A Hippocratic oath for the internet

First, do no harm.

That is the message I would like to bring to the e-G8 summit on the internet gathered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week in Paris.

I am apprehensive about a meeting of government and industry that begins with the presumption that they wield authority over the internet, the people’s internet. Cory Doctorow decided not to attend, declaring it a “whitewash” for regimes that are at “war with the free, open net.” Perhaps that’s the right decision. Given the chance to go, I decided to witness it up close and say what I have to say so at least I can say I said it. And that is this:

The internet was born open, free, and distributed. As conceived and built, all bits are created equal. It must stay that way. Sarkozy called this meeting to discuss the growth of the internet. It will grow only if it is open and free.

Like John Perry Barlow, I believe that governments have no sovereignty in the net. There is no consent of the governed as there are no governed there. Governments are not the appropriate bodies to protect the internet. When one government assumes that authority, all will. If the U.S., the U.K, the E.U., the U.N., or the G8 impose their wills on the net — no matter how benevolent they claim to be (and none should be trusted) — then China, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and no end of tyrants and despots will also claim the right to govern the net. We will end up living under the high water mark of regulation. That means the death of the open net and all it affords society. Instead of reducing the internet through regulation, government should protect the internet.

Companies are also not to be trusted as protectors of the net. Even as I praised Google for at long last deciding to stop doing the bidding of censorious Chinese dictators, it was negotiating a cynical devil’s compact with Verizon to apportion the net into a neutral wired net and a constrained wireless net. No, companies are not to be trusted. The most appalling thing about the Google-Verizon-FCC pact was that the people were not at the table. These companies and agencies presume to cut up our internet and do not even try to give the appearance of including us. That is the dangerous vacuum they try to fill.

Some argue that protecting net neutrality is a form of government regulation. At South by Southwest, Sen. Al Franken convincingly counters that all net neutrality is doing is assuring that the internet is not changed, not perverted from its original state of freedom. He exhorted the crowd of net people, creative people, and entrepreneurs: “It is time for us to use the internet to save the internet.”

The pity is that this meeting on the future of the internet and its growth was called by a head of state and not by us, the people of the net. We have only ourselves to blame. Imagine if this meeting had instead been called by some other body closer to the people with preservation of net freedom as its agenda: an Electronic Frontier Foundation, a Mozilla Foundation, a Berkman Center, SXSW, a university, students in Egypt, an ad hoc disorganization of people online… who?

And what would such an assembly do? I have argued that we need to have a discussion of the principles of the net. I don’t think we will ever get much past discussion, as I do not want to see the imposition of governance on the net from government or corporations or self-appointed bodies, either.

But we must have an open and vigorous discussion of principles so we can discern the shape of our beliefs. In the course of that, I argue at the conclusion of my book Public Parts, “some truths will become self-evident. We will come to examine what matters to us and what we must protect. We will expose different views, priorities, dangers, and needs. Most important, we will have an expression of some principles to point to when powerful institutions try to control our net and diminish our publicness, power, and freedom.”

I welcome the discussion in Paris. I wonder about context set by the convener and the congregants it gathers. Yes, government should be at the table. See German Justice Minister Sabina Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also calling (auf Deutsch) for a debate over digital values. Yes, companies should be at the table. Like it or not, they build the net. But the table should be ours, not theirs.

There have been many attempts to craft bills of rights for the net, from the Association for Progressive Communications, to a group of Chinese intellectuals, to the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, to the Brazillian Internet Steering Committee, to the Facebook users who wrote a set of social rights. There is much good thinking there. I offer mine to add to the discussion, broadening it, I hope, to embrace not only the openness of the internet but also the principles of publicness (I go into these in greater depth in my book):

I. We have the right to connect.
II. We have the right to speak.
III. We have the right to assemble and to act.
IV. Privacy is an ethic of knowing.
V. Publicness is an ethic of sharing.
VI. Our institutions’ information should be public by default, secret by necessity.
VII. What is public is a public good.
VIII. All bits are created equal.
IX. The internet must stay open and distributed.

The last one is the internet’s best protection: its own structure. To the leaders gathered in Paris, I say of that architecture: Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

* * *

I am also set to be on a panel about privacy and data. There, I plan to say that the framing of the discussion is limited and prejudicial. Why is the discussion about privacy? It should also be about protecting publicness.

