Help draft the "Internet Bill of Rights"

Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström is drafting an Internet Bill of Rights for introduction into the European Parliament, and he's seeking your advice on the language:

I will give a first draft of an answer to the first question: What sections should be in the Internet Bill of Rights?

1. Fundamental rights. The European Convention on Human Rights should be respected on the net as well, including Article 8 (the right to privacy) and Article 10 (information freedom).

2. Net neutrality. Internet operators should provide neutral connections without any restrictions on content, sites, platforms, or the kinds of equipment that may be attached.

3. Mere conduit. I return for providing net neutrality, Internet operators and other suppliers of information infrastructure should not be held responsible for the information exchanged by their clients.

These are my first suggestions. Are there any other areas that ought to be covered by an Internet Bill of Rights? The floor is open, and all suggestions and comments are welcome.

Let's write an Internet Bill of Rights (via The Command Line)


  1. I normally deplore the practice, but somehow I think that the list should look like this:

    1. First!

    2. Fundamental rights. The European Convention on Human Rights should be respected on the net as well, including Article 8 (the right to privacy) and Article 10 (information freedom).

    3. Net neutrality. Internet operators should provide neutral connections without any restrictions on content, sites, platforms, or the kinds of equipment that may be attached.

    4. Mere conduit. In return for providing net neutrality, Internet operators and other suppliers of information infrastructure should not be held responsible for the information exchanged by their clients.

  2. 4)The right to access is inalienable. No one can ever be kicked off the internet.

    5)No monitoring of traffic without due process, unless necessary for legitmate technical needs. (this can fall under privacy but I think needs to be more explicitly stated).

    6)Fuck all censorship. No content restrictions without individual consent unless necessary for legitimate technical needs (i.e. you can install censorware on your client, your ISP can drop DDOS traffic, and your email provider can spam filter. Your government can not run a firewall).

    7)Free porn.

  3. @stevennatural – It’s the internet. Everyone with an opinion can be a founding father these days. And why not, this is what make the internet as grand and as abysmally stupid at the same time. ^^

    I agree with Jessemoya, 2 and 3 are merely two sides of the same right.

    I would add something like

    4. Due Process. Everyone has the right to access the net, given he can pay for the (neutral, see above) service. This access can only be restricted or denied by the local government / authorities, and then only if the person has been found guilty in due process by his local jurisdiction of crimes warranting a restriction or denial of access as a punishment.

    1. osiris, I think you’ve missed the point. Everyone has the right to access the net, provided he can pay for the service. There should not be the ability for government to cut you off. Internet access is becoming more and more necessary for conducting the business of normal life and for participating in democracy. Those who engaged in mail fraud are not cut off from the postal service; those who engage in wire fraud are not forbidden from using the telephone because both services are pretty much necessities; likewise, even serious internet criminals should not be cut off from the internet.

  4. I’m all for an Internet Bill of Rights — with so much of our social intercourse online, access is a free speech issue — but does it really have to come from a party called “pirate”? From a branding perspective, that name is really not helping. This isn’t about stealing, plundering, burning and looting. This isn’t just for anarchists — this is about an issue central to everyone. There must be a better name.

  5. @mdh – :)

    Preternaturally-Innovative Raconteurs Against Totalitarian Enforcement?

    Internet Speech is Free Speech

    Access for Life — Access for All

  6. * Article the first

    All individuals should have equal rights to access to the internet for reading and writing data for their own use.

    [ I am not sure whether we should make exceptions even for people who may have been found guilty of doing damage by exercising these rights. Such people can probably cultivate an alias. The right to ban people from internet access will be hard to police and will probably give more injustice than it cures. Their ‘own use’ is intended to keep these rights from spamming organizations and the like. ]

    * Article the second

    Internet operators should provide neutral connections without any further restrictions on hardware or software other than the basic communication protocols necessary for sending random blocks of data.

    * Article the third.

    Internet operators should not be held responsible for any consequences for successful exchanges of information of their clients. This should exempt them from any requirement to produce records of their transactions.

    * Article the fourth

    A well-organized militia may round up any spam-mongers, trolls, and advertisers of bogus diets or doomsday cults, and drown them in a barrel of their own… [ Still in beta ]

  7. 1- Human rights shall be respected, equality to all.
    Be the white or black, american or european, dial-up or broadband

    (we could add a part about that making those damned pop unders illegal because the suck bandwidth)

    2- The ISP provides inlimited, unmonitored and unfiltered access to the internet on a 24/7 basis (minus unavoidable downtime of course) in exchange for payement and immunity from any and all consequences of their users actions.

