Reddit Writes A Law: First Draft Of The Free Internet Act Emerges

from the needs-some-work,-but... dept

As we noted last month, the community at Reddit responded to the whole SOPA mess by deciding that they should collaborate to write their own piece of legislation that protects internet freedoms. The first draft of the Free Internet Act is now available as an open Google doc, where there are additional edits and comments going on as we speak.

The Free Internet Act: To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship. FIA will allow internet users to browse freely without any means of censorship, users have the right to free speech and to free knowledge; we govern the content of the internet, governments don’t. However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content.

Huffington Post has a good background article on how the bill was developed. Of course, as we noted when this originally started, there is something a bit naive about how they’re going about it… but that’s kind of what makes it exciting. It was that kind of naivete that actually enabled SOPA to be stopped. Most “experts” assumed it was a done deal and nothing could stop it. But along came folks such as the Reddit community who simply didn’t know that SOPA couldn’t be stopped… and they were instrumental in getting it stopped. So I’m excited to see what that same sort of open optimism can do on the proactive side, even if at points it feels naive or cringe-worthy.

Of course, at the same time, it’s a little disappointing to see this:

“The idea is to aim high,” the thread reads. “This is the same strategy employed by SOPA/ACTA pushers. We are aiming absurdly high, so that we can back down and reach a compromise.”

The power of the Reddit community was that it aimed high and achieved. The fact that it stood by its principles rather than “looking for a compromise” was what worked. If you go into a process looking for a compromise, that’s what you’ll get. If you go into a process looking for the absolutely best solution then you’re more likely to get that. People shouldn’t be approaching a bill about internet freedom as if it’s a fight between multiple parties and compromise is needed. This should be about creating a solution that is really important and really good for everyone. Then no compromise is needed at all.

Either way, this is an interesting process to watch. I’m not sure it will actually go anywhere, but I love the enthusiasm and the proactive initiative…

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Comments on “Reddit Writes A Law: First Draft Of The Free Internet Act Emerges”

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85 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Most “experts” assumed it was a done deal and nothing could stop it.

I’m not bashing or anything, but didn’t Mike say the same thing about ACTA?

“All that said, for folks who have just discovered ACTA, it’s important to note that this is pretty much done. Many of the countries involved, including the US, have already signed on, and ACTA will go into effect soon (even if the other countries don’t sign on). It’s a bad agreement, but it’s pretty late in the ball game to step in. If the EU can be convinced not to sign, that would be a big deal, but at this late stage, that seems unlikely.”

I’m usually glad that he’s right most of the time, but I think this is one of those instances that I’m happy he’s wrong. I know that we still have a fight on our hands, but it’s nice to see that the public can mobilize fast enough to make a difference.

Now if we can only stop Vic Toews and Lamar “Mr. I Can’t Hear You” Smith from screwing up the internet even more…

Idwal says:

Compromise...

I don’t know that we actually intend to compromise anything. How do you compromise with a mob or a hive-mind? I expect we’ll all keep yelling in unison until this thig is complete and in force.

On the other hand, we do fully expect that when it reaches legal circles it’s going to get re-written and… probably weakened. I think we’re going to be upset about it, but I don’t know that it’s avoidable.

We only know how to compromise with people who come to the same table trying for the same goal. That we’ve done, leaving things out or re-writing them because there was too much disagreement even within the community. The existence of copyright is one of those issues. There are fundamental disagreements even with each other, so we decided that we wouldn’t mess with copyright’s existence, it’s length or what kinds of things it covers.

Any government entity that tries to reach a compromise, though, is likely to run into a great big wall of OMGWTFLOL. And run into it hard enough to leave bruises, I’d hope. It’s not as if there’s anybody for them to negotiate with.

Suja (profile) says:

Re:

Haha yeah:

1: Man this law SUCKS!

2: Change it then.

1: Ok I will…

2: NONONO DON’T change it!!! If you change nobody will make any money, every company will collapse overnight, people will revert back to caveman times with rioting anarchy & bring forth the apocalypse and coming of Satan. Change is bad, mmkay?

1: But you just said…-

2: NO, DON’T change ANYTHING! It’s perfect how it is, leave it alone!

1: …The law stills sucks though!

2: Change it or deal with it.

