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article imageDigital Bill of Rights proposed by bi-partisan SOPA opponents

By Anne Sewell     Jun 13, 2012 in Internet
Two lawmakers from opposing sides of the political spectrum are proposing a Digital Bill of Rights to protect the Internet.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) are the leading opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). They are putting aside their political differences to fight for Internet freedoms by offering a Digital Bill of Rights to ensure that Americans continue to have an open Internet.
Congressman Darrel Issa writes on his website this week: “I believe that individuals possess certain fundamental rights. Government should exist to protect those rights against those who would violate them. That is the revolutionary principle at the heart of the American Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. No one should trample our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's why the Bill of Rights is an American citizen's first line of defense against all forms of tyranny.”
Rep. Issa has been working with Senator Ron Wyden and they have taken on the issue of Internet rights on Capitol Hill countless times. In recent months, they championed an effort to abolish SOPA. While the two lawmakers might not agree on some issues, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) currently under consideration in Washington, they both agree that the Internet rights of Americans need protection in a day and age when lawmakers, especially those that are misinformed and do not understand the Internet, are fighting for online regulations that would, essentially, eliminate freedom of the Internet.
Rep. Issa continues: "Government is flying blind, interfering and regulating without understanding even the basics. We have a rare opportunity to give government marching orders on how to treat the Internet, those who use it and the innovation it supports."
Now jointly with Senator Ron Wyden, Issa has published the brand new Digital Bill of Rights. As with many historic American documents, the two lawmakers are seeking help in drafting a completed version of their proposal.
Issa writes, “I need your help to get this right, so I published it here in Madison for everyone to comment, criticize and collaborate. I look forward to hearing from you and continuing to work together to keep the web open.”
The full proposed Digital Bill of Rights can be viewed at and the public are welcome to comment on the proposed bill.
On June 11 in a live-streamed event at the Personal Democracy Forum 2012 in New York, Issa said that prior to the failure of SOPA and PIPA, Hollywood and the recording industry were “used to asking for things and getting it.”
He stated that instead of allowing the copyright for Disney's early Mickey Mouse films to fall into the public domain, Hollywood rather petitioned Congress to extend the copyright term. This resulted in the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. Issa says that in doing so, Congress and Hollywood misinterpreted the Constitution's Progress Clause, which restricts intellectual property protection to "limited times".
“It doesn't say 'for a limited amount of time as corporate interest or Hollywood may need' ” said Issa.
Issa continued that because of this, there is a need for a Citizens' Digital Bill of Rights to serve as a measure for, and check against additional legislative overreaches fueled by special interests, especially online.
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Ron Wyden
United States Senate
Senator Wyden, speaking from New York City on Monday, said that Congress might indeed someday crumble the Web as we know it and called for "changing power in Washington, DC."
Wyden states on his website: “What we need is a way to measure how the voice of networks is protected and what I hope will happen out of this meeting is that we will start a grass roots drive, really a net roots drive to create a digital bill of rights for this country..that would be a way to measure and check to make sure the Internet stays free.”
The Digital Bill of Rights:
1. Freedom - digital citizens have a right to a free, uncensored Internet
2. Openness - digital citizens have a right to an open, unobstructed Internet
3. Equality - all digital citizens are created equal on the Internet
4. Participation - digital citizens have a right to peaceably participate where and how they choose on the Internet
5. Creativity - digital citizens have a right to create, grow and collaborate on the Internet, and be held accountable for what they create
6. Sharing - digital citizens have a right to freely share their ideas, lawful discoveries and opinions on the Internet
7. Accessibility - digital citizens have a right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are
8. Association - digital citizens have a right to freely associate on the Internet
9. Privacy - digital citizens have a right to privacy on the Internet
10. Property - digital citizens have a right to benefit from what they create, and be secure in their intellectual property on the Internet.
In an interview with RT in the above video, there is some skepticism about the validity of this Digital Bill of Rights. However, with both lawmakers being well established, as long as the bill is a serious move and not PR related, it is possible that this could be a good thing.
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