Cyber Liberties & Public Policy
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In the past decades Internet and its possibilities has become one of the most important parts of human life; people use internet not only for communicating, but also for working: there are even special projects (for example, social networks) that are meant only for internet; and of course such projects should be protected by law. This paper is aimed to show what cyber liberties and public policies exist in modern society and how such policy influences ordinary life. This paper will include such points as online privacy, the freedom of speech and intellectual property rights in the internet.
Online privacy means the use of different modern technologies to protect personal data of the internet users. The point is that nowadays there are no laws in the United States of America that protect privacy in Internet of the citizens. Most of the federal laws were written as a guide for citizens through financial transactions, health records and the citizens??™ behavior and how they are secured and shared. For example, such key federal laws as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The Constitution of the United States proclaims the freedom of speech and Internet has become one of the most influential tools for such freedom. ( First Amandment) Some researchers compare internet to the great village where anyone knows everything about others; on the other hand, there are no community rules in internet. However, the architecture of internet is such, that it is impossible to block all the web sites, they may be only blocked in very limited and highly controlled circumstances, for example blocking access to social networks at work or some special web sites at home or when a fireball is used at the workplace.
The web site eff.org provides interesting facts about the influence of the freedom of speech on an average person and on everything that happened in the world:
- During the Tiananmen Square rebellion in China in 1990, the Internet kept Chinese communities around the world, especially in universities, in touch with the current events through email and the newsgroups,
- In 1991 the Internet Relay Chat became very popular among that small amount of internet users that existed these days. Internet Realy Chat was an internet source with the help of which hackers were logging on to get the latest information about events in Iraq and about its invansion of Baghdad
- The Communications Decency Act was passed by the United States of America government in 1996 and it prohibited the distribution of adult material over the internet; however, lawyers believed that such act is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The lead to the start of the blue ribbon campaign which was aimed to support freedom of speech in internet. When CDA was passed many web sites had black background as a rebel and such strike lasted for twenty four hours. A few months later a three-judge panel imposed an injunction against the law's enforcement, pending resolution of lawsuits launched by several civil liberties groups, and the law was subsequently found be unconstitutional.
- In 1996 many countries around the world became frightened of the freedom of speech associated with the Internet. China mandated that Internet users must register with the police. Germany banned access to some adult newsgroups on Compuserve. (eff.org)
Such statistics show that sometimes freedom of speech in internet becomes uncontrolled and it may influence the opinions of the whole world according to one or another event. On the other hand, speech freedom in internet may help the world??™s society understand how cruel relationships between people or countries may be; it helps to realize that there is so much cruelty and poverty in the world. However, such truth may becme dangerous for teenagers that have unstable state of mind and be influenced by thousands of violent videos that are available nowadays in internet; that is why there are such a great amount of cases in the United States of the America when teenagers brought the gun to school and began to kill teachers and other students. To my mind, such measures should be taken to control the amount of propaganda sources in the internet or videos that may influence unstable minds of teenagers. Thus, governmental authorities should pay attention not only to the amount of guns sold but also to what is happening in the global network; such freedom may be very harmful for modern society and sucj freedom may lead to destuction and anarchy.
Another important point that is aimed to be overviewed in this paper is intellectual property rights in internet. The most important object of protection is free or paid software and music albums. However, none of the users is intended to steal the album he or she is downloading; it has become mainstream in the last years. Researchers say that people who are downloading free albums so not think that they steal something; they do that because everybody is doing so and because it is available. In fact, it is not so; everything in internet is the product of somebody??™s mind and thus it costs some money; people used to think that everything in internet is free because they were made to think so: a person sees that ideas, some programming codes or simple lyrics are available, which makes him or her think that everything is free in internet, even music albums that should be paid for. Besides, copywriting has become another problem of the internet users: footnotes and bibliography became inappropriate and thus authors use another person??™s ideas as his or her own. Such policy has destroyed all the etiquette and respect that is used in real life; people have forgotten how to thank others for their work and how to respect such work. A young inventor or artist or musician should understand that if he or she starts to work in internet he or she will undoubtedly have conflicts with those who will use his or her work. All the internet users know that such activity is illegal; on the other hand, it is almost impossible to prove anything. Such question as intellectual property is actively discussed in different international forums and two ways of solving this situation were developed:
- Internet intermediaries should be involved in solving this problem;
- Use all the technical measures to deny access to the unauthorized data.
