This Means eWar!

Online retailing giant eToys.com plays legal hardball with a similarly named group of digital artists

Peter Wild of Metz and Partners, the trademark law firm representing etoy in Switzerland, says the etoy.SHARE project does not cross the border of legality. Agent gramazio, who is located in Italy, adds that the "etoy.SHARE is carefully developed with attorneys" and compares the virtual value of stocks traded on NASDAQ with products traded in the art market.

The main question seems to be whether it is fair for U.S. commercial law to govern the Internet. According to Joichi Ito, an executive in Japan who was named one of the "cyber elite" by Time magazine in 1997, has feet in both the artistic and the corporate communities online, and is also an etoy "shareholder," it should not. "Internet domains go beyond national borders," Ito maintains. "It's pompous to think [corporations] can push them out of their name." He also believes that governance on the Internet cannot follow traditional policies. And artists realized that before the judicial system. Ito likes etoy because the group questions boundaries and stands up to corporations, using the Internet as the medium. "Basically, the Internet is not about capitalism and money," he says. "It's about people doing what they want to do."

In that respect, etoy truly represents the spirit of the Internet--or maybe the old Internet. "When etoy set up their domain name, there were no specific rules," says Ito. Not that that necessarily matters, he adds. "They are the kind of media artists who push back on stuff like this."

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