Why We Don’t Need More Domain Extensions

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Domain Extension ImageOver the past year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization that is responsible for, among other things, assigning domain names on the Internet, has given initial approval for over 1,500 new “top level domains” (abbreviated as TLDs and sometimes referred to as “domain extensions”).

This means, fairly soon, you could start seeing sites like http://www.site.love, http://www.site.beauty and http://www.site.toys, among many others.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be snapping up your own .baby or .love domain any time soon, many of the extensions may wind up being controlled by private organizations, such as L’oreal’s bid to control .beauty, where there are obvious business interests in the TLD itself, not in selling new domains. As such, many of those applications are for closed registrations, meaning that the operators of the extension will be selective in who they allow to register.

This has already sparked a predictable and understandable fear of corporate control over the Internet. But while the discussion about the balance between corporate control and Internet freedom is important, it’s also important to ask why ICANN is so eager to expand the number of extensions so quickly and what the impact of that expansion could be on the Internet.

Sadly, if previous expansions have taught us anything, it’s probably the latter. [Read more…]

It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How the Internet Works

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Networking ImageLast year, as the debates over SOPA and PIPA raged, Joshua Kopstein at Motherboard wrote a post entitled “Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK to Not KNow How the Internet Works“. In the post, he blasted Congress for joking about how little they understood about the Internet while, at the same time, attempting to legislate it.

A year later, it’s time to revisit that message, but in a different context.

With the recent NSA scandals, the attack on Tor network (widely suspected to be orchestrated by the U.S. government), and deep concerns about how government and private entities are cooperating to share user data, it’s clear isn’t just the government that needs a primer on how the Internet works.

The everyday user that does as well.

For most people, including many who grew up with the Internet, the Web seems almost magical. They click to visit a site or send an email and they get content or data from half a world away, nearly instantly.

But where most people take the time to understand at least the basics of how their car works, far fewer have taken the time to understand how the Internet works, even as they depend upon it more and more as part of their daily lives.

But like not knowing how a car works, ignorance can be dangerous and, also like a car, a little bit of understanding can go a long, long way. [Read more…]

How the PRISM Scandal Changed the Copyright Debate

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Empty RoomWhen The Guardian broke the NSA Prism scandal back in early June, the uproar on the Internet was both immediate and widespread. The Internet, as we talked about two weeks ago, has not let the scandal die down and it remains a hot-button issue today.

However, whenever a major scandal like this emerges, it inevitably has unintended consequences on other debates and discussions. The Web community, in the most broad sense of the word, tends to be laser-focused on whatever issue is most prevalent on any given day.

Issues that aren’t so prevalent, however, take a back seat.

One such example of this is the copyright debates. Though copyright became a hot button issue in early 2012 with the SOPA/PIPA protests, it had been a focal point of the tech community for a long time before.

Today though, much of that attention is gone and many of the tech sites and authors that focused heavily, or even almost exclusively, on copyright issues have shifted their aim to government-related issues. This move has quieted an online debate that is still very much active in courtrooms and legislatures all over the world and one that could easily play an important role in the PRISM/NSA discussion.

Unfortunately though, the reasons for this are straightforward and there isn’t much that can be done about it, at least not without breaking the laws of physics. [Read more…]

PRISM , Big Data and the Future of Privacy

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It’s been just over a month since The Guardian broke the story about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive data collection program known as PRISM. The fervor has not died down and additional revelations about how the program works and similar systems existing in other countries have only stoked the flames

That anger has culminated in both “Restore the Fourth” rallies across the U.S., outrange online and a great deal of mockery as people turn to humor to best express their feelings. The nation, and indeed the world, has also turned its attention to the flight of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who originally leaked information about the program to the media.

But in the midst of the anger, lawsuits and questions, a larger conversation is taking place, one that revolves around privacy online, how much information we put out about ourselves on the Web and who has access to it.

That is because, while the Internet has certainly made our lives more convenient, it has also made them more trackable. In our bid to communicate better and easier, we put out so much information about ourselves, both intentionally and unintentionally, that the discovery of the NSA’s program may be as much a moment of reevaluation of our own practices as well as our government.

After all, for the government to collect the information it does, someone else has to have it first and the government is not the only entity with a vested interest in tracking you and monitoring your activities. [Read more…]

5 Legal Nightmares to Scare you on Halloween

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Trick of TreatWith Halloween rapidly approaching, almost everyone is in the mood for a good ghost, zombie or vampire story. But while there’s always a good chill to be had from a scary tale or movie, some of the most frightening things aren’t works of fiction or stories at all, they’re simple facts.

