Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Toward An Online Bill Of Rights

Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Issa (R-Cal.) have been vocal advocates against last year's Congressional steamroller that attempted to enact the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Pro IP Act (PIPA). The proposed legislation sought to impose government supervision on the use and function of the Internet. Loud public criticism stopped the steamroller, but Wyden and Issa believe that it may only be a matter of time before renewed energy becomes focused on enhanced Internet regulation.

In order to help focus the contours of public discussion for a free Internet, Wyden and Issa propose the development of a Digital Citizen's Bill Of Rights. Their belief is that this statement will establish minimum doctrinal standards to prevent the regulation of the Internet to fall below a base set of rights. Here are their proposed basic rights for the Internet:
1. Freedom - digital citizens have a right to a free, uncensored internet
2. Openness - digital citizens have a right to an open, unobstructed internet
3. Equality - all digital citizens are created equal on the internet
4. Participation - digital citizens have a right to peaceably participate where and how they choose on the internet
5. Creativity - digital citizens have a right to create, grow and collaborate on the internet, and be held accountable for what they create
6. Sharing - digital citizens have a right to freely share their ideas, lawful discoveries and opinions on the internet
7. Accessibility - digital citizens have a right to access the internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are
8. Association - digital citizens have a right to freely associate on the internet
9. Privacy - digital citizens have a right to privacy on the internet
10. Property - digital citizens have a right to benefit from what they create, and be secure in their intellectual property on the internet
In my view, while a free Internet is important, so to is the freedom from harmful and illegal conduct that occurs on the Internet. A parent whose child is abused by cyberbullies will feel the need to provide some level of protection for improper Internet use, particularly when the actor resides in a foreign state that provides little or difficult legal protections. The same holds true for Internet purveyors of counterfeit goods, and other similar wrongful conduct. The notion of a free Internet is appealing, but the practical problems associated with undeveloped or difficult legal jurisdictions around the world provide, it seems to me, a practical impediment to a completely free Internet. When a person in a foreign state that provides little legal support against wrongful Internet usage can create international harm with little practical recourse, then a completely free Internet will not work.

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