The internet is our greatest tool of publicness ever. It is everyperson’s Gutenberg press. It enables anyone to speak to everyone. It allows revolutionaries to organize and supports their revolutions. It brings transparency to governments and markets. It helps us find and organize our own publics, across boundaries, apart from mass labels. We should be discussing protecting the internet rather than protecting us from it.

In Der Spiegel (auf Deutsch), Christian Stöcker warns against the demonizing of tools. That is, I fear, the starting point of this discussion, like so many others. If this discussion is about the growth of the internet, then we should guard against restricting it because of prospective fears before we even fully understand it.

At this entire meeting, we must be aware of the internet as a means of disruption. That is why it frightens institutions of legacy power and why they hope to regulate and limit it, using convenient masks — privacy, security, civility…. And that is why I worry when those institutions call a meeting to discuss governing the agent of their own disruption.

* * *

There is no reason for me to be at the E-G8 except that I happen to know people who invited me (after the initial lists were out). No one elected me. I have no standing to represent anyone. But I would like to try to represent some of your views, as best I can. So please enter into the discussion here.

(Full disclosure: As an academic without corporate support, I accepted travel accommodations from Publicis, which is organizing this meeting on behalf of the French government. I did not pay nor am I being paid to attend.)

* * *

: Here is the NY Times’ preview of the event. AFP’s. Reuters‘. WSJ’s.

: Here is a petition urging Sarkozy et al “to publicly commit to citizen-centered policies like expanding internet access for all, combating digital censorship and surveillance, limiting online intermediary liability, and upholding principles of net neutrality.”

* * *

FROM PARIS: I got to ask my question of Sarkozy this morning. He acknowledged in his talk today that government does not own the internet. I said that if a government asserts authority over the internet, any internet can. So I asked him and the G8 to take the Hippocratic pledge: First, do no harm.

He mocked the question, saying that was easy, that he would take the pledge. Ah, but then he defined harm. He asked whether it was harmful for the government to protect intellectual property, security, children… Having no microphone now, I could not say that, indeed, it could be harmful.

I write from the city where Gutenberg’s erstwhile partner and funder, Johann Fust, was nearly arrested because he came here to sell printed Bibles. The booksellers in Paris called the policy on him, declaring there was no way he could have so many Bibles except from the work of black magic. Well, today, the internet is still black magic. We don’t know what it is yet. To define it, restrict it, regulate it, limit it before we even know what it is, there is danger there.

Yes, President Sarkozy, you can do harm.

: Here is video of Sarkozy’s talk and my Q&A (starting at 48:10):

: LATER: Here’s Dave Morgan’s good summary of the event.

  • http://bit.ly/bdnwgC Dan Farfan

    Well put.

    The items in your list that are definitions (4, 5), aspirations (6,9) and notions (7,8) distract from the value of the list even though they are pithy and probably made for good chapters in your book.

    Take #4 for example. Finish the thought. “Because privacy is the ethic of knowing ”

    That would be an item worthy of being on the list that calls itself a bill of rights. If multiple rights derive from that, then the list deserves more items on it.

    @DanFarfan

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      That is indeed a chapter in my book. I shorthand it here. Longer story.

  • http://mymediainfo.com/ Renee

    It was suggested in my Law & Ethics for Cyber Society course that if there were any regulation occurring of the Internet, it should be a rating system. There are problems with that including who gets to regulate it, the amount of time and manpower that it would take to regulate, as well as how do you rate conversation. However this was just in general terms, and was mostly in discussion how to protect children from inappropriate content in the US. It has never been really accepted.

    • Andy Freeman

      > However this was just in general terms, and was mostly in discussion how to protect children from inappropriate content in the US.

      What’s “inappropriate content”? Who decides?

  • Pau Aliagas

    If you need a simple sentence to summarise it I’d say: if it works, don’t touch it. If you can make sure they remember it, every time they think about adding cumbersome regulations this will come up to their minds.

    Good luck

  • http://www.zebpalmer.com Zeb

    I hereby authorize you to speak on this topic, while there, on behalf of me. congrats… have fun with that.

    You’re right though, that we should be having this conversation, or it’ll be had for us.

  • Nanker Phelge

    >>>The internet was born open, free, and distributed.

    It was largely financed by the U.S. government, and it was exempted from taxes by a 1998 law.

    Also, governments most certainly do have sovereignty over the Internet. You cannot in good conscience rely on the legal thinking of a Grateful Dead songwriter – let alone the group’s second-string lyricist.

