Digital Bill of Rights

The two reps who led the Congressional fight against SOPA have unveiled a draft bill of rights for the Internet. Reps Darryl Issa and Ron Wyden unveiled their proposal at Personal Democracy Forum, and invite the Internet to edit and refine the list on Keep the Web Open.

1. The right to a free and uncensored Internet.
2. The right to an open, unobstructed Internet.
3. The right to equality on the Internet.
4. The right to gather and participate in online activities.
5. The right to create and collaborate on the Internet.
6. The right to freely share their ideas.
7. The right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are.
8. The right to freely associate on the Internet.
9. The right to privacy on the Internet.
10. The right to benefit from what they create.

SOPA opponents unveil "Digital Bill of Rights"


  1. I’m a civil libertarian, and I think this kind of thing is good, but we have to keep in mind that where the rubber hits the road is where general rights are interpreted in specific contexts. In the US, for example, we have a bill of rights that establishes, for example, the freedom of religion, but just what does that entail? Do native Americans have a constitutionally protected right to use peyote? (current SCOTUS answer: no).  Can I practice child sacrifice? (No.). What are the limits on free speech (libel, etc.)?

    I think, for example, that the right to privacy on the internet is a great thing, but even if something like this were ensconced in law, until “privacy” is interpreted in case law, it’s more of a feel-good thing than anything actionable.

    I guess what I’m saying is: our rights change day to day even when the law doesn’t, so we must be ever vigilant.

    1.  “Can I practice child sacrifice? (No.).”

      Freedom of religion, like other rights, is limited to the individual. Your right to such freedom ends where someone else’s rights begin. People have the right to life, including children.

      1. That, too, is limited; the right to life can be taken away from some convicted criminals.

        Most of the conflicts I see happen anywhere arise just where the (reasonably claimed) rights of two groups overlap- in many of those cases there is simply no solution that doesn’t make a value judgment as to whose rights take priority.

      2.  Yes, an AnthonyC points out, there are no absolute rights, even for individuals (and let’s face it, the distinction between the individual and groups is pretty blurred right now, at least in the US where the “bill or rights” meme is pretty strong). When speaking of the US, a lot of folks think that “inalienable” means absolute, but it doesn’t. It says the right can’t be taken away, but the rights themselves are limited.

        What’s more, the line of demarcation between where one person’s rights ends and another one’s begins is only clear in simple cases, like in the analogies that sprinkle Internet posts. Child sacrifice is one of those simplified cases. Real cases of religious freedom are seldom that cut and dried.

        Today I saw a report that the WHO just released a study that says deisel exhast is more carcinogenic than second-hand tobacco smoke, so when the new Volvo diesel hybrids come out, will it be your right to buy it, or my right to avoid the miniscule risk of cancer that your car may pose to me?

        In a world as crowded and interconnected as today’s world, the “my rights/your rights” rhetoric may be true and satisfying, but it’s not practical. So, let’s say you can’t by the Volvo. Well, if you start pumping out more CO2 that starts affecting the ability of Innuit people to live their chosen traditional lifestyle, owing to the vanishing of the ice. Ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

        Life and rights will always be messy, which is why we just have to keep doing the best we can. The proposed Internet Bill of Rights is a valiant effort, but it misses all of the messiness that characterizes real life.

  2. don’t make me think nice things about Darryl Issa .

    also, the full text of #10 is:

    “10. Property – digital citizens have a right to benefit from what they create, and be secure in their intellectual property on the internet”

  3. Sounds great, but what does an “uncensored Internet” mean? Is child porn going to be uncensored? (And if you counter that illegal things could still be censored, how about pictures of people smoking pot?)

        1.  Hmm? Management trainee? Not sure I see the clarifying connection, there.

          I wasn’t referring to any item in particular. I merely think an awareness that we don’t live in a perfect world shouldn’t stop us from aiming to accomplish as much as we can in this area.

    1. I know nothing about Issa and Wyden, but many politicos strike me as sociopaths who think they were born to be leaders of the common people. Sort of a post-feudal royalty.

      1.  As a former San Diegan, I don’t have fond memories of Issa, but Ron Wyden is my senator now, and I actually like him.

      2. Darryl Issa’s most famous for giving $1.6 million to the campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis so that he could take his place and then having Arnold walk in and take it away from him.

  4. If you really want any of these right you better get about building a public Internet. The Internet originally built with tax dollars by DARPA is long gone to the recycle bin. We’ve let corporations do the work with money we paid them in a for-profit model. Imagine if all our roads and bridges were owned, built, and maintained by private companies on public right of way. That’s the current internet. Years ago Comcast had strung enough fiber to link up their west coast facilities with those in Denver, all on their own network. We may regulate these businesses because we’ve limited the number of them allowed to string lines on the public right of way, but they are still the private owners of a private network. We’ve already seen these peering agreements strained, like when the big access providers like Comcast went after Netflix for the amount of traffic they generate. 

    But good luck with publicly funded projects that compete with the mega corps already in place… 

  5. It’s a good idea, which would help protect people against special interests, so I don’t think it stands a chance. By the time that bill makes it through both chambers, if it gets anywhere at all, it will be so loaded up with exceptions, exemptions, footnotes and asterisks that it will be unrecognizable.

  6. One of these is not like the other….

    #1 through #9 are all about maintaining individual freedom and the ability of people to do things.

    #10 is about stopping other people from doing things.

    I’m not saying that benefitting from what you create is bad.  However, I think that FDRs “four freedoms” (only two of which are actually about liberty) made a mistake of trying to cast everything that was desirable as a freedom, and this makes the same mistake.  It undermines #1 through #9.

Comments are closed.