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Re: Protest Unconstitutional Bill

Feb 09, 1996 09:39 PM
by JRC

Thought this might be of interest .... its been circulated on several

>Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law
>the Telecom "Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital
>photographs of the proceedings to be included in a book called "24 Hours in
>I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by
>writing something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this
>legislation would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a
>time as any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor.
>After all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate with only 5
>dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000 to say
>"shit" online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words
>prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk
>about any bodily function in any but the most clinical terms.
>It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in
>Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have dined
>and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators on every
>occasion I did.
>This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who
>we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good
>friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate
>could tell you what to read."
>Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have
>declared war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and
>powerful we can be in our own defense.
>A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
>Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I
>come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask
>you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have
>no sovereignty where we gather.
>We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address
>you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always
>speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally
>independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral
>right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true
>reason to fear.
>Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You
>have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not
>know us, nor do  you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your
>borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public
>construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows
>itself through our collective actions.
>You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you
>create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our
>ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order
>than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
>You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this
>claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't
>exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will
>identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social
>Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our
>world, not yours. Our world is different.
>Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself,
>arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications.  Ours is a
>world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
>We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice
>accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
>We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her
>beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence
>or conformity.
>Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and
>context do not apply to us. They are based on matter, There is no matter
>Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by
>physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest,
>and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be
>distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our
>constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope
>we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis.  But we
>cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
>In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications
>Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams
>of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These
>dreams must now be born anew in us.
>You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world
>where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust
>your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly
>to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of
>humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole,
>the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes
>from the air upon which wings beat.
>In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States,
>you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at
>the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small
>time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in
>bit-bearing media.
>Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate
>themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own
>speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be
>another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world,
>whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed
>infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires
>your factories to accomplish.
>These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same
>position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had
>to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare
>our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to
>consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the
>Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
>We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more
>humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
>Davos, Switzerland
>February 8, 1996
>John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
>Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

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