The US's failure to take an international approach to Internet governance has provoked the European Union into a rare display of united, if diplomatic, criticism of the US Commerce Department's green paper on the issue.
In a letter signed by both UK. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Barbara Roche, and European Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann, the EU laments that the proposals "risk consolidating permanent US jurisdiction over the Internet as a whole including dispute resolution and trademarks used on the Internet," according to the text of the submission.
The proposals "appear not to recognise the need to implement an international approach," it adds, asserting that the US proposals therefore violate the December 1997 joint declaration on electronic commerce which recognised the international dimension of the Internet.
The Member States and the Commission therefore called on the US for wider and longer consultations. They "consider that an additional effort is called for to reach a balance of interests and responsibilities, so that the international character of the Internet is recognised," according to the text.
On Feb. 18 the USpublished the green paper which notes the inadequacy of current structures governing the Internet and called for a new organisation to manage it. The Commerce Department gave all interested parties until March 23 to send in their comments and criticisms.
In addition to the lack of attention to the international dimension of the Internet, the EU's response highlights seven other issues that the US should consider when issuing its final policy. Most of these were identified by the European Commission in a draft response in late February, and include the Green Paper's failures to make any significant improvement regarding guarantees for trademark holders when registering domain names.
The EU response also asserts the need for a system which allows users to keep their domain names even when changing locations, much as one can within the telephone number system.
The Union also questions the Green Paper's overlooking the Internet assignment and registration system put forward by a group of about 50 Internet operators known as CORE (Council of Registration Entities) despite the fact that some 88 registration bodies including 35 in the EU have joined the system, according to the letter.
The letter also indicates that the US proposals might run into possible anti-trust problems in the EU.
The Commerce Department green paper put forward the idea of phasing out the current management of Internet domain names as handled by Network Solutions Inc. under contract from the US government. It proposed licensing five more registrars to distribute and oversee the databases of five new top-level domains. But US representation would remain predominant in the new structures, according to the Commission.