Can Reddit Write Legislation, Too? Proposes The 'Free Internet Act'

from the what-can't-it-do... dept

I have to admit that one of the more fun aspects of watching what has happened over the past few months with the SOPA/PIPA debate is watching the Reddit community jump on this issue... and evolve with it. The thing with the Reddit community isn't just it's sheer power as a large group of people who are more than willing to stand up for what they believe in, but their willingness to take on big challenges that most people would back away from. Not all of them work out, but as a community, they like to really jump into things and aim high. Such is the situation with the proposed plan to write a piece of legislation, The Free Internet Act, on Reddit. As an observer of these things, a reasonable first reaction is to chuckle a bit at what seems like a combination of both hubris and naivete that an online community (mostly of political novices) can create a reasonable piece of legislation. But... then you think of what else Reddit has done, and you begin to realize that if it can somehow pull this off -- or at least influence the debate in a positive way, this could be amazing (even if it's a long shot).

A specific sub-Reddit has been set up, where different people are discussing different thoughts on what such a bill might include and other issues related to the bill's central concept: guaranteeing a free internet.

Again, there's a big hill to climb here to make this into any sort of reality, but there's something really amazing and compelling about this self-forming group taking the initiative to try to not just drive the debate, but to actually craft legislation that would protect internet freedom. As much as I've been impressed by the process of the Wyden/Issa proposed OPEN bill, in which they put it up on a platform that allowed the public to crowdsource thoughts on a bill, they still started with a bill suggested in Congress. What happens when a bill is crowdsourced from scratch? Possibly nothing at all, but as an experiment, it will be fascinating to watch...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Pjerky (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 12:37pm

    I am optimistic

    I am very optimistic that the greater internet community as a whole can do a far better job writing fair and just laws than our current political royalty.

     

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  2.  
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    Wes, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    Why didn't you summarize the current form of the bill in your article?

     

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  3.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:28pm

    Go read what they have come up with so far.

     

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  4.  
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    Loki, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:30pm

    The thing is, there are a lot more people with a good deal of political experience on Reddit than many people realize. Many of them have left politics simply because they were so disgusted by the process it has become.

    I don't really think it's hubris nor naivete, but people who realize they can't/couldn't change the system from within now setting up competition to that system.

     

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  5.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:37pm

    I love the fact that you have people trolling, and trying to disrupt, this effort over on REDDIT. I think Hollywood is going to get very scared as this effort continues forward.

    Funny, Hollywood's actions, and back room dealings, could be what brings the US back to something resembling a democratic republic. /snicker

     

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  6.  
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    Glen, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:37pm

    But....But...

    How are the congress critters going to get their hands grease by lobbyist with out the major corporations writing the laws?

     

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  7.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

    Preamble

    The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.


    We have reached this point again.

     

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  8.  
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    Glen, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

    Re: But....But...

    *greased I can't even blame that on a phone.

     

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  9.  
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    Jan Bilek (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:41pm

    Free internet you say?

    Wanna free Internet? Don't relay on any legislation - form a group of technical experts and try to think of ways how to make Internet even more decentralized, with transparent end-to-end encryption, no single point of failure, no single address to block, no single server to seize... total cloud.

     

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  10.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Re: But....But...

    Well, if everybody on reddit throws in 50 cents...

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    I think Reddit would first do better writing legislation that reduces copy protection lengths. Such an effort would receive a wide audience of support and would be much easier to implement and if they succeed such an effort would gain them a lot of notoriety and with this larger audience it would make their future efforts easier. You must start somewhere, lets start with the easy stuff that most can agree on first and then move up once you've gained support and a larger audience from your past accomplishments.

     

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  12.  
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    Melissa Ruhl (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    It sure seems like anything can happen now that we've seen legislation derailed by Internet activism. I was talking to my sister-in-law about SOPA/PIPA when she was here for Christmas about our frustrations regarding people's ignorance of the bills. Within three weeks, intellectual property became a household issue. I think we could be in a brave new world of activism, which I could see reddit leading.

     

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  13.  
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    Beta (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Re: I am optimistic

    Writing them is one thing, passing them another.