Of those types of scary things, there is little more frightening than the law itself and how it can impact our daily lives.

As bloggers, we’re even more vulnerable than most when it comes to legal issues because, in addition to the usual spate of laws one has to follow day-to-day, we have the responsibilities of dealing with mass media law as well. Something, previously, few outside of the TV, radio, print and related industries had to deal with.

So, if you want some scary thoughts to give you something to ponder, here are five of the scariest legal realities and what they mean for you. [Read more…]

20 Legal Facts Every Blogger Should Know

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Courthouse ImageWhen it comes to legal issues, most bloggers are either unaware or misinformed about the laws that they operate under. Unless you studied to be a journalist, publisher or a lawyer, you most likely didn’t get an overview of mass media law. That’s unfortunate because now, with blogging and social media, everyone is a journalist and/or a publisher, at least from a legal perspective.

With that in mind, there is simply way too much to ever cover in one article. However, here is a brief overview of some of the facts that you need to know in order to stay safe online. Obviously, this won’t be in-depth and, if you want more information you should consult an attorney (or at least do further research).

But this should give you an idea of what you should be looking for and what questions you should be asking.

Also, it’s worth noting that these facts are based on U.S. law, if you are outside the country, obviously the situation is going to change.

On that note, here’s a look at 20 legal facts every blogger needs to know: [Read more…]

6 Reasons to Register Your Site with the U.S. Copyright Office

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US Copyright Office LogoIf you’ve been reading my column here on the Blog Herald, then you already know that copyright is placed into a work the moment that it is created. This means that you don’t need to do anything at all in order to ensure that your work is protected and that others who misuse it are breaking the law.

But while that’s definitely true, it’s also not quite the full story. In the U.S., though copyright is granted in a work the moment its fixed into a tangible medium of expression, one does not have all of the tools needed to enforce that copyright until they take an additional step.

That additional step is timely registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) and for many bloggers, both in the U.S. and abroad, it’s a both a good idea and an important step you can take to protect your work.

If you’re wondering why you should register, there are actually many but here are six of the big reasons to get you started (PDF). [Read more…]

5 Ways Your Site is Probably Breaking the Law Right Now

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Handcuffs ImageMost sites don’t try to break the law. Only a few actively make an effort to violate any kind of law and most of those are generally shut down fairly quickly, either by aggressive hosts or, in worst-case scenarios, law enforcement.

But this doesn’t mean everyone is perfect either. Most sites, at the very least, bend the law and sometimes outright break it.

This isn’t because they are run by bad people but because of the nature of the law itself. Sometimes it’s poorly-written law that is almost impossible to not break (at least technically) and sometimes it’s lack of knowledge about the law itself.

So what are some of the ways you’re probably breaking the law online? There are too many to choose from but here are five you should definitely take a look at. [Read more…]

5 Legal Problems Raised By Mobile Blogging

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Cell Phone in CrowdBlogging, as well as almost all media, is become much more mobile. Not only are people reading and consuming news on the go, but they are also recording, writing and photographing it as well.

This move stems directly from the rise in both smartphones, which often include high-definition video/still cameras, as well as other portable recording and Internet-connected devices. From Flip cameras to laptops, you can run an entire multimedia empire without ever sitting in an office.

However, all of this mobility comes with it a series of new legal questions and issues that desktop-only bloggers don’t have to face. When you’re recording audio and video on the street, you have some additional concerns to worry about.

Fortunately, they are legal questions that you can easily address and deal with, so long as you’re aware of them and take steps to avoid them before you step out the door. [Read more…]

Blogging, Privacy and the New Facebook


Over the course of this column, we’ve talked a great deal about privacy, both legally and ethically, and how it intersects with blogging. We’ve looked at the problems with anonymous blogging, privacy and email and even some of the false privacy-related legal threats a blogger might face.

However, privacy is a very thorny issue, even more so than most areas of law online. The reason is that much of what we think of as privacy law is actually decided on a state level, meaning in the U.S. alone there is effectively 50 interpretations of privacy law. This says nothing, obviously, about the international implications.

But privacy issue for bloggers is about to get a lot thornier than even that, or at least a lot more visible. At its F8 conference, Facebook announced a new API that is going to make it easier for people to share more things with their Facebook friends, including sharing things that they did not decide, at least on an individual level, to put out there.

Combine this with its already-promised new buttons for websites, including “read”. “watch”, etc. and it’s easy to see how the issue of privacy will likely be brought into focus again for bloggers.

So, no matter what you think of the new Facebook features and tools, it’s important to be aware of the potential legal and ethical implications of using them and, to that end, it’s worth taking another look at privacy. [Read more…]