There are different international organizations that protect intellectual property in internet, but all they are nongovernmental; but this does not disturb the representatives of such organizations participate in international forums that are dedicated to the issues of intellectual property in internet. On the other hand, free software may become a way out for poor countries, for example African countries, where people do not earn enough to pay for quality paid software. The researches show that such free software as Linux is used in many schools in Uganda. Alan Story in his research paper “Study on Intellectual Property Rights, the Internet, and Copyright” has developed and explained why free software is appropriate for poor countries:
- “Proprietary software prices are beyond the reach of all but a small elite in the least developed countries.” (Story A., p 21) for example, in Mexico, which is a developing country, there are 140 thousand schools. To install Windows 98, Microsoft Office and other software needed costs about one thousand million dollars, which will be about a hundred twenty four million dollars, which is much expensive than to buy a Linux installation disk for fifty dollars. On the other hand, there are countries that are much poorer that Mexico, and for such countries free software is the most appropriate variant.
- “Proprietary software does not allow access to or sharing of the all important source code.” (Story A., p 23) Free software means that the code is available to all users and not only to those who have fulfilled some requirements. This is proved in the example of Mexico schools: the authorities will have to pay for every copy of the Windows 98 annd other software; but they will need to pay only fifty dollars for the Linux installation disk which may be used multiple times in uncountable amount of computers.
- “Similar licenses for widely disparate situations.” (Story A., p. 23) There is a problem nowadays that not every person has the same computer, especially in poor or developing countries. The point is that people in poor African countries get the same paid software as citizens of the United States of America or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is not quite correct, because of the quality of the computers all they have: people in Africa do not earn so much money to buy the latest version of computer and thus it is useless for them to pay for the latest version of the software.
- “There is an absence of broad computer literacy and technical skills offered by proprietary software training schemes." (Store A., p.23)Such big companies as Microsoft donate money to the development of poor and developing countries, for example, the government of Mexico received certain sum of money from Microsoft corporation for the developing of schools.
- “The inflexibility and technical “biases” of proprietary software further lock poor and least developed countries into a pattern of dependency and economic stagnation; open source systems promote technological self-reliance and independence.” (Story A., p. 24)
- “If a company or operating system acquires a national or global monopoly position, the copyright restrictions of proprietary software, especially for operating systems, are transformed, into patent-like restrictions rather than the traditional “limited monopoly” restrictions of copyright.” (Story A., p 26)
- “Poor and least developed countries are unable to curb anti-competitive practices stemming from the monopoly position of certain proprietary software within their borders” (Story A., p 26)
In the modern world it is important to understand that everything has its value and every work should be respected and paid for. The worst thing is that people used to think that what in internet is, is free; the work of software developers or architects is invisible for an ordinary user, that is why people think that this is not work at all, and it should not be paid properly. But the reality is that nowadays there are more and more cases of stealing in internet, especially in poor or developing countries where people do not have enough money to pay for quality music albums or software. The problem of copywriting is also an urgent one: it always happens that a writer does not know how to protect his or her work and it becomes free to use; and thus there is no chance to prove that this work was stolen. On the other hand, one may find only some pieces of advice in internet how to protect him or herself; there is no law in the United States of America that helps authors to protect their rights. The main problem of modern society and the developed technologies is that people from poor or developing countries cannot work without special programs that they need but on the other hanf it is toi expensive for them to buy such software. To my mind, the manufacturers of software should establish special prices for developed countries woth high level of economics and other prices for poor and developing countries. If this is done, there will be less amount of software downloaded unlegally.
Cyber liberties have become very important in modern life, because everything is connected to internet, and it is necessary to outline what should not be done and what may be done by a user. But in my opinion, internet users have forgotten what etiquette is and why it is needed and behave in internet as ancient people who were striving to take everything they life either stealing it or using some power; that is why some measures to restrict such cyber liberties should be taken by government. On the other hand, not only governmental authprities should be responsible for that but also people should understand that a lot of work was done to develop some kind of software or to record an album that is why it is not right to download without paying anything.
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