    (Provisos in place for legitimate reasons)

    3- No man, business or counrty can forbid any man, woman or child from purchasing access to the internet (well, maybe parents and their children)

    4- Any man, business or country found to be abusing the internet (filtering access for it’s citizens, spammers, etc..) shall face the full extent of the law and possibly the worst punishment possible, being downgraded to dial-up (try spamming on a 56k suckers)

    5- It is the responsability of each and all to make sure their means of access will not pollute the internet (clean up your machines guys)

  8. * First Amendment – Right to access,
    Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of connections, or prohibiting the free generation of traffic thereon;
    * Second Amendment – Keeping Anonymous in a job, foundation of a Militia
    A well regulated LOIC, being necessary to the security of a free Internet, the right of the People to keep and bear DDOS tools, shall not be infringed.
    * Third Amendment – Protection from spooks.
    No Monitoring Device shall, in time of peace, be installed on any internet connection, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
    * Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
    The right of the people to be secure in their network traffic, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the connection to be searched, and the specific traffic to be seized.
    * Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.
    No person shall be held to answer for any offence which carries the threat of disconnection from the internet unless on the indictment of a Jury of her peers; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of disconnection; nor shall be compelled in any case to be a witness against herself, nor be deprived of connectivity, without due process of law; nor shall her PCs, hard-disks or routers be taken for public use, without just compensation.
    * Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed [are you listening RIAA?], nor cruel and unusual traffic-shaping inflicted.
    * Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
    If it’s not specifically forbidden, it’s allowed. Get over it.
    * Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.
    The powers not delegated to ICANN by this Bill of Rights, are reserved to the people.

  9. The right to know.
    The right to think.
    The right to share.

    The right of cultural access – intellectual property shall not be used to force exclusivity and pretend scarcecity but will require public licensing in return for copyright protectionism.

    A free people must demand the right to parcipate in culture by modifying it and publishing derivatives.

    In short the rights of the GPL should be given in exchange for intellectual protections such as copyright.

    This is really an information bill of rights.
    Freedom of speech.
    The right to digest, share and modify culture.

    So the right to sing songs and make bits up, the right to rewrite stories better, the right to improve the culture around you and publish your improvements, the right to hear political and cultural debate and publish your opinion.

    The right that any stuff I hear or see I can repeat in my own way.

    If you tell me a story, sing me a song, present an argument, show me a film – I must have the right to modify it and republish my modifications – only not under your name.
    Culture is society.

    Society progresses more by cultural debate than political. Culture is the mood of the people and the self-image of a society.

    I should have as much right to modify Star Wars as to quote and critique a speech of Lord Mandelson’s.
    The right of Input/ Output.

    And if this sounds crazy, just remember thats how it ever was before the man (queen anne) came down on the free presses demanding censorship for copy protections.

    I am my machine.
    As a cybernetic citizen, I am my computer and my place in the cloud – the rights of I/O apply to any bits that pass to my machine.

    The right to control culture and its distribution is the right to control society.

    Overbearing intellectual protectionism is offered now in exchange for Manufacturing Consent a la Chomsky.

    I demand either open standards or the right to decrypt any signal.

    And make no mistake mister lawman this is not a request but a demand.
    I will have the rights whether you give or I sieze.
    We who have seen freedom must ensure future generations expect it or we will never reach the stars.

  10. Article #1 First!

    Article #4 Sub-section C-H-A and N
    Operative Clause 1: 4Chan is the Sink of the Internet, and so it shall be 4eVar.

    Article #34 There’s Porn of It, No exceptions. AKA, If it exists, there is porn of it.

    Article #42: The meaning to life, the universe and everything.

    Article # 47: The meaning to life, the universe and everything, correct for inflation.

    Article #101 Any internet user that disobeys the terms of use of Websites, Creates spam email’s or possesses Child Pornography no longer is entitled to Speed’s exceeding 54 kb/s.

  11. The trouble with writing an internet bill of rights, is you are going to have a conflict between social democrats who support censorship and strong regulation of content, and civil libertarians who support unrestricted free speech, just as an example.

    Right now civil libertarians and social democrats work together, because their goals are vague enough that everyone just assumes that everyone else agrees with them. An “internet bill of rights” is largely going to alienate one of the two factions that otherwise works together pretty harmoniously towards rights on the internet.

  12. What the Internet has and has not.

    Forgive me if this starts to novel off. The internet is approaching a supra-national entity status. It exists as the combined labor and wills of people from every nation, class, race and gender distinction. Post WWII philosophers and thinkers envisioned supranational organizations saving the world from itself. Saving itself from the terrors of Mutual Assured Destruction, overpopulation, disease, and nationalism.
    The modern concept of the nation state is characterized by a group of individuals owing allegiance to a code and creed, sharing an agreed system of language or transaction and welded together by a government that has the monopoly on organized force.
    The supra-national organization that is the Internet has some of these things. We have lolcats, we have banking, we have within our grasp the ability to tally, record and document every scrap of data on the planet.
    What we do not have is a central government with attendant monopoly on force and the ability to define borders.
    So, if you forgive me for the above digression, anything that is written in a ‘Declaration’ that does not fall within that workable framework will merely be a ‘Manifesto.” Not that I don’t like Manifestos. I like pie too. But anyway. Good Luck 0)

  13. I think such a document is a mistake much in the same way as the original Bill Of Rights.

    The problem is this: The Bill of Rights does not grant you rights – the rights that are enumerated in the BoR are inherent in your existence. Over time, this concept is lost, and the document becomes almost like the supreme bestower of rights.

