Legislating the Internet

Written by Paper. Posted in Creative, Thinking

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Published on March 25, 2017 with No Comments

After all the campaign speeches are done and the election results are in, legislators will eventually get to work on issues relating to the Internet. Of course, the Internet as a part of broader technology policies doesn’t come up much in campaign speeches. Well, except for the cases when there is fodder for attacking the other side. But one of the latest attempts to legislate the Internet appeared in California where a bill about electronic privacy was introduced. One proposition in the bill says that the government cannot compel a service provider to say, identify everyone who visited a particular website, unless there is a court order involving a specific individual. In essence, the bill is an attempt to update those outdated “analog” surveillance laws from invading the privacy of Internet users. As it turns out there are “copyright trolls” who routinely file court orders against Internet Service Providers to ferret out information regarding who is downloading what.

Earlier this year, Voltage Pictures went after thousands of BitTorrent users who had, allegedly, illegally downloaded “The Hurt Locker.” At this point Voltage has the IP addresses but not the identities of the users. All of this provides a backdrop for an effort by Reddit to establish some rules around Internet content use. The Free Internet Act and by extension the Global Free Internet Act are both aiming to keep the Internet free while also imposing a few rules – which isn’t an easy thing to do. The Reddit version says that the government cannot censor the Internet beyond child pornography and financial scams. It clarifies fair use of content, defines legal and illegal uploading and downloading, and also outlines consequences for illegal use of copyrighted material. In general the Free Internet Act aims to limit the powers of content “owners” in favor of openness. However, it’s often difficult for the words “limit” and “open” to exist in the same concept.

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