1: …

Every law debate ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘In the unlikely event this nonsense ever sees the light of day, I wonder how you Techdirtbags will feel when a Senator puts a hold on it, keeping it from consideration.’

before that can happen, someone has got to have the balls to introduce it. maybe not as it is now, but after due and careful consideration. would be good to see something constructive come out of this. i suppose the best thing at the moment is that it is being drawn up in the main by people that use and understand the internet, not some 75 year old twat that is stuck in the days of the music hall!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

You see different from you loud minority the people have the numbers to elect officials.

Then it is a question of electing the right congress and senate to pass that nonsense as you called.

One guy did exactly that, his name was Koizumi and he had the laws and was against a hostile parliament, which then he called upon the people to elect the ones he chose to pass the laws he wanted and that was the end of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

You push people hard enough and at some point they will push back.

That nonsense whatever it is, will eventually become law, just because the people do have the power to put people in place and now they are learning they can do more than just that, they can plan ahead and put people there to make it happen.

Is democracy not glorious?

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Compromise...

You raise an interesting point. After the SOPA blackout, one of the pols, whose office was innundated with emails, went on the air and said “OK, OK, we get it….” just like you would say to a 3 year old.

I don’t belive their thinking has advanced to the point they realize they’re dealing with millions of very, very smart 3 year olds…

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re:

In the unlikely event this nonsense ever sees the light of day, I wonder how you Techdirtbags will feel when a Senator puts a hold on it, keeping it from consideration.

A hold, by itself, isn’t a bad thing. If a Senator sees a problem in a law — such as, for example, a law that will seriously harm the one driver of new jobs in our economy, which is being pushed through by lobbyists for a dying industry that doesn’t want to adapt — then putting a hold on the bill to require further analysis and consideration is a good thing.

I mean, that’s what we saw with PIPA.

The problem people have is with anonymous holds, where no one knows who is doing the holding.

When there’s a good reason, a hold serves a purpose. It just should be public so we can see who’s doing it and respond to any legitimate points that were raised. In the case of PIPA it seems to have saved the world from a really dangerous bill. I know it fucked up your game plan, but in the end much good came of it for the world and the economy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

A hold, by itself, isn’t a bad thing. If a Senator sees a problem in a law — such as, for example, a law that will seriously harm the one driver of new jobs in our economy, which is being pushed through by lobbyists for a dying industry that doesn’t want to adapt — then putting a hold on the bill to require further analysis and consideration is a good thing.

I mean, that’s what we saw with PIPA.

The problem people have is with anonymous holds, where no one knows who is doing the holding.

When there’s a good reason, a hold serves a purpose. It just should be public so we can see who’s doing it and respond to any legitimate points that were raised. In the case of PIPA it seems to have saved the world from a really dangerous bill. I know it fucked up your game plan, but in the end much good came of it for the world and the economy.

I don’t agree with holds, as they are antithetical to the democratic process and majority rule. I do acknowledge that it did fuck the game plan, but not as bad as Smith’s failure to make everyone sit in that room until the markup was finished. That’s what really did it. I also disagree that the world and economy will be better off, but that’s never a point we will reconcile. Anyway, the battle will continue.

Haywood (profile) says:

However

“However enforcements/laws must also be put into place to protect copyrighted content.”

Not so much, that is the source of the problems, I understand a little boot licking may be in order to be taken seriously, but the hole copyright thing is so far out of hand, a free zone is called for. Lets not approach the problem from the perspective that they have the power, and we need to meet them in the middle, we out number them millions to 1

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I agree. They shouldn’t be trying to “protect copyright”. That and the fact that they are already willing to “compromise”, means that this could go into a downward spiral fast, and FIA will be unrecognizable by the time the final draft is ready.

We want Internet Freedom above all! Copyright protection in 95% of maybe even 100% of the cases restricts that freedom, so it’s the antithesis of Internet Freedom. How hard is it to understand that?

Also you can’t make an Internet Freedom bill, while trying to tip-toe around the *current* copyright laws. The goal should be to overhaul the copyright laws, too, whether this bill does it itself, or it’s just the beginning of that.

You just have to start from the assumption that most of the current copyright laws are bad, and don’t work in the 21st century. Start from this assumption when writing an Internet Freedom law, otherwise we’re back where we started even if this passes, because once again we’ll go into the discussion about “protecting copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reddit?
“…preventing the restriction of liberty and preventing the means of censorship.”
“FIA will allow internet users to browse freely without any means of censorship, users have the right to free speech and to free knowledge…”.
A little hypocritical coming from Reddit, which rather recently announced it would censor certain things.

Idwal (profile) says:

Compromise...

