A Brief History of the Internet Law & Policy Forum
Beginning in late 1993, several individuals who had become involved in the organization of the Forum began, on independent paths that have since converged, to conclude that:
During 1994 and early 1995, informal dialogues and scholarly research accumulated, providing a basis for proposing the formation of a global organization, committed to principles of agile, disciplined, open processes, to partner with the technology standards development process and produce definitive, useful work product responsive to the challenging legal and policy issue that were accelerating in their significance.
- The rapid evolution of electronic commerce and the expansion of the Internet were going to require a more predictable and uniform legal structure in order for the evolving technologies to realize their full potential in facilitating a global marketplace and effective Internet-based communication.
- Existing institutions for standards development, both for technical standards and for legal standards, were facing comparable challenges to keep pace with the speed of change and the demands of the market for standards development.
- Law, policy and technology would have to achieve an improved balance in dialogue and collaborative development in order for society, commerce and government to effectively facilitate the Internet as a foundation for the emergence of the global information infrastructure.
In April 1995, an essay by Peter Harter, currently Senior Vice President Business Development & Public Policy for Securify Inc., proposed the formation of an Internet Law Task Force. That essay proved to be a rallying point for many of the individuals interested in the questions of law and governance relating to the Internet. As a result, largely through Mr. Harter’s efforts, an increasingly coordinated group of volunteers and interested parties became known to one another across North America, Europe, Australia and Asia and continued informal discussions regarding the needs and possible solutions.
In late October, 1995, at the Internet Law Symposium sponsored by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, many of the interested individuals assembled and determined that the time had come to commit to the need for an organization and begin to move forward. The formation of the Internet Law Task Force was announced at the Symposium, and with administrative support from the Discovery Institute, organized with the following announced purpose:
Messrs. Harter, Al Gidari (a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and a member of the Perkins Coie law firm based in Seattle) and Jeffrey Ritter volunteered to serve as co-chairs of the Task Force. A listserve was established, and volunteers began to commit their time and resources toward achieving the announced purpose of the Task Force.
- “Our goal is to mature the Internet Law Task Force into an operating non-governmental organization as soon as practicable”
Those organizing the Task Force were strongly committed to the potential of the private sector to successfully achieve the development, in the strong tradition of the commercial development of other global spaces, of a self-regulatory legal environment. In addition, taking account of the absolutely unique global characteristics of the Internet and, as well, the potentials of the technologies themselves to facilitate open, deliberative methods of achieving change, the organizers were also committed to the principle that Commerce would invest in processes of developing legal products and policy analyses that reflected, in this final decade of the 20th century, the “best business practices” of standards development for technology and telecommunication. Accordingly, several values were embraced:
Confirming those values, the organizers committed to the view that, although a strong, collaborative basis for working with governments should be a priority, the essential funding and empowerment of the new organization would have to be driven from the private sector.
- The new organization must be market-driven; it must empower fora and consortia requiring the development of solutions to be able to commit to an agile, disciplined means of producing solutions responsive to the needs of commerce and changing communication environments.
- The new organization must be global in its scope, both as to participation and process and in the capacity to empower local or regional communities of interests to use the Forum effectively, achieving focused results.
Beginning in early 1996, the co-chairs of the Task Force and additional volunteers conducted a series of meetings with representatives of corporate stakeholders in the future of the Internet and, in addition, informally met with officials of governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental international organizations. Strong support for the purposes of the Task Force produced offers of funding for the expenses of proving the value of the Forum through actual demonstrations and underwriting the related costs of the necessary administrative and professional expenses. A Development Fund was established at the Discovery Institute.
The first full-time Executive Director, Ruth Day, was retained in October 1998. In early 1999, Ms. Day established the Internet Law & Policy Forum as a free-standing, non-profit organization, supported by an international membership, led by an international Board and Executive Committee, and recognized in a growing number of international fora.
Since September 2001, Andrew Konstantaras has assumed the role of Executive Director and primary spokesperson for the ILPF. He contributes directly to the legal and policy debate surrounding the development of the Internet and global e-commerce.