A few weeks ago I was at the American Society of International Law’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. I was particularly interested in a panel entitled “The Future of Internet Governance” moderated by Tim Wu of Columbia and consisting of Esther Dyson, former chair, ICANN; Michael Froomkin from the University of Miami School of Law; and Ambassador David A. Gross from the Department of State. Before the panel, I got to thinking, “What, if anything, is Internet Governance in an international context?” As I talked to other law students, practitioners, and professors, it seemed that they each had their own conceptions of what “international internet governance” would be. Some had international cyber-crime treaties in mind, others were thinking of international intellectual property regimes. They were then very disappointed with the panel discussion, which focused specifically on ICANN and how best to control international domain name and IP address allotment, using terminology and acronyms that most of the audience didn’t understand. The more I think about it though, the more I think that there really aren’t any “international internet governance” issues besides those discussed by the panel relating to ICANN. I feel like the disappointment with the panel was due to a misunderstanding of what really constitutes “Internet” governance by the legal community. Many of the areas some conceptualized as “Internet governance” really have little do with the Internet, but more to do with domestic regulation and non-Internet-specific international treaties. In a way, the end-to-end principle that is the underlying foundation of the Internet really minimizes the need for any sort of “international Internet governance” of the network over all, making most regulation (intellectual property laws, content restrictions, criminal activity, etc.) that would affect the Internet simply domestic regulation (at the “ends”). That being said, ICANN does play a very important role in alloting domains, and in allocatting IP addresses to nations, corporations, and many other regional entities, which form the entire backbone of the World Wide Web. Fortunately, this hasn’t really posed any problems so far, though many object to it. I think it is important for legal professionals working with Internet issues in an international context to realize how the system overall works, and while it would take a lot more than a blog post to explain it fully, this classic map of the Internet is a great start. It displays IP allocation to companies, countries, registrars, and regions.

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