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<nettime> DMCA: Dow What It Wants to Do - THING
ricardo dominguez on Tue, 31 Dec 2002 19:27:24 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> DMCA: Dow What It Wants to Do - THING

DMCA: Dow What It Wants to Do

By Michelle Delio

02:00 AM Dec. 31, 2002 PT


Digital Millennium Copyright Act charges may force an independent Internet
service provider and its controversial clients offline next month.

The Thing has provided Internet connectivity, technical support and Web
design services to New York City artists and political activists for over a

But at the beginning of December, Wolfgang Staehle, owner and director of
The Thing, was notified by his service provider, Verio, that The Thing's
Internet connection would be severed on Feb. 28, 2003.

Staehle said Verio is pulling the plug on The Thing due to charges that one
of its clients violated the DMCA by posting a parody website mocking Dow
Chemical company.

Posted on Dec. 3, the parody site quickly came to the attention of Dow's
lawyers, who contacted (PDF) Verio. Verio responded by shutting down The
Thing's entire network, an action that affected hundreds of The Thing's
clients, until the parody site was removed on Dec. 4.

Shortly afterward, Staehle says Verio's lawyers informed him that his
service would be permanently suspended at the end of next month.

"I still can't believe it," Staehle said. "I love this city and this
country, but I am terrified at the direction we seem to be headed in."

Verio representatives were not immediately available for comment.

The Thing's troubles began when a press release, purportedly from Dow
Chemical, was e-mailed to hundreds of people.

The release quoted Dow's then-president, Michael Parker, as saying the
company was unconcerned about the lethal gas leak at a Union Carbide plant
(now owned by Dow) in Bhopal, India, in 1984, that killed thousands. A link
was provided to the "dow-chemical.com" website.

The company's official website address is dow.com. Dow-chemical.com was
registered by a group of online activists known as the Yes Men, who
specialize in creating parody websites.

The Yes Men's parody was put online by RTMark.com, an arts activism group
that gets its Internet service from The Thing. Within hours of the site
going live, Dow's law firm asked Verio to remove the site.

"But this happened after normal business hours, and when Verio couldn't
contact someone here who had authority to pull the site, they totally cut
off our service," Staehle said.

"One of my users said it's as if an offensive poster mocking a company was
put up on a building, and when the company's lawyers couldn't reach the
building owner immediately, they got a bulldozer and knocked down the whole
neighborhood," Staehle added.

Verio shut down part of The Thing in 1999, when eToys petitioned a
California court to stop an online arts group from using the group's own
long-owned URL, etoy.com.

In response, the Electronic Disturbance Theater, a Thing client, hit the toy
retailer's website with a denial-of-service attack, overwhelming its servers
and periodically forcing it offline. Verio blocked access to part of The
Thing's network until protestors agreed to call off the attack.

But in January, Verio refused to shut down a website containing DVD-copying
software after receiving a request to do so from the Motion Picture
Association of America.

So Staehle is hoping that Verio might have a change of heart and says he's
yet to receive written notification of his contract severance. But he has
also been discussing the possibility of contracting The Thing's Internet
service from several European ISPs.

"There are, thankfully, no DMCA-type regulations in Europe yet," Staehle

Meanwhile, the parody Dow website has resurfaced on several European

Staehle didn't have to decide whether to keep the site up, as James Parker,
son of Dow ex-CEO Michael Parker, has officially claimed ownership of

Evidently the Yes Men thought it "would be really funny" if they registered
the Dow-Chemical.com under James Parker's name.

"We even put down James Parker's real home address! Very funny, right? Yes!
Funny!" the Yes Men said in a statement.

"But on Dec. 4, James Parker himself, with the help of a team of Dow
lawyers, sent a Xerox of his driver's license and a letter by FedEx to
Gandi.net, saying, basically, "This domain belongs to me. See, that's my
home address, too. Give it to me!"

According to rules established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers -- an organization responsible for, among other chores,
Internet address disputes -- Parker was correct and Gandi.net had no legal
choice but to hand over dow-chemical.com to James Parker.

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