EU Commissioner Kroes Speaks Out On Internet Openness; Says We Cannot Allow ISP Disconnects

from the say-it-again dept

EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has been saying a ton of smart things lately. A few months ago, we wrote about her pointing out that copyright is being used to punish & withhold and how copyright middlemen should get with the times and innovate, rather than looking to ratchet up enforcement.

Now she's continuing to speak more directly on the importance of openness online, including how it relates to copyright. It's not often you see a politician quote either the Free Software Foundation or leading thinker on these issues Yochai Benkler, but Kroes quotes them both in explaining the importance of openness:
Only the other day, the Free Software Foundation wrote to me about open standards. With their letter they enclosed something I don't normally get in the mail, a pair of handcuffs. Because they're worried about "digital handcuffs", and wanted to know if I am with them on openness. And the answer is yes. Let me show you, these handcuffs are not closed, not locked. I can open them if and when I want. That's what I mean by being open online, what it means to me to get rid of "digital handcuffs"...


Openness is also complex because sometimes it's unclear what it means.

For Yochai Benkler, it means, as he put it, that "it's open for anyone to create and innovate and share, if they want to… Because property is one mechanism of coordination. But it's not the only one." And he sees freedom as deriving from the extent to which actors can shift from one set of networks, from one way of doing things, to another. I agree: we need an environment where different models openly compete; and where people can openly choose.
Another thing she's clear on: openness can't mean kicking people offline, something she insists should not be allowed:
We cannot allow democratic voices to be silenced in that way. And I am committed to ensuring "No Disconnect" in countries that struggle for democracy. We must help such activists get around arbitrary disruptions to their basic freedoms.
Of course, that's talking about countries "struggling for democracy" such as those in the Arab Spring. But what about established democracies that are already putting in place laws to kick people offline -- like France with Hadopi? Hopefully she'll fight against such attacks on connectivity as well.

Either way, it's good to see that Commissioner Kroes continues to be committed to these issues. I had the pleasure of meeting Kroes a few months ago when she visited Silicon Valley, and I'll say that I was impressed not just by her knowledge, but by her willingness to dig deep into important issues concerning these kinds of policies. In an era where it seems like so many politicians only have a completely superficial understanding of how important the internet is, it's good to see someone in a high position who really does seem to grasp the significance of the internet, and how easily bad policies can do it harm. I don't always agree with her, but she certainly seems sincere in really pushing for true openness online.

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  1. icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 20 Apr 2012 @ 1:32am

    Of course, that's talking about countries "struggling for democracy" such as those in the Arab Spring.
    Seems to me that countries such as the US, UK, France, et al are also "struggling for democracy".

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