     

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  14.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

    Re: I am optimistic

    Well I am sure the internet community as a whole can do a better job than our current politicians. But, then again a retarded monkey banging on a typewriter could do better than our current politicians.

     

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  15.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:55pm

    Re:

    Sorry but once you have people's attention you need to run with it. Shoot big. Because in a month or two PPL will go back to their tweets, tubes, books, and forget all about it.
    I hope I am wrong. I hope users saw the back room dealings that will influence their lives and dont forget that there is a constant push to pass these kinds of laws. What we need to watch out for now is these provisions creeping into unrelated legislation a drop at a time. They have the time, money, and influence. They went for the major power grab and failed. They wont let it happen again.

     

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  16.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

    Some good legislation is one thing. But I have long thought what we really need is an Information Bill of Rights.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    I suggested this very concept a few days ago in another article. Glad to see someone is running with it. (Not to imply that I was the one that caused it.) As for getting things passed... If the legislation, once fleshed out online is sent to Congress with the same force that the protest was (ie. public cries FOR it) I think it might be easier to pass than some people may think.

     

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  18.  
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    Greevar (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Free internet you say?

    Are you suggesting we find a technical solution that prevents harm instead of forming a law that only punishes the bad actors after they've done harm? Crazy!

    You've got the right idea there. Laws are mostly worthless because they require public support. If people don't support the law, it may just as well be a recommendation. Laws will only be effective as the number of people that abide by them. A law that is supported by only 1% of the people it applies to will only be 1% effective and there isn't a single law that is 100% effective (meaning that law is never broken).

    The real solution to stopping censorship of the internet is to make it impossible to censor. An internet that can't be censored is truly free.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    this is exactly what Wyden etc should be doing, not pissing about trying to make a previous piece of shit better! as long as it's kept sensible and serious, perhaps he and his ilk can keep track of this, make suggestions and then submit it? would make such a change that a bill be introduced that comes from 'the people' instead of from those that are meant to represent the people BUT DONT!!! copyright industries, be prepared to eat your hearts out!!

     

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  20.  
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    Beta (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

    O brave new world!

    I always had a vague suspicion that something like this was possible. When I was involved in student activism, I felt that I was just adding one to the power base controlled by the student activist leaders --more of the self-promoting windbags I was trying to oppose-- and that my own thoughts and opinions counted for exactly nothing once I was standing under a banner written by somebody else. Political parties were just the same. I grew slowly resigned to the idea that reason didn't count for much against well-funded and well-advertised campaigns, but I couldn't stop imagining a better way, a system in which one reasoned argument --from anyone!-- could somehow defeat a million repetitions of an idiotic slogan. I didn't know how to bring anything like that about, but I knew it wasn't mathematically impossible.

    Since I've been involved in the SOPA/PIPA fight, I feel for the first time in my life that I have political power.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

    I was reading this subreddit when it was sort of developing last night.

    I've been a long term member there and go pretty much every day to see what is happening. It's so huge you can't see everything there.

    What amazes me in all this, is that you have the general run of internet users that are not very savvy, mixed in with some that are right down smart.

    You have folks on there that are home makers, woodworkers, graphics artists wannabees, lawyers, scammers, trolls, you name it.

    It reminds me of the Tyler Durden speech.

     

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  22.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    They also have a Super PAC set up so that when the time comes to pass the legislation, they can pay off whomever needs the bribe. If the MPAA can write legislation, so can Reddit.

     

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  23.  
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    Liz (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    This is how a democratic republic should work. With people crafting laws, then passing them onto legislators for refinement and passage. It could add another layer to the Checks and Balances system, where the People and the Government are checked and balanced by each other.

    We can't have a pure democratic rule, otherwise we'd end up with mob rule. Those in the majority imposing their will on those in the minority.

     

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  24.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re: I am optimistic

    Well that's how Stephanie Meyer came up with "Twilight". So it apparently gets people somewhere.

     

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  25.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:17pm

    C'mon Chubby! TechDirtbags, when will you just admit your shepherd has been greasing the palms of legislation as a paid lobbyist? I guess it makes sense that he would recruit Reddit to do some lobbying, too. Freeloaders unite!

    /Did I miss anything?

