Contribute to Thing.net’s independence drive at https://secure.thing.net/backbone/
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 Foundation.
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 https://secure.thing.net/backbone/