Some of the major content sites on the Internet are forming a lobbying group to debate controversial themes such as censorship and journalistic practices.
The Internet Content Coalition grew out of meetings called earlier this year to address key issues for content producers. Maria Wilhelm and James Kinsella, both then at Time Warner's Pathfinder site, organized the forums, the first of which took place in February and addressed implications of the Communications Decency Act. This topic has continued to draw controversy.
"The intent is to give voice to the producers and distributors of original content," said Wilhelm, now president of The WELL. "The perspectives of content producers was absent in the CDA debate."
The new group is in the process of legally incorporating, drafting membership criteria, hiring an executive director, and identifying its top issues for 1997.
After the initial issue forums, organizational meetings were held under auspices of The WELL and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology's World Wide Web Consortium. The Well also provided some financial support.
Participants in this month's organizational meeting included traditional publishers Wall Street Journal and New York Times; Internet-only publishers HotWired, Women's Wire, and CNET; and associations like the Software Publishers Association. MSNBC, Kinsella's current employer, has also been active.
Intellectual property issues are likely to be high on the new group's list of concerns next year, but the group may have to wrestle first with membership criteria, and particularly whether adult content sites will be accepted as members.
Although Playboy has participated from the start, one major publisher has raised the issue of who would be allowed to join, indicating other adult sites' inclusion might prove problematic.
The group plans to assemble again in March to address membership dues and criteria, a board of directors, and issues to be tackled in 1997.