     

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  26.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant".

    Admiral Yamamoto, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isoroku_Yamamoto's_sleeping_giant_quote

     

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  27.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re:

    I wonder if can get sued for that?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:32pm

    Re: I am optimistic

    Reading this article has made my day. It gives me hope that this new kind of activity may save this country from both tyranny and destruction by bringing us back to the ideals freedom it was founded upon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:35pm

    Re:

    Actually you can suggest that on Reddit and implement it in the Free Internet act ;)

     

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  30.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    Re:

    the masNIck just wAAAAnts to be the neXt BIG GATEKEEPER!

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re:

    I guess the point that I was making is that copy protection length reduction should be a separate act

    A: since people may disagree on other aspects of the free internet act, those other aspects may make the act as a whole more difficult to get the public support necessary to pass it

    B: Those other aspects distract from copy protection lengths reducing the impact that copy protection length reduction will have on the passage of the bill as a whole.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 3:38pm

    Re:

    It's not really practical. Would you like rapists to write the laws on rape?

    Most people seem up in arms that "big business writes the laws", yet they want to have their own narrow view of the world prevail over everyone else. We elect people to write the laws, let them do their jobs.

    The reddit thing is laughable, because it starts with "and we throw away all rights to content creators", and that will just never fly.

     

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  33.  
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    Beech, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

    Yes, god forbid "We the People" actually have a say in how we are governed. Majority rule is for suckers, amirite ac32?

     

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  34.  
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    Beech, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    I think it is time to ask reddit how much money google has paid them to fight against all the poor poor media distribution companies!

    Proof google is behind it? Everything trolls dont like is backed by google money this week. That's your proof!

     

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  35.  
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    Beech, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 4:11pm

    bill of rights?

    It's not really practical. Would you like people who had religion, could speak, and fought a revolution to write the laws on freedom of religon, speech, and the right to bear arms?

    FTFY

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re:

    Don't know what "Free Internet Act" you talking, 'cause the one we're taking about starts with the following preamble:
    An international bill to promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty, and for other purposes.

     

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  37.  
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    Liz (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Rapists writing laws on rape is like the MPAA and RIAA writing copyright laws. It's a narrow segment of the population with a vested interest that screws over everyone else.

    Yes, we elect people to do the legislation, however the big money are the ones that write and pay for those laws to become enacted. Then the rest of us pay for it after wards.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re:

    And if the people we elected were actually the ones writing the laws, you might have a point.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 6:08pm

    Copyright holders are about to have a bad day, when the public debating those issues zero in on the fact that copyright is incompatible with democracy.

     

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  40.  
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    @carolv27, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 7:35pm

    naivete? Seriously?

    You can say anything about reddit, but can't call it's members "political novices." Reddit is a very opinionated community and there are many people with law degrees and familiar with political process willing to donate their time if there is a good cause.
    As for the process -- people suggesting legislation -- it's not that strange, some countries actually use it in their political process.

    @carolv27

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 8:18pm

    What I think we need is to set a standard process for proposing legislation - a RFC of sorts - where an idea can be submitted and if it gets enough traction, it will be debated and refined online by the users of the system until it is ready to be submitted to Congress. Why limit this to one narrow law concerning the future of the Internet? Many including Mike have said before that the problem with the laws being made is the backroom deals and corruption that represents big money special interests instead of the people. So let's fix the system to involve the people directly and cut out the special interests.

     

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  42.  
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    sheri, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 9:44pm

    can reddit write legislation

    The very existence and nature of reddiquette, especially the following notion:"Intelligent discourse requires a standard system of communication" (indicating an aspirational goal of intelligent discourse)puts the Reddit community miles ahead of our current community of congressional representatives. If the U.S. Congress had to abide by reddiquette they might occasionally get something done. Also, the values of the reddit community - as evidenced in reddiquette -make theirs a community of above average internet users in my opinion and I wouldn't underestimate their capacity to produce high quality and professionally competetive work product.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2012 @ 10:43pm

    Re:

    Open-source laws? I like it!

     

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  44.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 2:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Feel free to chime in over there. I have been.
    Of course, Just John was taken, so instead I am helixhamin, my alternate online name.

