Together, these volunteers shall form the Internet Law Steering Group (ILSG). The acting advisory committee to be formed at the Internet Society Summit in San Diego after the unveiling of the ILTF concept shall act as the ILSG until a proper ILSG can be formed. This is likely to occur after the first successful meeting of the ILTF. The operational management of the ILTF may be handled by the ILSG under the auspices of NPTN and the Internet Society. In addition, the ILTF may decide, at future time, to create an Internet Law Arbitration Board (ILAB) for the specific purpose of having an independent body to adjudicate disputes in the working processes of the ILTF. 

IV. Policy Development & Dissemination.

Neither the ILTF, nor any voluntary, international body can or should have the right to somehow claim that its de facto rules can be imposed upon other bodies. However, the ILTF can draft and adopt high quality policies and then let the marketplace decide if they want to join in and support them as norms. 

V. International Outreach & Character of ILTF.

To be successful the ILTF must focus on attracting active international participants and directions. Those volunteers involved in the early stages of the effort to build an ILTF must not be limited in their thinking; while the “likely suspects” shall be integral, new and unusual members must be sought out and asked to adopt the concept of an ILTF as their own and become an ILTF evangelist. 

VI. Path Forward.

First, a broad and internationally diverse endorsement of ILTF must be sought. Second, a plan of action must be drawn up for those leading ILTF. Third, input must be solicited and integrated. Fourth, a revised memorandum or formal proposal green paper should be produced and released for comment and revision. Fifth, plans for a first meeting should b made. Sixth, a formal white paper should be produced and disseminated for consideration and if possible adoption and endorsement. Seventh, the processes involved in the Sixth stage should occur at a live meeting held some time in the summer of 1995, perhaps around the time of Bastille Day. Eighth, a host for a second meeting should be sought out in advance and be announced at the conclusion of the first meeting. 

VII. Appendix A: “The Usual Suspects”.

The following is an unordered, unpreferential, unrevised listing of those individuals and organizations that should be contacted and asked to be involved in the creation of an ILTF. They are in no particular order. This list is not exhaustive. 

The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy, Hank Perritt The Electronic Frontier Foundation, David Johnson The Center for Democracy and Technology, Jerry Berman Digital Liberty The Internet Engineering Task Force The American Bar Association The International Union of Latin Notaires The Association for Computing Machinery The Stanford Law and Technology Policy Center America Online CompuServe Prodigy / IBM GENie / GE / NBC Delphi / The News Corporation E-World / Apple Computer The Microsoft Network / Microsoft The Interactive Services Association (and all of its members) The Electronic Messaging Association (and all of its members) The Commercial Internet Xchange (and all of its members) Telecommunities Canada all online service companies and Internet service providers the BBS community academics law firms legislators and their staffers policy centers corporations (hardware, software, services) entertainment industry sector publishers government agencies international projects and programs (e.g., the U.N.’s Internet Project) foundations campus network operators system administrators W3 phone, wireless, satellite and cable companies international commerce bodies (e.g., USCIB)