Just like the pre-internet economy the fabric of the internet is not owned by any single party. It is an emergment property of the actions and choice of many different people who hold individual rights separately. Such is how society works in general.
So, it is not without a little thought that I post in support of this protest against ACTA taking place in London tomorrow and co-ordinated with protests around the world. Having come to libertarianism and then to Objectivism largely due to concern over how intellectual property is enforced (oh…that and 9/11) I’ve been on quite a journey with regards to this issue and have not, I think, fully made up my mind. Talk from digital rights activists about “our internet” are clearly junk science, but it is true that IP enforcement in practice justifies authoritarian measures. This is often way out of proportion to any harm or moral dilemma that arises form the abuse of IP. Banning creative forms of expression, locking people up and fining them are all clearly an infringement of physical liberty. It also get’s in the way of an individuals access to their own rational faculty and the expression of it’s content. In other words, IP enforcement in practice fails two of my basic tests of what is right and what is wrong politically*.
The real kicker though, when it comes to ACTA is that in trying to prevent counterfitting it is pushing unchosen burdens and non-objective laws onto a large part of the population. Clearly wrong. So, I only had to read the following sentences to be persuaded to support the protest:
The broad definitions of criminal liability will push private companies to police the Internet
This infringes the rights of shareholders who may not wish to direct their employees to police the internet at their expense.
The vague threshold for criminal measures, including liability for ‘aiding and abetting’ infringement
All law should be clear and predicatable, otherwise it just becomes a way to make everyone guilty of something.
The Open Rights Group, of which I was a founder member, is giving support for the protest, and gives the following logistical information:
People will be meeting in central London at 2pm. We’ll help supply what can only be described as brilliant leaflets and fabulous t-shirts. Then the idea is to split up into small teams and head off to spread the word.
* philosophy nerds may be interested to know these tests are both derived from Ayn Rand’s work. Rand herself gave a weakly justified endorsement of the British system of IP law, but I doubt she would approve of ACTA.