Newshare Corp. Letter to Rep. White's office

Here is the text of a letter delivered to the office of U.S. Rep. Rick White, R-Wash., explaining why Newshare Corp., developer of the Clickshare system for Internet information exchange, opposes efforts to impose a criminal pornography standard on the Internet as a violation of the First Amendment. For more information send mail to:

                                        Newshare Corporation
                                        One Bank Street
                                        Williamstown, MA 01267-0367
                                        December 7, 1995

Mr. John Kelly
Legislative Director
Office of U.S. Rep. Rick White
116 House Canon Office Building
Washington DC 20515

via fax: 202-225-3524

Dear Mr. Kelly:

Thank you for describing to us the status of discussion over how to
effectively respond to public interest over the need to protect from the
potential for viewing so- called offensive material via the Internet. We
appreciate your congressman's efforts to find a balance between this
legitimate concern and the preservation of First-Amendment values so
critical to democracy and a free exchange of ideas.

Newshare Corp. and its Clickshare Corp. affiliate have developed the first
functioning system for enabling the emergence of a free-market for digital
information. A central tenet of our open-standards system structure is that
publishers have the right to determine content, pricing and user
relationships just as occurs in the conventional venues of market

Based on what we have read, we are gravely concerned about the interim
status of the "indecency" language in the telcom reform bill following
Wednesday's vote in the House conference committee to adopt the Goodlatte
second amendment on a 17-16 vote. The application of an undefined standard
of "indecent" to the full spectrum of information presently traversing the
Internet would render the Clickshare model of distributed publisher- and
user-centric control legally untenable for a service provider such as

Clickshare is not an online service. We do not "connect" people to the
Internet. Neither do we intend to originate content. But much like a bank
ATM network or the Visa settlement system, we make connections and
transactions possible. We fear the language as adopted Wednesday and
pending in the Senate would pose vexing questions about our legal liability
for questionable content "enabled" across our system. It might render the
burdens of such liability too costly for us or any other public-network,
information-exchange technology to absorb.

As a matter of principle, we think the marketplace is the appropriate
vehicle for regulating publishing content, whether in print, over the
public airwaves or in one-to-one communication across the Internet. And so
we do not support any efforts by Congress to legislate in this area.

If the Internet is going to survive in any form, its pioneers must at the
very least be faced with clear, constitutionally-appropriate strictures and
sanctions, the risks of which can be quantified and appropriately managed.
"Indecent" is no such animal and its enactment into law as a vague standard
will impede and cloud for months if not years growth of the "information
superhighway" while it is litigated. Meanwhile, worldwide operators outside
the legal jurisdiction of the U.S. Code will operate unfettered and
U.S.-venued organizations will have to consider establishing offshore
operations, with the resulting disinvestment and job transfer.

To the extent it is a real problem (and we believe the amount of such
material is minuscule in comparison to the whole body of Internet content)
the presence of pornography or material believed "harmful to minors" can
readily be addressed through a variety of "filtering" and "rating" programs
which are already on the market.

At Newshare Corp., we designed our Clickshare service concept from the
start (beginning more than 14 months ago) with a provision for "parental
control." While I have provided you with a copy of our statement on this,
let me summarize briefly the implementation:

The Clickshare transaction settlement and audience- measurement system
provides the capability for a user's information preferences (including
views on parent control) to be carried universally across the Internet in
real time each time that user requests information from a Clickshare-
affiliated remote publisher. The legal terms of our service agreement with
publishers require the vending publisher to technically and practically
respect this request to "not send" in response information which the
vending publisher has identified as unsuitable for minors. The software we
provide to publishers performs this technical "filter" automatically, but
still leaves it up to the local publisher to define what content will be
subject to the filter.

Should a site vend objectionable material despite what is in effect a
warning from the user: "I don't want to see it," the user has a cause of
action against the vending publisher. If the user happens to be a child,
the publisher could, under the present draft of the telcom reform bill, be
subject to fines and penalties. We think the publishers who willfully
ignore the warning from a user will find their service under siege from
more powerful economic forces than the government.

Please once again continue to resist just one more effort to have the
government legislate morality. The best censor is a loving and attentive
parent, not Big Brother -- and the best arbiter of taste, for better or
worse, is the market.

Best regards,

Bill Densmore
President, Newshare Corporation



Newshare and Clickshare are service marks of Newshare Corp.

Copyright, 1995, Newshare Corp. All rights reserved.

Newshare Corp.
One Bank St., P.O. Box 367
Williamstown, MA 01267-0367 USA
VOICE: (413) 458-8001
FAX: (413) 458-8002