    • Andy Freeman

      > It was largely financed by the U.S. government,

      The US govt financed certain software and protocols for use on military networks. Some of the protocols were adopted by the private sector. The software, while available, wasn’t used (because it ran on systems that are long dead).

      > and it was exempted from taxes by a 1998 law.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_taxes shows that the exemption is largely wrt taxes on access fees. It doesn’t apply at all to goods or services purchased on-line.

      How many of you think that I the more books I have shipped to my house, the higher the taxes on each book? I ask because that’s basically one of the taxes prohibited.

      How about “franchise” taxes on book sellers?

      Then there’s the “e-mail tax”.

      • Nanker Phelge

        The National Science Foundation also ran the backbone before it was privatized. The Internet began as a government project. And, wrt taxes, government has protected it. Along with the government’s lax attitude on collecting sales tax on digital commerce, that gives online sites a baked-in cost advantage over physical stores.

        Asking the government not to interfere with the Internet is like asking the government not to interfere with the highway system.

      • Andy Freeman

        > The National Science Foundation also ran the backbone before it was privatized.

        Yes, for the benefit of govt contractors.

        It then started leasing access to private folks, and made money on the deal.

        And then it turned it over.

        It’s unclear why that’s any more relevant than the fact that most folks learn to read in govt schools. Does that “subsidy” imply that govt should have significant controls over news?

        > Along with the government’s lax attitude on collecting sales tax on digital commerce, that gives online sites a baked-in cost advantage over physical stores.

        Nope – that’s the “advantage” that mail order stores have always had. The relevant court case is Quill vs North Dakota, Quill being a major mail-order office supply company.

        The only thing that changed with the internet is that you don’t have to order a catalog or send your order via USPS, and even that isn’t unique, as it’s a feature of TV shopping.

        As to “digital commerce”, most states don’t tax services and intangibles, such as bits.

        > Asking the government not to interfere with the Internet is like asking the government not to interfere with the highway system.

        Or book stores. Or newspaper racks.

        Govts like to interfere with everything. That fact doesn’t tell us anything useful about the internet.

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    • Nanker Phelge

      >>>> Asking the government not to interfere with the Internet is like asking the government not to interfere with the highway system.

      Or book stores. Or newspaper racks.

      The difference is that the Internet is considered infrastructure, just as the highway system was. That’s the justification for regulating access, which is really what _Jeff_ wants to do. If you look at his suggestions – a right to connect, must stay open, etc. – he’s suggesting government regulation. Who else would enforce these rights? Some of his ideas are good. (Others don’t make much sense; bits don’t have rights.)

      Plenty of people suggest that the government should ensure the Internet runs a certain way – that enables universal access, that protects free speech, etc. Few people would suggest that bookstores or newspapers have the same kind of status under the law.

      We can certainly debate _how_ the government ought to regulate the Internet. But to suggest it doesn’t is just silly. It always has, from the very beginning. And if you want any kind of Internet bill of rights, you’re implying that the government would enforce them. I agree that the government should enforce some (but not all) of these rights. But to suggest that the government can guard these rights and at the same time not regulate the Internet is naive.

      • Andy Freeman

        > The difference is that the Internet is considered infrastructure, just as the highway system was.

        However, the highway system was built with tax money and is on “public” land. The internet is neither.

        Newspaper racks, on the other hand, are often on public land. And, many newspapers rely on govt mandated biz (public notices).

    • Andy Freeman

      > Plenty of people suggest that the government should ensure the Internet runs a certain way – that enables universal access, that protects free speech, etc. Few people would suggest that bookstores or newspapers have the same kind of status under the law.

      Huh? There are plenty of people who think that bookstores and newspapers shouldn’t be regulated in a content-specific manner. They argue that it is essential to protect the “free speech” and “free press” rights of bookstores and newspapers.

      Of course, NP is arguing yet another strawman. This time, he threw in an irrelevancy, namely “govt is entitled to regulate the internet because it funded it”. No one would argue that something can’t be regulated because the govt didn’t fund it and no one argues that govt can regulate booksellers because of public education, so ….

      • Nanker Phelge

        >>>Huh? There are plenty of people who think that bookstores and newspapers shouldn’t be regulated in a content-specific manner. They argue that it is essential to protect the “free speech” and “free press” rights of bookstores and newspapers.

