EFF Has Harsh Words for Healthy Domains Initiative

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some pretty harsh things to say about the Domain Name Association’s Healthy Domains Initiative.

The Domain Name Association is “a new non-profit global business association that represents the interests of the domain name industry.” Basically, it represents registrars and related companies.

The Healthy Domains Initiative was launched by the DNA in early 2016 with the vague promise of developing guidelines and best practices for registrars and similar organizations. On February 8, 2017, the DNA published what is apparently the first four of these best practices, including this gift to rightsholders,

Establishing a voluntary third party system for handling copyright infringement — The DNA supports the creation of a voluntary third party mechanism, similar to the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, for handling trademark violations, which would address illegal infringement of copyrighted material through the use of domain names. The system would be available for voluntary participation by registries and registrars who would like to work with content owners to combat illegal activity on a more efficient and cost-effective basis, but still adhering to key tenets of due process.

In a more detailed explanation of the proposal, the DNA describes this process this way,

The proposal advanced here is to construct a voluntary framework for copyright infringement disputes, so copyright holders could use a more efficient and cost-effective system for clear cases of copyright abuse other than going to court and registries and registrars are not forced to act as “judges” and “jurors” on copyright complaints.

In a nutshell, the DNA is proposing that registrars force a mandatory arbitration process on domain name owners for copyright cases that is outside the already existing legal framework for dealing with copyright issues on the Internet. As the EFF notes, this is an awful idea,

The HDI recommends the construction of “a voluntary framework for copyright infringement disputes, so copyright holders could use a more efficient and cost-effective system for clear cases of copyright abuse other than going to court.” This would involve forcing everyone who registers a domain name to consent to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process for any copyright claim that is made against their website. This process, labelled ADRP, would be modeled after the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), an ADR process for disputes between domain name owners and trademark holders, in which the latter can claim that a domain name infringes its trademark rights and have the domain transferred to their control.

This is a terrible proposal, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a domain name owner who contracts with a registrar is doing so only for the domain name of their website or Internet service. The content that happens to be posted within that website or service has nothing to do with the domain name registrar, and frankly, is none of its business. If a website is hosting unlawful content, then it is the website host, not the domain registrar, who needs to take responsibility for that, and only to the extent of fulfilling its obligations under the DMCA or its foreign equivalents.

Second, it seems too likely that any voluntary, private dispute resolution system paid for by the complaining parties will be captured by copyright holders and become a privatized version of the failed Internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA. While the HDI gives lip service to the need to “ensure due process for respondents,” if the process by which the HDI Practices themselves were developed is any guide, we cannot trust that this would be the case. If any proof is needed of this, we only need to look at the ADRP’s predecessor and namesake, the UDRP, a systemically biased process that has been used to censor domains used for legitimate purposes such as criticism, and domains that are generic English words. Extending this broken process beyond domain names themselves to cover the contents of websites would make this censorship exponentially worse.

Standard Notes

Standard Notes is an effort to build a cross-platform note taking application that focuses on open standards and emphasizes privacy and security.

Standard Notes is a basic notes app that delivers only the essentials in note taking. Because of its simplicity and resistance to growth, users can count on:

  • A standard data format that allows portability and an extended lifetime. The more complex and custom a notes app becomes, the more likely your data becomes locked in to that platform, and the more buggy and laggy the application becomes. Because Standard Notes focuses on the “standard” format of a note, this data format, along with respective user-facing applications, are easy to maintain, and can exist for decades without issue. This means a less nomadic lifestyle for note takers.
  • A set of cross platform applications that don’t deteriorate over time. Simply put, applications that are simple are simpler to maintain. Applications that aim to survive an apocalypse must adapt to a different style. Because of this focus on durability, you won’t be forced to switch over to a new system every time developers of your favorite notes app decide to change everything around or just completely abandon the project. And because the data format is built on top of the Standard File format, your Standard Notes data can be used with any app that supports your Standard File account.
  • High security and privacy. Because Standard Notes uses the Standard File format, all your notes are encrypted on your device before being sent over the wire. This means that even if the server was hacked and all your data was stolen, the attacker would only see gibberish – only you can decrypt your notes with your password key. Also, Standard Notes applications do not use any analytics tracking services and will never require you to agree to any “Terms of Service”.

The project is open source and has a github repository.