Re: cyber projects


Richard Moore

5/03/96, Fred G. Athearn wrote (to cr-deliberate):
>    Marilyn> Does anyone have any ideas for projects we can do
>    Marilyn> together?
>These are a few general areas that seem hot:
>        Intellectual Property vs. Fair Use,
>        Cyber-smut vs. Free Speech,
>        The War on Crime Terrorism vs. Encryption & Privacy
>    [   Electronic Freedom March    - added by someone else  ]

        One of my favorite parables is the one about Nasrudin, who looked
for his keys where the light was good instead of where he had lost them.
I'd say we want to avoid spending time on projects which either:
        - are being handled adequately by others
        - aren't getting at the root of the problem

        Also, I'd favor projects where there is an identifiable
constituency who have a self-interest in getting involved.  Simply getting
masses of socially-concious netizens to agree with us may, unfortunately,
result in little more than lots of message massage.

        For me, the central cyber issues are:
               (1) Beyond CDA: the Bill of Rights (as a whole) and Cyberspace

               (2) Cyber economics: the monopolist pirate raid on the wired

re/ (1)
        I believe that cyber "rights" are a consequence of how cyberspace
is "modelled".  The corporatist position, which is all but a fait accompli,
is that cyberspace is an info-distribution channel like television, and
hence has no inherent rights of access, privacy, free speech, etc. --
concerns of children etc. are supposedly central (although we all know
that's bullshit -- what could be more harmful to children than the
television trash they're subjected to?).

        I see the "battle" as making a case that we should look at First
Class Mail as the proper precedent for private email, and Public Gatherings
as the precedent for email lists & conferences, etc.  In other words, we
should demand that our standard civil liberties be mapped onto cyberspace
appropriately.  We're not asking for new rights, simply the proper legal
interpretation of existing rights (such as they are).

        To me, this a "deep cut" at the problem -- if we choose this field
of battle, we'd have some hope of coalition with ACLU, Center for
Consitutional Rights, small publishers, consumer groups, etc.  And if we
have any success, that would automatically benefit things like encryption,
wiretaps, fair-use, censorship, etc.

re/ (2)
        I believe the so-called Reform bill is a modern Enclosures Act --
the theft of the Public Commons by greedy promoters.  And this public
commons is a grand one indeed, being essentially the central nervous system
and perceptual organs of our future society.

                The law doth punish man or woman
                That steals the goose from off the common,
                But lets the greater felon loose,
                That steals the common from the goose.

                         Anon, 18th cent., on the enclosures.
                             (courtesy of John Whiting)

        The main problem here is that the public at large understands
neither the wonderful potential of cyberspace for "people's networking" (to
give it an inadequate moniker), nor the true consequences of the new
telecom regime.

        The public is saturated with a porn-terrorist-hacker image of
Internet  -- when possibly a majority of messages sent are day-to-day
corporate and governmental inter-department mail.  And the public is told
the Reform act is only to their benefit, with promises of cyber gadgets and
virtual entertainment -- with no discussion of what a digital
infrastructure _could_ make available to them if it were open and cheap
(which the technology should, by rights, provide).

        It seems to me the first step here is purely educational -- until
there's more general understanding of the real issues, it would be
pointless to attempt to rouse any sizable constituency around any actions
or agenda.

        We have some natural allies in this field of battle, and ones with
significant economic self-interest involved.  These include all the small
independent operators in the communications, media, and publication
industries, together with everyone in public-sector-related businesses
(education, municipal governments, etc.).  There are also probably some
professional associations who would have an identifiable commonality of
interests, plus consumer groups and the like.

        Again, I see this as a "deep cut" tack on the problem -- one which
can attract a wider constituency, and in the long run accomplish more, than
shorter-term defensive battles such as trying to defend
voice-over-Internet, or decriminalizing PGP -- battles fought while public
opinion is hostile or indifferent to our cause.

        I'm forwarding Craig Johnson's "THE REGULATORS MEET THE INTERNET"
to the recipients of this message.  My hope would be that those who make
submissions to the FCC do so from a "deep-cut" perspective  re/ the proper
role of regulation over society's communication infrastructure.