        I think you misunderstood. I said that “few people would suggest that bookstores or newspapers _have the same kind of status under the law_. In other words, they’re not infrastructure. Sure, they have some rights – mostly to keep them free *from* regulation. But the law thinks of them very differently.

        We see the Internet as a medium. Like the telephone, we want to ensure fair access to it. There’s no concept of fair access to newspapers: The government doesn’t ensure they’re available to everyone, or that papers carry everyone’s writing. Same with bookstores: You have no right to have your book sold in one, or to own them or the writing inside.

        What I’m arguing is that the government has always had some degree of control over the Internet.

        Here’s what I don’t understand. If you believe in Jeff’s bill of rights, or any rights at all, isn’t it the government’s job to enforce those rights? Private companies won’t, and, I’d argue, shouldn’t. If you want universal Internet access, and you want some degree of network neutrality, that means you want some degree of government regulation – period. (If not, who else would enforce those rights?) There’s nothing sinister about this: The government enforces rights in the real world as well. *That’s what the government is there for.*

        If you believe in what Jeff’s saying, you want government regulation – you just don’t want to call it that.

      • Andy Freeman

        > I think you misunderstood. I said that “few people would suggest that bookstores or newspapers _have the same kind of status under the law_.

        Maybe

        > In other words, they’re not infrastructure.

        That doesn’t follow. Whether or not they have the same status tells us nothing about whether one or both are infrastructre.

        > We see the Internet as a medium. Like the telephone, we want to ensure fair access to it. There’s no concept of fair access to newspapers: The government doesn’t ensure they’re available to everyone,

        Actually, it does, in exactly the same sense. Govt (supposedly) works to ensure that you can buy/have a newspaper that is willing to sell/give to you. Net neutrality is the same – if I want your bits and you’re willing to let me have them, net neutrality says that’s enough.

        > or that papers carry everyone’s writing.

        While there are folks who think that “certain” web sites have an obligation to publish material that they wouldn’t publish on their own, that’s not net neutrality.

  • Trish Abelson

    I would be happy for you to speak on my behalf, for the preservation of a free internet.

    • Joe Cohen

      Jeff,

      As you stated on TWIG, you are one of the best examples of ‘the loud mouthed ignorant american’ I have seen thus far. Well done for keeping up the stereotype.

  • Carlos Cano

    Carlos Cano says:
    May 24, 2011 at 2:38 am
    I am really happy to hear you using the metaphor an “hipocratic oath” as a former medicine student who now studies Digital Media , I have long felt there is a HUGE parallelism among biology-medicine and the web. Web is Particularly alike to the nervous system, I feel this is like a huge brain, Marshall McLuhan indeed predicted and “electronic brain”, therefore I feel this kind of regulations are like imposing mental walls, inhibitions and other forms of repression that will disrupt the psyche of our world, dangerously approaching to the edge of “brain damage”. So I totally agree there is somthing like a mediatic-medical responsability, we the comunity of Internet workers/industry hold upon rest of society. nevertheless, I read once on a book called “from computer to brain” by William Lyton that “NEurons like people just need to be free”, im an absolute believer of this. The greatest minds that ever lived and who fill our history memoirs, were people with flexible minds, like Da Vinci, brains capable of making leaps across seemingly “unrelated” things, weaving them, creating something original& great at the end. A free-open Internet Definatly allows and encourages this creative spark extraordinarily! That is why Some people feel that the internet broke down “silos” of info, seeing this as a Brain , No wonder then why we are living in such a brightly-creative era, with a lot of burgeoning solutions Coming out daily , some particularly global and positive like Social Good campaigns and start ups. Friederich Hayek Nobel laureate first pointed out the resemblance between societies and neural networks, and McLuhan insisted that medium is the message, I cannot agree more with you when saying “all bits are equal”, so I not only think a Internet as open as now allow our collective mind to be more creatively productive – i think that the Internet just by how it is architecturally, is setting up people’s mind on liberte-egalite-fraternite values as never before, the more we interact with it the more our mindset trends to egalitarism and freedom. Freedom permates from the web-computer, as a proof, the latest middle east revolutions. The late dr Leonard Shlain purposed the the alphabet was the force that hypertrfied our left- , leading towards herarchical and patrialrchal societies, often misogynist towards women rights and trendy to mad periods like massive wars. Also said and that the internet was reconfiguring all this. BAlamcing our linear sequential hierarchical way of thinking towards hollistic right brain values. Therefore, I see all Government’s meetings as “old ways”, heirs of the guttenberg era, hierarchical, elite seizuring solutions. I strongly TRUST you will be our voice on reminding them the game on the Internet is not like this, it’s not about building hierarchies but networking. The web is feminine word in Latin languages like french, Shlain (my personal hero) talk about a comeback for the image godess with the proliferation of iconic based communication systems, he recalled that in ancient myths web shapes were related to goddesses and nowadays some cults/faiths feel this is era of goddes and that means good news, if so I like to see the web as the latest reincarnation of the Liberty Goddess, as I quoted earlier ” neurons like people just need to be free” why decide to deprive ourselves from the freedom blessing the web Is giving!? – nonsense. We indeed have to work on what bjork says in her twitter account ‘make a web of the senses and a sense of the web’ but not with old fashioned non-inclusive, vertical thinking efforts like some censoring laws Unilaterally approved, but Somthing up to the height of our times.

