DNS is the smallest part of what this is about. It is about privacy, intellectual property, consumer protection online, spam, security, freedom of expression, multilingualism, ecommerce, and half a dozen other issues just off the top of my head. The misconception that this is just about what ICANN and the IETF do is probably the biggest reason why people react badly to the idea of the UN stepping in. Granted, the UN would suck at stuff like that. Its value add would be in providing a more open and inclusive forum (than what we have now) for other Internet policy issues to be worked out.
Also, the fact that India was first to put this proposal forward is not that relevant. Brazil and South Africa are amongst the other countries that have been talking along the same lines.
The spin on this story is engineered to make you stop questionning the way that the Internet is run currently. And despite what you may have heard, it is not still run by Slashdot-friendly geeks. Sure, some of the underlying nuts and bolts are, and things are working at that level. But at the public policy level, geeks have no say. That level of Internet governance is controlled by big corporations and rich governments. The hardest thing is, they like to pretend that they are on our side. But they are not. These are the powers that brought forth SOPA/PIPA and ACTA. To put it simply, US and EU policies bought by big business now are the way that the Internet is controlled. This proposal aims for nothing more but to change that.
Don't believe the FUD about the United Nations. Most of the things that Slashdotters hate about the US, are things on which the UN agrees with you about. ACTA could never have happened within the UN intellectual body, WIPO - why do you think that it was deliberately negotiated elsewhere? It is because at WIPO, civil society and developing countries actually have a reasonably good voice. We will speak out against unjust laws and enforcement practices (not always successfully - the WIPO Copyright Treaties still passed - but their US implementation is far worse than the much more reasonable WIPO baseline.) The UN is more reasonable precisely because rich governments and multinationals can't push through their agendas, as they can at the closed-door US trade meetings. They have to reach a compromise with developing country governments and civil society groups.
Make no mistake. To move this level of Internet policy making outside of US control and into a multilateral forum in which the door is open to civil society (which, remember, means you and me) would not make things any worse, it could only make things much better, because it would have to become more transparent, more globally democratic and more inclusive of other viewpoints besides those paid for by big business. That's not to say that there aren't things that could be improved in India's proposal. There are, absolutely. But that's why we should welcome the opportunity to engage with them on it, rather than closing the door on future improvements to the unfair way in which Internet public poilcy is now made. For more reading...
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Digital Personal Property, which the IEEE P1817 [ieee.org] working group has been developing for the last couple of years.
One of the main problems with DRM for consumers is that it offends the deeply-ingrained notion that when we purchase a book, album or movie – whether as a physical product or a download – we should own it, and use it however we wish within our social and family circles, without the oversight of the copyright owner. We feel this way while at the same time respecting the right of the copyright owner of a protected work to control its distribution outside our circle of family and friends.
This insight underlies the IEEE Standard for Consumer-ownable Digital Personal Property (DPP), that will allow consumers complete freedom to lend, copy, sell or give away the digital works that they have purchased, whilst inhibiting them from sharing with strangers. In order to achieve this, the work is encrypted – which is just what DRM does.
But unlike with DRM, the encryption does not prevent the work from being copied, nor allow its usage to be tracked or controlled by the copyright owner. It simply enforces two simple functions of every DPP-protected work: a “give” button and a “take” button. The “give” button ensures that every DPP-protected work can be shared, both by the original purchaser and by everyone with whom it has already been shared. The “take” button ensures that each and any of those individuals can take the work back from all the others, “collapsing” it, if you will, into the single unit that it was when purchased.
The main difference between DPP and Ultraviolet is that there are literally no limits to how many copies you can make or what you can do with them. In fact, the copyright owner has no way of even knowing how many times the work has been shared, with whom, or who currently owns the work. The concept of ownership and who gets to receive copies are determined by social constraints, not technological ones - who do you trust not to use the "Take" button on you?
The main problem that the Working Group faces at the moment, apart from buy-in from the major studios, is that it needs an experienced technical expert to take leadership of actually finalising the specification. If someone from Slashdot has any contacts who might be interested, please contact the Working Group.
Disclaimer: I am a member of the P1817 Working Group, representing consumers' interests.
Feel disillusioned? I've got some great new illusions, right here!