Internet activists draft Declaration of Internet Freedom

Internet advocates announced the Declaration of Internet Freedom on July 2, 2012.
Free Press
(CBS News) Only days before the anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Internet activists have penned their own Declaration of Internet Freedom.

Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Press and Access Now banned together and announced Monday the writing of the Declaration of Internet Freedom. The organizations say the document is "a set of principles providing a positive vision to preserve the Internet as a platform for speech, innovation and creativity."

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Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Mozilla have all pledged their support for the declaration.

The full text of the Declaration of Internet Freedom reads:

PREAMBLE

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.

We are joining an international movement to defend our freedoms because we believe that they are worth fighting for.

Let's discuss these principles - agree or disagree with them, debate them, translate them, make them your own and broaden the discussion with your community - as only the Internet can make possible.

Join us in keeping the Internet free and open.

DECLARATION

We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

Expression: Don't censor the Internet.

Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.

Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don't block new technologies, and don't punish innovators for their users' actions.

Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone's ability to control how their data and devices are used.

The inspiration to create the declaration can perhaps be traced back to the sister bills: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which inspired a day-long protest of over 75,000 websites, including Google, Wikipedia and Craigslist.

SOPA and PIPA were intended to curb the illegal download of copyrighted materials from foreign "rogue" sites, like The Pirate Bay. Technology companies and websites banned together to opposed the two bills, which many speculated went too far. And there is already legislation in place that provides some protection for copyright holders, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which requires companies to remove copyrighted content "in good faith."

The EFF's argument against SOPA and PIPA was that "[i]nstead of complying with the DMCA, a copyright owner [would be able to use the] new provisions to effectively shut down a site by cutting off access to its domain name, its search engine hits, its ads, and its other financing even if the safe harbors would apply."

SOPA and PIPA were both shelved indefinitely, but there have been other bills proposed to address copyright infringement, like the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). CISPA would let private Internet companies share information regarding cyber threats with the U.S. government. The bill's opponents argued that the law would be a violation of privacy. The bill passed in the House of Representatives on April 27, 2012.

The Declaration of Internet Freedom will surely contribute to the evolving conversation about online privacy, cybersecurity and copyright infringement.

"Today's launch of the Declaration of Internet Freedom is another major step forward in the growing movement to define and defend the online freedoms all people should enjoy," Free Press chief executive officer Craig Aaron said in a press release.

"We've seen the power that millions of people have against threats from corporate and government interests alike - whether in fighting for Net Neutrality or against SOPA. Now comes a moment for us to shape, to debate and to unite behind a positive, proactive vision for the Internet's future."

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