    p.s. Sorry for the repetitive posts, writing from a phone.

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  • EB

    Jeff,
    Immediately after MacBreak Weekly today Leo played the clip of you addressing Sarkozy, and then he said, “He’s my hero!” (Not Sarkozy.) heh. Just wanted you to know the President of the Internet (and the TWiT Army) are keeping up with your good work over there. Thanks for carrying the flag of freedom.

  • Roz7862

    Shouldn’t you included yourself among those who formulated a bill of rights? Your principles of publicness appear to be remarkably similar to what you recently called a bill of rights.

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  • http://hightechforum.org Richard Bennett

    I liked Sarkozy’s answer.

  • http://www.darylhunt.net Daryl

    “The pity is that this meeting on the future of the internet and its growth was called by a head of state and not by us”

    It’s also a pity that the future of the net is only being discussed by 8 nations. Where were the rest of the world at least the G20. The internet may be classified as the 8th continent but the 7th continent (Australia) was not represented.

  • Nanker Phelge

    >>>However, the highway system was built with tax money and is on “public” land. The internet is neither.

    The Internet was developed with tax money, and many of the pipes are _in_ public land – beneath streets. Why do you think no one dug up your backyard?

    • Andy Freeman

      > The Internet was developed with tax money

      No, it wasn’t. My friends at Cisco weren’t govt funded.

      Other friends paid a lot of money to run fiber throughout the world.

      > many of the pipes are _in_ public land – beneath streets

      Yes, companies paid for access.

  • http://krashcoarse.com Krash Coarse

    Jeff, on behalf of myself and my family: Thank you for standing up and asking for that assurance. WE THE PEOPLE were not invited to this talk, it was not an open forum. I’m grateful you were there to make this point for us.

    • cm

      “We the people” are, in general, far too ignorant to understand the issues sufficiently to make any real judgments and contribution. They just want more of this free stuff and are being manipulated by PR.

      Unless you have a basic understanding of what the internet is, and how it functions, then your contibution is as useful as someone who demands a flying car without understanding the constraints of gravity.

  • Dan Y.

    Jeff,

    I frequently listen to TWiG, and I appreciate your views. However, we mustn’t forget that “government” as it is expressed today is based on the way society is structured, not the other way around. Therefore, if we consider the Internet as an “eighth continent,” complete with borders, real estate, and a unique society, it is reasonable to conclude that government will reflect this new society.

    The end of this analogy more or less requires a unique (and perhaps previously unknown) form of government for the Internet itself, much the same as the New World eventually had to throw off the authority of the monarchy and form its own democracy. What is left is an Internet government interacting with world governments as an equal.

    “Do no harm” is not, therefore, a pledge needed by existing governments, since existing governments have no sovereignty. Instead it is the foundation of a new constitution that is enforceable by a new administration.

  • http://blogrulers.com Dj Sophia

    Wow nice post thanks for sharing that.

  • http://hightechforum.org Richard Bennett

    >If I recall correctly, you favor net neutrality – a fairly strict version. Couldn’t this do harm?

    Yup, a lot more harm than good.

  • Miles Davis

    “The pity is that this meeting on the future of the internet and its growth was called by a head of state and not by us, the people of the net.”

    By “people of the net,” you mean rich, ancient white dudes, right?

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  • tank

    Io rappresento la vostra attenzione il film:
    La strategia di lunga durata di superamento dell’islam coranico dagli padroni del progetto Bibbia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcYI9GtNLeE

  • Noreen Trembley

    Old man,

    You speak in riddles.

