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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Declaration of Internet Freedom

A few days ago, online leaders, including the EFF, Public Knowledge, Free Press, and the Mozilla Foundation, have issued a document titled “Declaration of Internet Freedom”.

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The declaration stands for a free and open web and calls not to censor the Internet. Although the document doesn’t propose any specific policy, it hopes to put a line in the sand about what things should look like. Meanwhile, its principles were designed to be accepted by the political arena.

The document was mainly sustained by liberal groups like the Free Press, but the declaration was also supported by a couple political figures, who encouraged Republicans to vote against SOPA and similar bills.

In the meantime, not everyone is happy with this move – for instance, a coalition of right-of-center outfits delivered their own version with various sets of principles, which included “humility” and “the rule of law” – the list includes TechFreedom, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the National Taxpayers Union. They argued that the original document contained an “ambiguity which could pave the way for more government intervention”.

However, if you take a closer look on both versions of the document, you would notice that they both highlight the importance of free expression, privacy and innovation. The question is how to apply those ideas. In fact, the real issue is the ambiguity of the documents, a feature which may prove fatal to the outfits’ plans. In addition, the Congress doesn’t seem to be going to vote against free speech or creativity, but it is less likely to support vague principles.

So, to make a change the initiators must have a good plan focused on the political sector. You can recall Demand Progress’ campaign, which emphasized that the MegaUpload case had set a precedent, and pointed out that now such portals like Gmail and Flickr might be in danger as well.

Demand Progress also filed an amicus brief (with more than 50,000 signatures) with a Virginia judge who managed the MegaUpload case. The matter is that solving the cyberlocker’s problem (and other troubles that may appear soon) would demand the legislation be modified, especially the 2008’s PRO-IP Act, because it enables federal government to seize domains, servers, and everything else they may need in a copyright violation case.

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