FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE LEGACY OF ETOYS: AUTODESK
When thousands of activists forced Internet toy giant eToys to withdraw its lawsuit against art site etoy.com last month, one of their bigger goals was to create a chill on all of e-commerce, so that companies using the Internet would think twice before trying to steal precious bits of online public space.
This goal seems to be a few steps closer to being fulfilled. Last week a user of http://The3DStudio.com told RTMark that Autodesk, a company that makes a product coincidentally called 3D Studio, was attempting to shut down the forum, which is used by hundreds of 3D artists to freely trade graphics. According to The3DStudio.com webmaster Matthew Anderson, he and the artists who use the site had written hundreds of e-mails to Autodesk explaining the purpose of the forum and begging them to leave it alone, but Autodesk had never replied to anyone.
Friday night, RTMark informed the parties concerned that it would help sponsor an eToys-style attack against Autodesk.
Within hours, Autodesk announced that it would relent from its suit, and on Monday morning Martin M. Konopken, Senior Corporate Counsel for Autodesk, officially informed Anderson and RTMark that all threats against The3DStudio.com were being withdrawn; a link to The3DStudio.com was even placed on the Autodesk website. (See http://rtmark.com/autodesk.html for full correspondence.)
"Now if they jump like that before being threatened, we'll have achieved something nice," said RTMark spokesperson Ernest Lucha. But Lucha said that goal is still far away. "So many companies are still behaving like thugs on the Web. The HMO Health Net is trying to destroy http://www.HealthNet.org, founded in 1993 by a Nobel-winning cardiologist to connect doctors in the developing world; Leonardo Finance is suing the thirty-year-old art magazine, Leonardo, for its name; even the Vatican has gotten into the act, by stealing Vaticano.org from an artists' group with the complicity of Network Solutions [the company that controls Internet domain names]. We know of dozens of such cases. Each of these aggressors must be informed that they're vulnerable to attack just like eToys, and could easily lose it all in a matter of weeks." (E-mail addresses and information links can be found at the end of this release.)
"We must ensure that eToys fulfills its role as the Brent Spar of e-commerce," said Reinhold Grether, an Internet researcher and a mastermind of the anti-eToys campaigns. "Just as the Brent Spar fiasco forced the petroleum industry to listen to environmentalists, so e-commerce companies must continue to be reminded that the Internet doesn't belong to them, and that they can't do whatever they want with it."
But even if RTMark and other activists are successful in intimidating companies into behaving well on the Internet, there are bigger goals that must also be kept in mind, said lawyer and RTMark member Rita Mae Rakoczi. "Companies' fear of Web activists doesn't help the thousands of victims of toxic waste dumps who are sued into silence, nor the scientists who are intimidated into practicing shoddy science for the sake of corporate profit, nor the millions of citizens--demeaningly called 'consumers'--who reap the poisonous fruits of bad science and other corporate lies."
Rakoczi sees the solution to widespread corporate criminality in legal reform. "It's not a matter of creating new laws; there are swarms of old laws that need rescinding--starting with a flawed 1886 Supreme Court decision granting corporations, those entities whose only possible aim is profit, the rights of people. Then there are all the laws and decisions built onto that, like the 'money = speech' decision that declares spending, and hence political lobbying by huge corporations, a form of protected free speech."
"Corporations use their legal standing in predictable ways," said Rakoczi,
"but not a one has ever received a lethal injection. Only wide-ranging,
visionary legal reform can address the enormous problems of corporate
crime. Protecting the Internet, important as it is, is only a stepping
stone to that goal."