    I’m sure Sarkozy thought you were an escapee from a dungeons and dragons convention.

    May the force be with you! LOL!

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  • cm

    “The internet was born open, free, and distributed.”. Nonsense. The internet was born of the need to communicate between computers. It was pretty hard to get on and was certainly not intended to be free (in any usage of the word) and was certainly never intended to become what it is today.

    “All bits are equal”: No. Different data **needs** different quality of service. Different usage is built right into the internet protocols which is why there are different protocols eg udp vs tcp.

    Isochronous data (eg. VoIP) has to be delivered immediately or it loses meaning. It is better to throw away data than delay it.

    Downloading applications etc can be delayed, but every bit is sacred.

    Clearly there is a need for preferential qos in other areas too. Should the data controlling a power grid or coordinating search and rescue get better delivery than youtube data or bloggers?

    File downloaders doing P2P transfers – the primary people pushing for bit equality – don’t need the same qos as other users.

    Why should all bits be equal any more than all seats on a plane should be equal? It just does not make sense.

  • http://hightechforum.org Richard Bennett

    >The internet was born open, free, and distributed. As conceived and built, all bits are created equal. It must stay that way.<

    This isn't true. The Internet was created by the government of the United States, with taxpayer money, over facilities owned by the government and leased to users; in no sens was this system "free."

    Use of the Internet was limited to approved researchers and government contractors, and further constrained by an Acceptable Use Policy that severely limited what could be done over the Internet. The content piracy stores the Senate wants to shut down now were not permitted when the Internet was born. It was not "open" as you understand the word.

    Until 1994, all Internet traffic moved over the NSF backbone, so it wasn't even very "distributed."

    The trouble with Internet policy today – or one part of the trouble – is that the people who seem to be most passionate about it can't be bothered to do their homework on the system they want to regulate. It's been that way for quite some time. When Barlow says "governments have no sovereignty over the Internet" he's blinding himself to who created it, for what purpose they created it, with whose money they created it, and who is affected by the ways in which it is used.

    The government's claims of sovereignty over the Internet is stronger than its claims in just about every other area.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      The internet has developed. If code is law, its code does not support a centralized theory of governance. Its architecture is designed specifically to route around such risk of failure.

      • http://hightechforum.org Richard Bennett

        The architecture of the Internet is no different today than it was when TCP replaced ARPANET NCP on Jan. 1, 1983. That’s the thing about architecture: Applications can come and go, network links can get faster and wider, but the architecture doesn’t change. TCP/IP today is just as it ever was.

        The idea that the Internet is a decentralized system is more aspiration than reality. ICANN is a central authority that dictates a great deal about what can and can’t be done on the Internet, IETF is a central authority that dicates the protocols, and many of them are centralized. The DNS emanates from ICANN, and Internet routes are more static than dynamic (they can change hour-by-hour, but not packet-by-packet.)

        Code is code, and code is constrained by law. The early Internet was constrained by the AUP, and the Internet of today is constrained by national laws and Internnational agreements.

        Sorry Jeff, but these are the facts: The government created the Internet and the government controls how it is used.

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  • Nanker Phelge

    I agree, politely. If I recall correctly, you favor net neutrality – a fairly strict version. Couldn’t this do harm? What about the rights you propose? Some of them would cause significant change to the Internet. I favor most of them, but they’re big changes that could have big effects.

    There’s also another way of looking at this. For several hundred years, Western countries have had copyright laws that, for all their flaws, give creators control over their work and establish a market for content. Is this something that should also be protected? Should we do no – or, at least, less, harm to this?

    It seems like you want to ignore centuries of legal precedents in order to make sure the Internet works the way it did in 1995. You could certainly make the argument that this is a smart thing to do. But to imply it isn’t radical seems rather misleading. Why is it that people who champion change are so conservative about maintaining the present structure of the Internet?

  • Andy Freeman

    > For several hundred years, Western countries have had copyright laws that, for all their flaws, give creators control over their work and establish a market for content. Is this something that should also be protected?

    Absolutely.

    Therefore, we should establish a panel of govt officials and industry representatives that review every publication before it is printed or put up on a web site to ensure that it does not contain any copyright violations.

    Too much?

    How about requiring a $1M bond for each 1M characters distributed in a month? (Images will be counted as 10k characters.)

    What? Don’t you want to protect content creators?

