A Second Bill of Rights
Right now it’s unarguable: Washington D.C., and the country at large, is suffering from political gridlock. It seems every month there’s a new titanic policy struggle between the two parties. Arguments over policy matters are a good thing, obviously. It’s the way they are fighting that irks many. Instead of having well-reasoned and rational debates on the Congressional floors, lawmakers are in many cases resorting to incendiary rhetoric, antiquated parliamentary tactics and sabotage via the media. Many historians argue there hasn’t been this much vitriol in the capital city since the days of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. So that’s why it is refreshing to see the uncommon display of bipartisanship, when two politicians from opposing parties emerge together to form an alliance on a single issue. These days, it’s a rarity tantamount to sightings of Sasquatch. On the morning of June 11, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) did just that, and their pairing is in support of an internet bill of rights.
The two lawmakers appeared together at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City, and both spoke at great lengths about the proposed bill of rights, and the dangers of legislation allegedly designed to prevent internet piracy, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Both men used forceful language during the discussion, and frequently referred to anti-piracy legislation proponents as the “cyber-industrial complex,” a term obviously designed to mirror Eisenhower’s labeling of hawkish Pentagon contractors and staffers as the military-industrial complex. The proposed bill of rights, drafted primarily by Congressman Issa, comes with ten defined articles, much like the actual Bill of Rights. They are as follows:
- Freedom - digital citizens have a right to a free, uncensored internet
- Openness - digital citizens have a right to an open, unobstructed internet
- Equality - all digital citizens are created equal on the internet
- Participation - digital citizens have a right to peaceably participate where and how they choose on the internet
- Creativity - digital citizens have a right to create, grow and collaborate on the internet, and be held accountable for what they create
- Sharing - digital citizens have a right to freely share their ideas, lawful discoveries and opinions on the internet
- Accessibility - digital citizens have a right to access the internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are
- Association - digital citizens have a right to freely associate on the internet
- Privacy - digital citizens have a right to privacy on the internet
- Property - digital citizens have a right to benefit from what they create, and be secure in their intellectual property on the internetRead more: http://www.businessinsider.com/sopa-pipa-internet-bill-of-rights-2012-6#ixzz1xWdDO0N4
June 11 was not the first time the lawmakers had banded together on this issue. Unlike many of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Issa and Wyden have been staunch and vocal opponents of controversial bills like SOPA, PIPA and CISPA since their inception. These bills, should they be put in place, would take extraordinary measures to prevent the pirating of copyrighted material, no matter what country the domain is registered in. Opponents say the measures are too extraordinary. When he placed a hold on PIPA back in May 2011, Senator Wyden cited the potential damage to freedom of speech, innovation and internet integrity. Despite Congressional support, the mobilization effort against this legislation was enormous. Companies like Google and Facebook were partnered with the organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch in preventing the passage of these bills.
Issa and Wyden are not the first Washington luminaries to propose such a bill of rights. Back in February of this year, President Barack Obama laid out the blueprint for his Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which was designed to “improve consumers’ privacy protections and ensure that the internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.” The White Houses’ version put an emphasis on transparency, respect for context, security, access and accuracy, focused collection and accountability.
The assemblage of the Constitutional Bill of Rights as we know them today represented a trying time in American history. The idea that the founding fathers were in unison with their ideals is grossly false. They were divisive days as well, maybe even more so than modern times. Who knows what Issa and Wyden will be able to push through in today’s contentious political climate, but it is a shining moment of bipartisanship to fight for the freedoms of the average internet user, and that should itself be celebrated.