In which case I expect the internet will react exactly like three-year olds: many millions of 3 year olds who WANT A COOKIE RIGHT NOW, and who – metaphorically – have enough squirtguns to drown small countries if we don’t get it.

While it may be painted as childish and immature, I don’t really have a problem with that.

We should realize that while governments think of themselves as the 500 pound gorilla, we are collectively the 500,000 pound gorilla. We should act accordingly, at least until everyone else understands it too.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

However

While I agree that the copyright “thing” has gone wildly out of control I’d just as soon not meet them in the middle. I’d just as soon return copyright to it’s original intent and duration (and the same for patents) which would take most, if not all, of the “wild west” RIAA/MPAA gonna ride into town and shoot everyone they even suspect of looking the wrong way at one of their scrawny, branded cows.

There’s little wrong with the notion of copyright or patents as they were originally envisioned. But that’s long gone now. Rather than contribute to the useful arts and sciences these days they are seen as profit centres and business models in their own right.

And, as usual, the creator be damned.

Chargone (profile) says:

Free Liberty!

unfortunate consequence of human nature, sadly.

people tend to do whatever they can get away with which does not appear to harm their interests of those of people they actually care about (a small number of people they deal with on a regular basis and actually like).

the vast majority of people do not, in general, care about the actions of others that do not affect their day to day lives.

the system needs a periodic shake up to keep it honest (not following this behaviour pattern when it has negative consequences for society as a whole) and effective (preventing the general public from following this behaviour pattern when it has negative consequences for society as whole) , but has got very good at avoiding the trigger events that cause such (avoiding those triggers is the ENTIRE POINT of representative democracy, i might add).

particularly significant trigger events in a system that is resisting minor fixes from lesser trigger events would seem to tend to result in major shakeups in the forms of revolutions, from where i’m sitting. but the shear cost of modern military tech means that that too is somewhat suppressed against an entity as large (and thus with as large a budget) as the USA as a whole unless something much closer to it’s size is in favour of such changes (which goes from messy, but reasonably brief, revolution, to outright civil war very quickly, which is less than ideal…)

Chargone (profile) says:

Re:

note that it says the copyrighted Works, not the copyright itself.

still not good, but less fail, one would hope.

even better: protect the creator’s ability to make money. (VERY SPECIFICALLY the creators, not random middle men. it is rare the creator has the budget to fund crippling legislation by himself, after all.) if you can do that while gutting the current copyright system, which often screws over the creators as well, you’d have them backing you up rather than fighting against you, too.

but yeah, your general point stands.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re:

mmm. that’d be nice.

especially if the people elected based on that actually suffered any sort of penalty for failing to follow through. (one should allow for reality making it slow or necessitating tweaks and changes to the specifics. outright failure to even bother and/or taking bribes to do the exact opposite, however…

well, there’s a reason why when i am involved in RPGs set in past eras my most inventive and unpleasent methods of execution are reserved for corrupt or treasonous officials.)

Chargone (profile) says:

Compromise...

that would be hilarious.

probably illegal because it’s not a ‘campaign contribution’…

then again ‘dear politicians: anyone willing to run on and enact this platform gets an equal share of this fund donated to their campaign in the following election.’ (note: not the one they’re running for at the time, or they’d just pull the usual stunt of breaking their promises for the next lot of money)

do it up all nice and legal and, in the USA at least, it’s not even a bribe.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re:

‘course, if you manage to establish a meaningful set of internet-law that massively outdoes the official law-of-the-land for Internet related stuff and find a way to enforce it legitimately, you’re one step off having a legitimate government in your own right. (that step being the ability to protect your ‘citizens’ from hostile entties such as other governments)

what happens when the law-of-the-land becomes so absurd that people just outright Ignore it while a ‘legitimate-enough’ law-of-the-net is followed due to actually covering the necessary things and not screwing over the general public?

it would be messy for a while… but amusing to see.

‘course, in the unlikely event that it panned out it has the dubious distinction of being likely to form a defacto ‘world government’… which is, in all honesty, to be avoided.

think about how hard it is for the common people to truely change the US government when it screwes them over. think about how out of touch the US government is with the general population.

how much more so an entity governing the entire world?

DC (profile) says:

Re:

hmm … insulting people for having the temerity to try to affect the legislative process? really? People who haven’t been paid to try to affect the legislative process? really? People trying to make what they think should be legal, legal? really?

People trying to craft a law and go through the proper legislative process to try to change what is legal and what is illegal (completely in the open mind you) without spending millions lobbying are (tech) dirtbags? really?

Wow, look in the mirror dirtbag.