     

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  45.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 2:17am

    Re:

    The 60's are back, only instead of free love, we want free content! (Just feeding the trolls, they seem to be hungry in this topic)

     

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  46.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 2:23am

    Re: Re:

    Given that the law is suppose to represent the will of the people and what that society accepts as right or wrong, does that mean you are insinuating that either society or a majority of the people accept rape? Did you honestly just go there?

    You, sir, are a perfect example of why I sometimes wonder if we should implement a right to breed law...

     

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  47.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 2:24am

    Re:

    Getting close already. Just read the subreddit, and you will note there is a specific section about copyright.

     

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  48.  
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    Fede Heinz, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:55am

    Political novices crowdsourcing legislation

    It's been done before.

    More than ten years ago, a group of people (mainly from Argentina, but also from other Spanish-speaking countries) used e-mail communications to draft a bill prohibiting the Public Administration from using non-free software on the grounds of preserving sovereignty.

    We don't seem to have done it too shoddily: the bill has since there not only been sponsored by many Argentine legislators from different parties (only to be stopped each time by the proprietary software lobby, of course), but also in other countries such as Perú, where it prompted the infamous Villanueva-Microsoft incident, and it's even been translated to other languages and even recommended by the University of Masstricht as proposed legislation for all member states of the EU.

     

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  49.  
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    Jes Lookin, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Some Simple Rules

    For Copyright:
    - All thing over 25 years old = public domain NOW
    - Copyright is owned SOLELY by the work creator (he can subcontract independently after)
    - Period is 10+10+5 = positive renewal twice by creator
    - THAT IS IT - no Disney/Corporate BS
    For Patents:
    - Patent is owned SOLELY by the creator
    - Product must be demonstrated and not composed of
    obvious component uses (stupid SW patents)
    - Period is 3 years for non-marketed products 7? for marketed products
    - THAT IS ALL - no minor change 'follow ons' (Rx)

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2012 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, but it is suppose to represent the will of the majority of the people, not a few whiners on the internet. Will this law really reflect the desires of your granny watching Matlock on TV? Will it represent the will of artists, of ALL consumers, etc?

    I doubt it.

    The attempt is to come up with a way of saying "neener, neener, the internet has no laws!". That just isn't going to fly.

     

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  51.  
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    Beta (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    If the rapists were in the majority, our society would have bigger problems than legislative reform.

    The rest of your post looks like straw man arguments, ending with "this new approach will never work".

    Is it my imagination, or are a lot of anonymous posts like this cropping up on this site since we humbled the old-school political system with our new approach a couple of weeks ago?

     

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  52.  
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    LC (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Re:

    I agree to the basic idea here, but no, what you're asking them to do wouldn't be easy at all. Remember who they'd be up against if they start trying to roll back copyright and the alarming influence they have on governments locally and abroad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not sure what you are trying to get at.
    Is there a point to your madness, or is the raven still perched upon your bust of Pallas just above your chamber door?

    No one has claimed that they are writing laws on reddit that will become part of the law of the land.

    They want to work on something that will help ensure the freedom of the internet. It would still need to follow the conventional methods of implementation.

    All you are doing is claiming "Hey, normal people, you have no right to try to have input into our democracy". Is this new message what you want to say? At least with the rapist response, I could laugh at you. Now I just want to pity you and the fact that you want to try to stop the democratic, free speech process because you feel those involved are "a few whiners on the internet".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
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    Just John (profile), Jan 31st, 2012 @ 5:51pm

    Re: Some Simple Rules

    Need to add that patents should be used for market devices, and a patents should be lost if there is no provable attempts to bring it to market. I understand this would have drawbacks, but it would pretty much stop NPEs (Then we just need to figure out how to stop Apple's trolling...).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2012 @ 12:46am

    Re: Re:

    Actually there is an Austrian page 'sk-prinzip.at' that's dedicated to an democratic overhaul in this direction. Unfortunatly it's in german.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2012 @ 12:46am

    Re: Re:

    Actually there is an Austrian page 'sk-prinzip.at' that's dedicated to an democratic overhaul in this direction. Unfortunatly it's in german.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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