Anti-Sopa Militants And The Declaration of Internet Freedom
Filed under: Announcements & Events, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
Yesterday a coalition of activist groups and internet leaders issued a document under the name the “Declaration of Internet Freedom”. Among those who signed it we find the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, Free Press, the Mozilla Foundation, and many more.
The declaration reads:
“We stand for a free and open Internet. We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles.”
And here are their principles:
Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.
Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
“The principles were drafted intentionally to be as high-level as possible,” said Josh Levy of Free Press at a Monday conference call.
“It’s not proposing any specific policies. Instead, it’s meant to put a line in the sand about what things should look like.”
Levy also planned to coordinate local meetings to discuss the aforementioned principles and construct a plan to promote them to Congress’ members.
Mike Masnick of Techdirt, who also participated in the call, highlighted that the principles are designed as such in order to be accepted by the political arena.
“This is a very non-partisan effort,” he said.
The declaration was mainly sustained by liberal groups such as the Free Press, but also gained support from two political figures – Republican political strategist Patrick Ruffini and National Review blogger Reihan Salam. Both of them encouraged Republicans to say no to SOPA and similar legislations.
“It makes sense for conservatives to engage in Internet issues more deeply because this is an area of growth for free market ideals,” Ruffini wrote in an e-mail to Ars Technica.
“As people live more and more of their lives in a relatively unregulated online space, we can slowly but subtly begin to shift the balance away from areas of the economy the government can control, to areas it can’t.”
However, not everyone was happy with the declaration. A coalition of right-of-center organizations delivered their own version, with different sets of principles, including “humility” and “the rule of law”.
The groups, amongst which we name the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, and the National Taxpayers Union, argued that the original declaration contains an “ambiguity that could pave the way for more government intervention” in the near future.
But if we take a closer look on both versions of the declaration, we would notice that both agree on the importance of free expression, privacy and innovation. However, a conflict between them is clearly visible – it occurs when it comes to applying those ideas.
Nonetheless, the real issue is the ambiguity of the declarations, a feature that may prove fatal to the groups’ plans. Furthermore, it’s not like the Congress is going to vote against free speech or creativity, but they won’t embrace vague principles either.
To actually make a change you need to have a good plan that focuses on the political sector.
Take for example Demand Progress’ campaign, which highlights that the Megaupload case had set a precedent, and now services like Gmail and Flickr may be in danger as well.
DP also filed an amicus brief (which gathered over 50.000 signatures) with a Virginia judge managing the Megaupload case.
Fact is that solving Megaupload’s problem (and other problems that may occur in the near future) would require modifications in the legislation – specifically the 2008’s PRO-IP Act, as it enables federal government to seize domains, servers, and whatever they may need in a copyright infringement case. It’s not likely to happen, but with the right setting, who knows?