David Muir (profile) says:

Illegal Content

I notice the text of the bill is already starting to get tied in knots over the concept of what “illegal content” is. Defining illegal content, then censoring only that, is going to be an extremely difficult thing to accomplish — if it is even desirable.

I remember the discussions we had in Philosophy about Moral Relativism. Are their any acts or depictions of acts that are universally condemned? We often point to child abuse and murder as being universally “wrong”. But then you see that the definitions of each have to be nuanced and defined because even in those extreme cases there are exceptions that people want. Examples: 1. Teens sending sexually suggestive texts to each other probably needs to be an exception to the broad definition of “child porn” that the bill currently includes. 2. Capital punishment is state-sponsored murder and has checks and balances. But a video recording of the prisoner’s execution could easily be “illegal” because it was not publicly released.

My feeling is that most content — especially written word content — should be allowed no matter how vile the subject matter is. As AC recently said here : “I’d rather live in a world where global transparency and honesty is more important than my personal safety — we stand a better chance of surviving the future that way.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

So now you admit that our laws don’t benefit the majority, but only a small minority.

I say we abolish them.

and in this situation it’s not the masses that are demanding that we pay ridiculous fines (ie: get ‘stoned’) for the allegedly unjust crime of infringement, it’s a self interested minority that’s accusing everyone and subjecting them to expensive lawsuits and fines and damages.

and I, a minority, want a million dollars, so I’m still waiting for the government/majority to deliver.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

First of all these laws aren’t designed to prevent artists from being ripped off. The ones ripping off artists are the middlemen, with their Hollywood accounting, and the laws aren’t preventing that and they aren’t punishing those who are ripping off the artists. These laws are designed to facilitate the process of artists being ripped off by middlemen. To say otherwise is a lie and everyone knows it.

Secondly, ‘artists’ (or middlemen) aren’t entitled to a monopoly privilege. For the public to grant such a privilege, and to further extend that privilege retroactively, is ripping off the public. Artists aren’t forced to be artists, they can find other jobs instead if they feel ‘ripped off’. Not granting someone a privilege they aren’t entitled to isn’t ripping anyone off. No one is entitled to the social cost of obeying, policing, and enforcing these laws.

Thirdly, these laws are not, and should not be, to prevent artists from being ‘ripped off’. That’s a perversion of the founding fathers intent and it’s a perversion of what they should be intended for. Their sole intent should be to serve a social benefit. Their primary outcome right now is socially detrimental. That you want to make this about preventing artists from being ‘ripped off’ is more reason to abolish these laws. IP law shouldn’t be a form of artist welfare or a form of free market distortion to serve artists. We already have a welfare system for that, we don’t need the government providing anyone with a business model to ensure they don’t get ‘ripped off’. This isn’t communism.

nasch (profile) says:

However

While I agree that the copyright “thing” has gone wildly out of control I’d just as soon not meet them in the middle. I’d just as soon return copyright to it’s original intent and duration (and the same for patents) which would take most, if not all, of the “wild west” RIAA/MPAA gonna ride into town and shoot everyone they even suspect of looking the wrong way at one of their scrawny, branded cows.

The problem is, that isn’t their view of meeting in the middle, to them that’s radical nonsense. Meeting in the middle to them is not giving them as much increase in copyright power as they want – but still some.

Chargone (profile) says:

Compromise...

‘another term’ seems to be the usual objective.

i’ve never understood the point in term limits, to be honest. any politician will either burn out or become so unpopular as to fail to be elected after 2-3 terms of actually having any real effect on anything.

I mean, New Zealand has 3 year terms, 120 MPs, one house, and most of the time, to even GET to a leadership position (and thus control the way the entire party votes in the vast majority of cases, and get to co-opt the lesser member’s speaking time… i still don’t know how the hell that works, but as a bunch of MPs pointed out at one point, while trying to get their own jobs dissolved, cardborad standees could do their jobs as well as the system allows them to. anyway, back to the main point) they have to be involved in the party for Years, generally have been an MP one way or another for several terms… then if they fail to win an election, most of the time the larger parties toss their previous leaders (in terms of the people in parliament, not necessarily the guys running the party organization.) and pick new ones. if they Win, they have to do terribly to not get two terms, and do exceptionally to get 3.

the biggest problem is the Parties. people vote for them based on things that don’t have a damn thing to do with running the country, and they mute the public voice on any issue something aweful compared to having representatives be free agents. (well, not Actually free, they’re beholden to their electorates, obviously…)

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