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Decoding the “Declaration of Internet Freedom”

decoder ring

Online activists have started promoting a new manifesto for the Internet. Unfortunately their message was written in code. Luckily I’ve obtained a secret decoder ring that decrypts their message. I’ve posted both the original and decoded message below.

They say: “We stand for a free and open Internet.”
They mean: “We want free Internet service and free content.”

They say: “We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles.”
They mean: “We want all views we disagree with discarded after an open and participatory process.”

They say: “Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.”
They mean: “Don’t take down pirated content.”

They say: “Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.”
They mean: “Everyone should be able to quickly download pirated content.”

They say: “Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.”
They mean: “Don’t block access to illegal content.”

They say: “Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.”
They mean: “Don’t block the next MegaUpload or indict the next Kim Dotcom.”

They say: “Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.”
They mean: “Nobody should know what movies we download illegally and we should be able to play these illegal downloads on any device.”

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  • I’m an ITIF fan but this is really sad to see. Blasting these kinds of proposals as just selfish piracy with no mention whatsoever of the fact that it’s only piracy because of ridiculous laws that overextend property rights to the detriment of society as a whole? I’ve come to expect much better from you guys.

  • I can easily download an illegal copy of the new Spider-Man movie from many websites. This is not “only piracy because of ridiculous laws that overextend property rights to the detriment as society as a whole.” That is just piracy, plain and simple.

  • I’ll try and find time to write a post on why I think that case is oversimplified in your telling but in the meantime just distressed that ITIF would come down on the side of the rights holders when that side is, overall, clearly more responsible for hampering innovation than is the side of the illegal downloaders.

  • Tiny Tim

    copyright is not a “detriment of society”… it is the Basis of society…

  • the point of copyright is to maximize the production of the useful arts, not to honor some sort of system of natural rights. my claim is that the copyright regime is overly restrictive from the perspective of maximizing that production. if you disagree, fair enough.

  • marksplinter

    if you don’t own your expressions, who does?

  • Adam Fey

    If you read between the lines the ITIF agenda is to basically eliminate the Internet as an engine of free expression. The ITIF’s vision of the Internet is similar to how cable TV works.

  • You are pitting “rights holders” (i.e. musicians, filmmakers, authors, software programmers and video game makers) against “illegal downloaders” (i.e. people who don’t pay for the products they download) and asking which one innovates more? Surely even if you think Lady Gaga is nothing more than a Madonna rip-off, you would agree that she is more of an innovator than a college kid stealing her music.

  • sorry I’ll try and flesh this out in a post soon. basically, i think illegal downloaders – even if their motives are selfish – are helpfully shifting the balance of power away from the rights holders who have captured Congress to the detriment of society overall. As I said to start, I’m an ITIF fan; don’t mean to come in guns a-blazing. If/when I write up my view on this I’ll be sure to send it along for your feedback.

  • Steve

    Economic and social fairness requires that innovators and artists of all kinds can benefit from their popularity. The internet does not permit them to do so.

    You’re fighting The Man – but the wrong man. 

  • Steve

    Walter Frick writes: “overextend property rights”

    The proposition that these rights can’t be applied online is childish and utopian. They have been upheld by courts globally. The economic value and social justice of these rights is not in doubt. So the question is not if, but how best to apply property rights online, preserving (yes) other rights.

    By taking such a dogmatic position, you have removed yourself from the debate. Which is a pity, because there are advantages and disadvantages to many enforcement mechanisms proposed. But there you are. 

    Your ‘overextension’ argument is entirely a canard. Artists and creators do not want to *extend* property rights, merely ensure that these rights apply to the digital realm. 

  • Steve, my argument, supported by economists, is that copyright terms are longer than necessary to incentivize the creation of the works. I’m not for no enforcement online, but for more limited terms.

  • grh

    Really, you’re not very wise, are you?

  • This is a supremely biased, one-sided article with ridiculous claims without any evidence, talking points, or substance to back it up. You’re against pirating, I GET IT. But, when they say don’t censor the internet, it means they want to say, “The Syrian Government should stop shooting its citizens” without fear of backlash from them or anyone who might be funding them. Not, “oh god, where will i get my mp3’s from?!”

    I’m most disappointed that ASCAP pointed me to this article, because I thought I was finally going to get a good, intelligent dissection of the finer points of the declaration.