The Internet Will Change Laws

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We’ve all heard of laws that are crazy or outdated. These laws were created at time when they were needed and in fact valid.  But times change, but in many cases the laws don’t.

Did you know that:

  • In France it is illegal to call a pig Napoleon.
  • In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.
  • In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.

Now these laws, as strange as they may sound, probably served a purpose at one time. The same goes with various laws that affect us digitally on the web.  These include copyright laws, intellectual property, privacy laws, access laws (eg. China censoring Google, or USA prohibiting viewing of web content from outside the USA), etc.  At one time, these laws had a purpose in their current form.  But just as the laws mentioned above need revising, so do the laws affecting Internet usage and content.

Copyright & Intellectual Property Laws

I don’t want to come across that as a person that thinks we should all have the right to reuse and take whatever we want.  I only am saying that copyright laws should evolve to match the technology. I really support the Creative Commons project and license model.  It really is about making it easier and legal for people to share and build on each other’s work.  In an instance a youth can make a mashup of their clips and music and publish it to YouTube or other social networks and with today’s copyright laws, they committing crimes.  Michael Wesch is a professor at Kansas State University and he has a great video about the Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.  Below is a snippet talking about the impact current copyright laws have.

Privacy & Access Laws

It may seem weird to have these two topics together, but when I refer to privacy laws, I’m mainly referring to the point that Canadian public institutions cannot have personal information stored on servers outside Canada.  This will prove to be more and more difficult as we see the web innovations continually coming from US based companies such as Google and Facebook.  I don’t know about you, but being blocked from viewing web-based content from US networks is starting to get old.  This law, similar to the copyright law, is making criminal out of otherwise law abiding citizens.  Many download shows that they are not able to view online.

I was having a conversation with a colleague and he mentioned a thought that was very profound but simple.  The Internet has no country.  And yet countries try to enforce national laws on a system that is global. I find it very interesting that in many ways, the Internet has brought the globe closer, but laws continually attempt to keep us far apart.

I would compare the Internet to the early Gutenberg Printing Press.  All of a sudden, books were starting to find their way into the hands of commoners.  This did cause concern for the medieval church.  I’m sure there were some that would like to have seen the printing press fail, but ultimately literacy came to more people.  Just as we are seeing laws attempting to limit access, control content flow and criminalize remixing, we see these laws change.