Along with the celebration, Jul. 4, 2012 will come with a side of controversy. Internet activists Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Press and Access Now joined forces to draft what they call the Declaration of Internet Freedom.
Released on Jul. 2, 2012, the declaration reads:
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.
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.
At the end of the declaration, readers are invited to add their signatures. Several individuals and dozens of companies, such as Reddit, Amnesty International and Mozilla, have already signed it.
The document, which clearly speaks out against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) could gain the kind of traction as the January 18, 2012 “blackout day,” when several organizations, including Wikipedia, blacked out their websites for one day to demonstrate what could happen if SOPA and PIPA became laws.
According to CBS, although SOPA and PIPA have been put on hold indefinitely, other bills such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) have been proposed. With CISPA, private Internet companies could share information regarding cyber threats with the U.S. government. Those who oppose the bill say that such a law would invade people’s privacy. Despite that, the bill passed the House of Representatives on Apr. 27, 2012.
“As representatives of groups based in the United States, we have an eye on domestic policy—and a belief that Internet freedom starts at home—but we believe these principles have global appeal and importance,” said Free Press president and chief executive officer Craig Aaron in a Jul. 2 article that he co-wrote with Sascha Meinrath, the director of the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation. “It’s essential to emphasize that the declaration is designed not to be the final word but rather to spark a much larger discussion.”
The desire to protect the intellectual property of artists and innovators is a good one, as is the desire to help people maintain some semblance of privacy. So, the real mission for both sides is to find a way to balance the two so that neither one is completely sacrificed for the sake of the other.