John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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In Defence of Fundamental Rights in Internet

December 3rd, 2009 · 2 Comments

This is a manifesto, or countermanifesto. It’s Spain-specific, because it is addressed to the Spanish government, but its concerns are general. Here’s the background: the other day, a group of slightly famous Spanish musicians, egged on (I imagine) by the SGAE (Spain’s royalty-collection agency), held a kind of demo and issued their manifesto demanding, among other things, an end to free downloads of music in Internet. As there were a number of local (Spain-level) celebrities there, it made the news. The Spanish government responded by pointing out that the white paper for its new Law on Sustainable Economy contained provisions which would, for example, make it possible to close down web sites offering P2P links and so on, without a court order. The Spanish Internet community, which theretofore had not really given a fig about the Law on Sustainable Economy (or was to all intents and purposes ignorant of its existence), rose up as un hombre and shouted “Foul!” Now another manifesto has been issued by “a group of journalists, bloggers, webmasters, and Internet creators and professionals.” It has been published by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of websites and blogs, and this is it:

“Manifesto: In Defence of Fundamental Rights in Internet

“Because the White Paper for the Law on Sustainable Economy includes changes to legislation affecting the free exercise of freedom of speech, the right to information, and the right to access to culture via Internet, we Internet creators, professionals, users, bloggers and journalists express our firm opposition to the project, and declare that…

“1.- Copyright cannot be held to be above fundamental civic rights, such as the right to privacy, security, the presumption of innocence, access to the legal system, and free speech.

“2.- The suspension of fundamental rights is and should continue to be exclusively the competence of the judiciary. Not a single closure without a court sentence. Contrary to the stipulations of Article 20.5 of the [Spanish] constitution, this white paper places the power to block the access of Spanish citizens to any web page in the hands of a non-judicial institution, an organization belonging to the Ministry of Culture.

“3.- The new legislation will create legal uncertainty throughout the Spanish technological sector, to the detriment of one of the few fields of development and with a future in our economy, obstructing the creation of businesses, hindering free competition and slowing down the country’s international expansion.

“4.- The new legislation proposed threatens new creators and hinders cultural creation. With Internet and technological progress, the creation and publication of all kinds of contents has become far more democratic, as they no longer originate prevalently from traditional cultural sectors but from a host of different sources.

“5.- Authors, like all workers, have the right to earn a living from their work with new creative ideas, business models and activities related with their creations. Attempting to use legislative changes to sustain an obsolete sector which is unable to adapt to this new environment is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model is based on the control of copies of their works and this is not possible in Internet without the violation of fundamental rights, they should look for a different model.

“6.- We consider that, to survive, cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and accesible alternatives which meet new social uses, instead of restrictions as disproportionate as ineffectual for the purpose they say they are pursuing.

“7.- Internet must function freely and without political interference backed by sectors which seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and make it impossible for human knowledge to remain free.

“8.- We demand that the Government guarantees by law the neutrality of the Net in Spain in the face of any pressure that may be exercised, as a framework for the realistic future development of a sustainable economy.

“9.- We propose a real reform of the intellectual property right orientated towards its purpose: to return knowledge to society, encourage the public domain and restrict abuses by collection agencies.

“10.- In a democracy, laws and changes to them must be approved after an adequate public debate and all the parties involved having previously been consulted. It is not acceptable for legislative changes affecting fundamental rights to be made in a secondary law dealing with a different matter.

“This manifesto, written jointly by several authors, belongs to all and to none. If you want to join, spread it over Internet.”

I do, so this is me, spreading.

Tags: Copyright issues · Spain

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lokillo // Dec 8, 2009 at %I:%M %p

    Content creators have the right to be remunerated for their work. P2P is theft.

  • 2 JohnRoss // Dec 10, 2009 at %I:%M %p

    Of course it’s nice that content creators are able to earn money from their creations. Have the right? Always and forever? No, sometimes, and just when and for how long is a matter between them and society (and please note that I speak as a content creator). That doesn’t mean government agencies should be able to breach people’s privacy at will. And P2P (who mentioned P2P, anyway?) is not theft, it’s just a means of exchange of information, a sub-medium, in itself innocent.

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