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DECLARATION of INTERNET FREEDOM

The DECLARATION of INTERNET FREEDOM is gathering signatures from organizations that support Internet Freedom. "We believe that a free and open Internet can bring about a better world. To keep the Internet free and open, we call on communities, industries and countries to recognize these principles. We believe that they will help to bring about more creativity, more innovation and more open societies." (Thanks to Paul Wise)
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motherhood and apple pie

Posted Aug 11, 2012 4:47 UTC (Sat) by pjm (subscriber, #2080) [Link]

I don't see the existing text here being very helpful: it's talking all about how apple pie and parenthood are good, without saying anything about what degree of cost the signatories think are worth bearing to achieve these good things. Everyone wants to be able to express things, to have affordable access etc., so signing to say so doesn't tell me anything.

It's one thing to say "don't censor the Internet", but most civilized countries recognize some sort of limits on what can be expressed (laws concerning slander, libel, racial hatred, national security interests, fraudulent claims, pyramid schemes etc.). There are many forms of censorship that we consider useful: spam filtering, moderation of some forums, content filtering for children, etc.; the question is not "censorship: good or bad?" but where we draw the line of what censorship is desirable and what is not.

Everyone would like access, but the question is how much you're willing to pay so that other people can access the Internet.

Signing to say you think that "privacy" is good doesn't tell me anything: who's going to say that privacy is bad? The question is what costs you'll go to to prevent people looking at their own httpd access log.

I really don't even know what the "openness" item is trying to address. In what way are the freedoms in that item threatened? Again, signing to say you think it's good for people to be free to communicate with each other doesn't really tell me anything.

Without saying anything about how much cost is worth bearing for these freedoms, it's not a very persuasive political instrument; and to the extent that it is persuasive, it could be used to persuade politicians to go further, or inflict higher cost, than we actually want.

motherhood and apple pie

Posted Aug 11, 2012 6:18 UTC (Sat) by pjm (subscriber, #2080) [Link]

To give an example more directly relevant to LWN readers:

Everyone here recognizes the value of having the freedom to study the source code of one's software, the freedom to redistribute software to help one's neighbour etc.

Yet we know from the variety of comments posted on LWN that readers vary in how much software & hardware functionality people are willing to forego to have those freedoms: differing attitudes to provision of non-free hardware drivers or codecs, for example. We can also see that some LWN readers don't even understand why anyone would go without functionality if it doesn't come with those freedoms.

If there were a proposal for laws that would in most cases require software companies to give their users these freedoms, then we'd all be somewhat inclined to support the proposal. But if the law had a negative impact on what software was developed, then some readers here would feel that that policy wasn't in fact in their interests.

Similar comments could be made about other copyrighted material that might be more directly affected by this declaration of Internet freedom: it's easy to sign something saying we want everyone to be free to connect to the Internet and not to be subject to control from copyright owners (BSA, MPAA, ARIA etc.), but in reality we'll differ in how far we'd go to give people freedom to breach copyright of software authors or prevent our favourite artist from being able to work full time making the art that we so appreciate; different people would draw the line between the two in different places.

By engaging conversation about what costs are or aren't worth paying for a freedom, we'll find out that there is disagreement about things that we thought obvious, and we can work towards better understanding of what the right policies should be. Without that conversation, that improved understanding, I don't think we'll get far in improving the decisions of policy makers.


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