Simons, Tiller & Lessig Letter to ICANN
Regarding Composition of At-Large Study Committee

March 8, 2001

Dear Dr Cerf:

We are writing to express our deep concern about the composition of the committee leading the ICANN sponsored study of ICANN's at-large membership.

There are many prominent, well-known and respected at-large members who are strong advocates for democratically elected at-large representation on the ICANN Board. The lack of even a single individual from this group on the study committee is unacceptable.

The absence of an entire point of view in these debates is as obvious as it would be if the government of the state of Florida were to set up an electoral reform committee with good honest and true Republicans and Independents, but not a single Democrat.

We were all candidates on the ballot for the North America at-large ICANN Director seat. We collectively possess a wealth of experience and insights into the workings of the election. And we have a great deal of related experience that we could contribute towards making the next election for at-large Directors a more inclusive and well functioning operation.

We know from first hand experience that the election process needs to be improved. We applaud efforts to analyze the election to bring about such improvement.

Neither we nor other active supporters of the at-large community were consulted regarding the goals of the study or the composition of the committee.

We recognize that ICANN solicited comments on the study proposal, and we appreciate that. But since ICANN did not respond to the comments, there was no discussion, no debate, no dialogue.

By contrast, there was active outreach from ICANN to the Supporting Organizations, including some groups that are opposed to the notion of an at-large membership.

The Internet user community is unlikely to support ICANN or view it as a credible institution unless there is significant democratic representation of that community on the ICANN Board. Furthermore, the US government will not be able to relax its oversight until there is proof that ICANN can be trusted to keep its commitment on elected at-large representation.

Therefore, while we support the idea of analyzing and improving the election process, we are totally opposed to allowing the study even to consider the elimination of any of the at-large Director seats. Furthermore, the at-large Directors must all be selected using direct elections, and the study should not be used as an excuse for delaying these elections.

We have been told that some individuals associated with ICANN have openly expressed the view that the at-large membership of ICANN should be eliminated. But ICANN was obligated to have a viable at large from the date of its formation, not one that goes into suspended animation whenever ICANN wishes. The creation of a study that drags on for a long period of time and that could eliminate some or all of the democratically elected at-large Board seats appears to be a strategy to avoid ICANN's original obligation - and to sap the interest of the 76,000 people from around the world who took the trouble to become at-large members.

The members of the at-large and the people who opposed ICANN's attempt to prevent direct elections of their representatives have earned the right to be at the table; they should not again be relegated to the role of supplicant or object.

We sincerely hope that neither the study committee nor the Board will accept such an anti-democratic decision.

But hope is not enough. Fairness requires that voices of supporters of the at-large community be heard on the study committee itself, not simply as outsiders brought in to testify before the committee.

ICANN claims to be a consensus-based organization. Now is the time to demonstrate whether or not that claim goes beyond rhetoric.


Barbara Simons

Emerson Tiller

Lawrence Lessig

For More Information Contact: 650-328-8730 (California) 512-471-5258 (Texas)

Bios of Signatories

Barbara Simons was President of ACM from 1998 to 2000. ACM is the oldest and largest scientific and educational computer society in the world, with about 80,000 members internationally. Prior to becoming ACM President, Simons chaired ACM's U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USACM), and the ACM Committee for Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. Simons was elected to the Board of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) in 1998, and CSSP Secretary in 1999. She is a member of the U.C. Berkeley Engineering Fund Board of Directors and a Fellow of ACM and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Simons earned her Ph.D. in computer science from U.C. Berkeley; her dissertation solved a major open problem in scheduling theory. She became a Research Staff Member at IBM's San Jose Research Center (now Almaden), where she did research on scheduling theory, compiler optimization, and fault tolerant distributed computing. She received an IBM Research Division Award for her work on clock synchronization. She then joined IBM's Applications Development Technology Institute and subsequently served as senior technology advisor for IBM Global Services. Simons holds several patents and has authored numerous technical papers.

Simons received the Alumnus of the Year Award from the Computer Science Department at U.C. Berkeley in 2000. She was selected by c|net as one of its 26 Internet "Visionaries" and was named one of the "Top 100 Women in Computing" by Open Computing. She has received the Norbert Wiener Award from the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Science Magazine featured her in a special edition on women in science in 1992.

Simons currently serves on the President's Export Council's Subcommittee on Encryption, and she had been a member of the Information Technology Working Group of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. She has testified before both the U.S. and the California legislatures and at government sponsored hearings on cryptography, medical privacy, authentication for access to on-line records, and intellectual property on the Internet.

Dr. Emerson Tiller is an Associate Professor of Business, Technology and Law and Co-directs the Center for Business, Technology and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Tiller received his math and law degrees from Indiana University and his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. He has been a visiting faculty member at Yale Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the University of California, Berkeley. He was recently awarded a grant from the National Academy of Sciences to research intellectual property rights on the Internet. He has published his research in various journals, including the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, Journal of Law and Economics, and Internet Law and Business. He was also a member nominated candidate to the 2000 ICANN At-Large Member Election, finishing third in the member nomination election and fourth in the final North America election.

Professor Lessig received his B.A. in economics and B.S. in management from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.A. in philosophy from Trinity College, Cambridge, and his J.D. from Yale Law School. After law school he clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before joining the Stanford law faculty, he was a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago from 1991 to 1997. From 1997 to 2000, he was at the Harvard Law School, where he was the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies. His "Law of Cyberspace" classes taught while he was a visiting professor at Yale in 1995, was one of the first of its kind offered at a law school. Professor Lessig teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, comparative constitutional law, and cyberspace, with a particular emphasis on such fundamentals as the First Amendment and free speech, and copyright law.

His recently published book, Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace, is a thoughtful exploration of intellectual property rights, free speech, and privacy on the Web. Of his well more than thirty articles, fifteen or so are in the field of Internet regulation, exploring the nexus of regulation and cyberspace. He has given dozens of lectures on the same topic. A regular columnist for the Industry Standard, he has also contributed essays to The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. In 2001, Random House will publish his latest book, Open Code, Open Culture.

Professor Lessig has consulted extensively with policy makers about the regulation of cyberspace, testifying before Congress regarding "Anti-paparazzi" legislation and the Child Online Protection Act. He has also been active in a number of high-profile Internet-related lawsuits, including Napster, the Microsoft antitrust case, and the merger of AT&T and MediaOne. At the time he served as Special Master to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in the Microsoft antitrust case, Time magazine called Lawrence Lessig a "leading thinker on how to adapt ancient principles to the new digital age."

In 1999-2000, Professor Lessig was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Back to