cr> Online Court System


Sender: Off The Edge <•••@••.•••>

        In response to Marilyn's post, immediately below, I am forwarding
along an anouncement I received from the Red Rock Eater. My only comment to
Marilyn is in this day of multiple AOL aliases, if somebody wants to flame,
they will figure out a way.

>But yes, we *can* prosecute in our own courts, online.  I look forward
>to seeing flameproof areas on the net.  We can enforce this by holding
>online court.  (eVote can be used for this.)  I could bring charges
>against a flamer and if there is measurable agreement among peers that
>a particular post is on fire, we banish the author from the flameproof
>parts of cyberspace for a month or so.

Subject: Announcement of the Virtual Magistrate Project

Dear cni-announce subscribers:

Attached please find a press release announcing the establishment
of the Virtual Magistrate Project.  CNI is facilitating discussion
of this project, and I encourage your attention to it.  Let me know
if you have any observations or suggestions that you would like me
to pass on the project's organizers.



Paul Evan Peters
Executive Director
Coalition for Networked Information
21 Dupont Circle
Washington, DC 20036

Voice:  202-296-5098
Fax:  202-872-0884
Internet:  •••@••.•••

URL:  gopher://


              For Immediate Release, March 4, 1996 

         Virtual Magistrate Established for the Internet

       Voluntary Dispute Resolution for Network Conflicts

     A newly established Virtual Magistrate Project will assist
in the rapid, initial resolution of computer network disputes. 
The specialized system of online arbitration and fact-finding was
announced by Timothy C. Leixner, Chairman of the Board of the
National Center for Automated Information Research (NCAIR) which
is funding the pilot project.  The Fellows of the Cyberspace Law
Institute helped in the development of the project.

     "Millions of people around the world communicate and conduct
business on computer networks," said Mr. Leixner in announcing
the project.  "Disputes are inevitable, and existing courts can
be too slow, too cumbersome, and too local to have global effect. 
We need to explore new forms of dispute resolution, provide
timely relief, and develop appropriate sanctions that are
suitable for worldwide computer networks.  That is the purpose of
the Virtual Magistrate Project."

     A pool of neutral arbitrators with experience in the law and
in the use of computer networks will serve as the Virtual
Magistrates.  The magistrates (who do not have to be lawyers)
will be selected jointly by the American Arbitration Association
and the Cyberspace Law Institute, and will undergo training in
arbitration techniques.  

     Complaints will be accepted through either through
electronic mail or through a form on the Virtual Magistrate's
World Wide Web site.  Internet users, system operators, and
others affected by network messages, postings, and files may be
the source of complaints.  Initially, the Virtual Magistrate will
decide whether it would be reasonable for a system operator to
delete or otherwise restrict access to a challenged message,
posting, or file.  

     Objections may be based on copyright or trademark
infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, defamation,
fraud, deceptive trade practices, inappropriate (obscene, lewd,
or otherwise violative of local system rules) materials, invasion
of privacy, and other wrongful content.  At a later date, the
Virtual Magistrate may accept complaints about other network-
related activities.

     The need for a fast and accessible resolution of disputes is
highlighted by ongoing litigation involving Netcom On-Line
Communications Services and the Church of Scientology.  The
Church alleged that postings made by a Netcom user infringed on
the Church's copyrights.  The case is before federal district
court, and a lengthy proceeding is expected.  Arbitration though
the Virtual Magistrate Project might have been able to offer an
independent assessment of whether there was infringement.  Prompt
identification of reasonable responses for system operators would
clearly be beneficial to all.  Use of the Virtual Magistrate for
immediate resolution of disputes would not preclude traditional

     An impartial magistrate will be assigned to each complaint. 
Proceedings will normally take place through electronic mail. 
The goal is to reach a decision within 72 hours (three business
days) whenever possible.  Information on cases decided by the
Virtual Magistrate will be publicly available at a World Wide Web
site maintained by the Villanova Center for Information Law and
Policy at <>.  Other documentation
for the Project is available at the same Web site.

     David Johnson, Co-Director of the Cyberspace Law Institute
said:  "The Virtual Magistrate Project is not a solution to all
network problems.  Some matters will inevitably end up in
traditional courts.  If the Virtual Magistrate Project can
contribute to the swift, inexpensive, and fair resolution of some
disputes, then it will be a success."

       Paul Evan Peters, Executive Director of the Coalition for
Networked Information, a diverse partnership of over two hundred
institutions and organizations promoting the scholarly and
intellectually productive uses of the Internet commented:  "This
project promises an extremely important and much needed
alternative to legislation, contract negotiation, and litigation
for addressing the uncertainties that we should all face together
in the rapidly evolving networked resource and service

     The Virtual Magistrate Project is a pilot project. 
Adjustments to the rules and procedures will be made based on
experience.  The Project will be evaluated by the participants at
a conference to be convened by NCAIR and CLI in May 1996, and
decisions will be made about finding a more permanent structure
and funding.  NCAIR has made $75,000 available for the operation
of the pilot.

     NCAIR is a non-profit, educational corporation actively
engaged in the study and application of technology to the to the
legal and accounting professions since 1966.  

     The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is a
public-service, not-for-profit organization offering a broad
range of dispute resolution services to corporations, attorneys,
insurers, individuals, trade associations, unions, consumers, and
all levels of government.  AAA has been an international focal
point for private dispute resolution since arbitration became an
acceptable alternative to courts in the 1920s.
     George Friedman, Senior Vice President of AAA said:  "Given
the increasing inaccessibility of the court system and the
explosive growth of online technology, it is quite appropriate
that an effort would be made to develop a means of resolving
disputes simply and quickly online.  The American Arbitration
Association is delighted to be a founding partner of the Virtual
Magistrate Project, which will undoubtedly pave new ground in
advancing alternative dispute resolution."

     The Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy will
maintain a public online repository of Virtual Magistrate
complaints, decisions, and documents.  The Villanova Center will
also maintain electronic discussion groups for magistrates,
participants, and other interested parties, and it will work
jointly with AAA to prepare training materials.  The Villanova
Center is at Villanova University School of Law, near

          Virtual Magistrate Project, Robert Gellman, Executive
     Director, 202-543-7923, •••@••.•••

          Cyberspace Law Institute, David R. Johnson, 202-496-
     9523, •••@••.•••; David Post, 202-364-5010,

          Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy, Henry
     H. Perritt, Jr., Professor of Law, 610-519-7078,

          National Center for Automated Information Research: 
     Timothy C. Leixner, Chairman of the Board, 954-462-3300

          American Arbitration Association:  George Friedman,
     Senior Vice President, 212-484-4120, •••@••.•••

Electronic Addresses for the Virtual Magistrate Project

     VM Web Page:   
     AAA Web Page   
     Complaints:              •••@••.•••
     Help:                    •••@••.•••
     VM Operations:           •••@••.•••
     AAA Administrator:       •••@••.•••
     VM Executive Director:   •••@••.•••

To ensure added security to this message, print, add water, stir and drink.

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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