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<nettime> Thing.net press release re Verio/NTT
brian on Sat, 1 Mar 2003 00:44:51 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Thing.net press release re Verio/NTT

February 28, 2003 


Contact: thing-group {AT} rtmark.com 
Contribute to Thing.net's independence drive at 

As has been widely reported in the press, NTT/Verio, Thing.net's upstream 
service provider, recently informed Thing.net that it would unilaterally 
terminate its service contract. While the original date given for the cutoff 
was February 28, it is now timed for March 14, 2003. In the meantime Thing.net 
has signed with other providers to assure continued connectivity and will 
remain safely online. 

Socially and politically critical groups and artists with similar concerns 
continue to feel the chilling effects of unfounded legal threats from large 
corporations, who currently believe they can intimidate an ISP simply by 
complaining to the upstream provider. As C. Carr reported in the Village Voice, 
"technically, what's happened to Thing.net is not censorship. It's worse. 'What 
we have here is something that doesn't even go to court,' says Svetlana 
Mintcheva, coordinator of the Arts Advocacy Project at the National Coalition 
Against Censorship. "'They were just preemptively closed. It sets a kind of 
precedent where corporations can take away free speech, no matter what kind of 
First Amendment protections we have, and there isn't much to be done legally.' 
Verio reps declined to comment." 

Thing.net plans to fight such actions by working to achieve more independence 
from censorious upstream providers. Thing.net is in dialog with European ISPs 
about relocating some of its "mission-critical" elements there. "The advantage 
of this approach is that the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) doesn't 
apply there and the European Union just failed to get a majority for a 
similarly flawed law," says Wolfgang Staehle, Thing.net Director. "This will 
provide greater security with no compromise in service." 

Since an article in the New York Times on December 23, 2002, Thing.net has 
received many donations from individual and institutional supporters around the 
world, in addition to international press coverage. Among organizations that 
have contributed or promised to do se are The Nathan Cummings Foundation, the 
Open Society Institute, the Warhol Foundation, and the Creative Capital 



In addition to terminating their contract with Thing.net, NTT/Verio took the 
dramatic measure, in response to legal complaints about a parody web site, of 
shutting down the entire Thing.net network for fifteen hours on December 3-4 
virtually without warning. This affected web sites for such organizations as 
Artforum and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (and many more), seriously 
compromising Thing.net's service to its clients. 

The shutdown stemmed from a complaint by Dow Chemical Corporation over a web 
site created by artists' collective RTMark that parodied Dow and was hosted by 
Thing.net (http://rtmark.com/thingpr.html). Dow invoked the intellectual 
property and cybersquatting provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 
(DMCA) - a law that is regularly used by corporations to prevent free speech - 
in demanding that the site be taken offline. 

NTT/Verio, in turn, claimed to be obliged both to shut down Thing.net and to 
terminate their service under the DMCA. When NTT/Verio was unable to contact a 
representative of Thing.net during the evening hours, they shut down the entire 
network - rather than just the parody Web site - and subsequently threatened to 
terminate their service to thing.net. 

"Thing.net is a commercial ISP with years of solid service," says Wolfgang 
Staehle, Thing.net Executive Director. "Verio's arbitrary and punitive 
interruption of our services has made us look unstable and inflicted serious 
damage to our reputation." 

"What Verio has done," asserts Ray Thomas of RTMark, the group responsible for 
the Dow parody site, "is like a phone company cutting off a whole neighborhood 
for one prank phone call." 

To receive donations for the expenses associated with the switchover and for 
building a more secure network, Thing.net has set up a donation page at 

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