    But your rights do not come from the government, and thus have no business being enumerated in a document that has one sole purpose – to define what it is the government may do, and any power not expressly granted TO the government BY The People is an illegal function of government.

    Once you start defining what your rights are on paper, you open yourself up to interpretation of the rights, and violations of the rights rely on semantics rather than a core set of amorphous principles. It limits your ability to, having been the victim of some atrocity, declare that your rights have been violated – everyone rushes back to that piece of paper and decides based on the wording whether or not your rights have been violated.

    We see this now with the 2nd amendment, where the words themselves are linchpins in federal cases, obfuscations regarding militias and whether or not the 2nd amendment applies only to them, or to private citizens, or to the military.

    The core of that right, the principles behind that right, all of it is eroded because people mistakenly treat that document as if it IS what gives you rights, and that anything not on there is not a right – which is the exact opposite of the intent and structure of the Constitution.

    Many of the Founding Fathers objected to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution for these very reasons. From the James Madison wiki:

    “Initially Madison “adamantly maintained … that a specific bill of rights remained unnecessary because the Constitution itself was a bill of rights.”[17] Madison had three main objections to a specific bill of rights:

    1. It was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted;
    2. It was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and
    3. At the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.”

    And no pun intended, but he was absolutely right.

  14. I like the concepts of agreeing to such things as universal access and the lack of control, except for self control. I mean, there is crap out on these wires that is really sick; and I don’t just mean beastiality and child porn, although those are commonly viewed as “bad”, kind of like inbreeding.

    But, there are other things, as memoi2001 pointed out – the commercialism of the net requires you to be on your guard. I mean, whenever someone says “this (or that) is true”, you have to watch where that money is coming from. And a lot of people won’t bother – how many emails have you ever received about some stupid thing that was disproved three years ago, and is a known lie?

    There must be an opt-out clause, enforcible through plugins, that block the ads. And those paying for the ads, I mean, if it is how they pay for their site, well, they should be able to say, “block my ads, go somewhere else”.

    My biggest concern with the internet is that we will end up with a corporate and government run tool, which will have to be subverted in order to find the true value that this tool has to offer.

  15. One of the most important thing in the long run is wording and syntax.

    Case in point the arguments and legal battles on the meaning of the text in the US bill of rights.

    Leave out any modern shortcuts, nix any punctuation that is possible. Make every little detail explicit in it’s own statement.

    Have an attached document that isn’t the actual bill of internet rights and not even law. But does explain in exhaustive detail what the meaning and intent was for each statement.

  16. Interesting. The first thing I thought of about this was, isn’t internet a utility? Like a telephone or water? Treat it like a utility.

  17. A lot of people don’t have the fancy ad and pop-up zappers.

    What.. the free ones, for the major OSes and browsers, that are free?


  18. Anyone know if this is true? I have a Time Warner Cable cable modem setup in Santa Monica, CA. I can get, depending on time of day and whims of the universe, 500-800 kiloBYTES per second sometimes – that works out to be at least 1.8GB/hr when things are flowing smoothly.

    Yet mysteriously, downloading a movie via Sony’s online store on my Playstation 3 took OVER 24 HOURS.

    Someone I know commented that yes, TWC reroutes pay-per-view competitors through a series of links around the country, slowing down effective speed.

    IF true (don’t know that it is), that seems like exactly the kind of reason we need Net Neutrality regulations.


  19. A very good one was written several years ago. By Vint Cerf, I think, but I’m away from my archived email files for a couple of days, so I can’t check that. It may need to be updated, though, as the various flavors of assholes have invented new ways to screw us since it was written.

  20. Congress shall make no laws that don’t satisfy the needs of both consumers and creators. Difficult to do when consumers don’t want to pay and creators need to be paid to continue to produce products consumers crave.

  21. Congress shall pass no law or there shall be no executive order prohibiting, censoring, blocking, electronicly undermining the right of a person to use the internet for free speech, including videos, blogs, music, or any other media and including the right to speak against the system at hand or any system/government in the world.

    a) this pertains to any thing “short” of violent agitation. (violent agitation or anything that encourages violent behaviour in any way should NOT be included in this amendment)

    b)All Media that is freely given for use or that does not fall under the governments grasp shall not be censored for use in said free speech and communication.

    c)Freedom of expression is considered any thing that pertains to expressing ones opinion of any situation that is not only in the public eye but is hidden from view of the public by media black out or unlawfull censorship of information that should be known by the public.

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