  • http://hightechforum.org Richard Bennett

    Yup, a lot more harm than good. Net neutrality is all about preventing new types of Internet applications from challenging the web hegemony that rules the Internet today. Its proponents are generally clueless about how networks generally work.

  • Nanker Phelge

    >>>Therefore, we should establish a panel of govt officials and industry representatives that review every publication before it is printed . . .

    Why would we do that? The laws we have work very well – we just need to enforce them and, in some cases, require a very basic level of filtering. I think the “inducement” standard in the 7-0 Supreme Court decision on Grokster is pretty good. This is law, at least by precedent, _already_.

    No court decision on copyright has _ever_ required this kind of prior review. And no major court decision in the U.S. has found that copyright interferes with free speech. (Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled the opposite.) What we have in the U.S. is a pretty good system (except for the length, which is silly) – not perfect, but pretty good. That may be one reason why our media business outperforms most others.

    How should we regulate this? First, do no harm.

  • Joe Cohen

    Jeff – king of the sound bite, with no substance.

  • Andy Freeman

    >>>Therefore, we should establish a panel of govt officials and industry representatives that review every publication before it is printed . . .

    > Why would we do that?

    To ensure that copyright owner’s rights are respected.

    > The laws we have work very well

    No, they don’t. Plagarism is rampant in all media, and almost all of it is also copyright violations.

    > No court decision on copyright has _ever_ required this kind of prior review.

    So? They’re based on current law. We’re discussing proposals for new law, law which will require new types of review to reduce the amount of copyright violation.

    It’s a “very basic level of filtering” – it takes content and determines whether the proposed distributor is the content owner or has the appropriate rights from the content owner.

    > And no major court decision in the U.S. has found that copyright interferes with free speech. (Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled the opposite.)

    They were playing word games. Any interference with what I can publish is interfering with free speech.

    Never confuse what you like with a law of nature.

  • Nanker Phelge

    >>> And no major court decision in the U.S. has found that copyright interferes with free speech. (Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled the opposite.)
    They were playing word games. Any interference with what I can publish is interfering with free speech.

    That’s right, you’re way smarter than the Supreme Court! Do you want to tell them or should I? Wait, maybe Jeff will Twitter this! Do you want to replace all of them yourself, or do you want to start some kind of crowdsourcing system?

    >>>So? They’re based on current law. We’re discussing proposals for new law, law which will require new types of review to reduce the amount of copyright violation.

    I’m unaware of any law, law that will “require new types of review.” Care to enlighten me?

    In all seriousness, copyright is in the Constitution. The founding fathers intended for it to encourage free speech, and all major court decision have supported this. Every. Single. One. You should read up on some of the history – it’s interesting.

  • Andy Freeman

    > That’s right, you’re way smarter than the Supreme Court!

    Are you seriously going to argue that free speech allows govt restrictions on speech?

    As to the “smarts” of the Supreme Court, they’ve decided that porn has more 1st amendment protections than political speech.

    > I’m unaware of any law, law that will “require new types of review.”

    We’re discussing proposals, not current laws, because you suggested a “basic level of filtering”. That’s not in current law, so we’ll need some new law or laws. I agreed that with your suggestion and proposed a couple of mechanisms.

    Are you really unaware that a new basic level of filtering will require new law? Or, were you not serious about filtering?

  • Andy Freeman

    > In all seriousness, copyright is in the Constitution.

    The Constitution is full of contradictions.

    > The founding fathers intended for it to encourage free speech

    Yet, it is a restriction. You can argue that the benefits outweigh the costs, but that doesn’t imply that there are no costs.

  • Nanker Phelge

    @AF
    It’s certainly possible that you’re right and 200+ years of legal precedent are wrong. But I doubt it. Read the Supreme Court’s ‘Eldred’ decision and you’ll get the basic idea. The courts don’t see a free speech ‘cost’ to restricting your ability to distribute someone else’s work for profit. This gets challenged all the time – most recently in the Eldred and Grokster Supreme Court cases. But it’s very well established.

  • Andy Freeman

    Eldred said that any limit that Congress placed was constitutional. It said nothing about the relative wisdom of various limits.

    The supremes by and large don’t make “this is good/bad” decisions – they make “is it constitutional?” calls. The constitution says “limited”, and 100k years IS limited, whether or not it is good. Eldred asked for the courts to ignore the constitution in favor of “it’s good”.