[governance] Re: The Internet (as we know it) can never be "private"

Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro salanieta.tamanikaiwaimaro at gmail.com
Sat Jul 16 16:24:19 EDT 2011

This is interesting Paul. I am not taking sides but am throwing these
thoughts in for general discussion.

Consider the analogy of roads. highways and border controls mechanisms such
as Customs etc. Who determines the roads and highways that gets built? Who
pays for it?

There are all kinds of roads - public and private. Are tolls collected on
some roads? Why are they collected?

Can anyone be allowed to drive through the roads or should there be some
sort of rules? Who decides the rules and why?

Are there aspects which are public and private? Are these justified?

On Sun, Jul 17, 2011 at 8:18 AM, Paul Lehto <lehto.paul at gmail.com> wrote:

> The Washington Post takes as a truism this statement it published today:
> "The Internet is a powerful tool for innovation and expression because
> it allows information and ideas to flow freely."
> Information and ideas do not "flow freely" on anything that is plainly
> and simply "private property."
> The very essence of property interests in general features this common
> thing:  The right to exclude, or exclusive use.  If one owns real
> property (land), they can exclude trespassers.  If they own a
> trademark, they can exclude others from using that mark in confusing
> ways.  If they own a copyright, they have exclusive use of that text
> and may prevent others from using it unfairly.
> If the internet were predominantly "private" in any non-misleading
> sense of the term "private" it could never -- on the whole-- allow
> information and ideas to flow freely.  Thus, while the internet surely
> features countless privately owned things like websites and so forth,
> the value of the internet can never come from the exclusive rights of
> property, which is by legal definition not something freely shared, it
> is something exclusively owned with access to others significantly or
> totally restricted.
> The dream of the internet, at least for many people, of an open place
> where people meet and thus all kinds of things are facilitated -- from
> commerce to communication -- is in the nature of what's called "the
> commons".  The commons is kind of a public area, such as a public
> square, free to all, but often with "private" vendors offering
> additional goods or services for a fee.
> It feels to me like some have noted the countless private individuals
> and private vendors who have flocked to the public commons called the
> internet, and because there are so many vendors and people in the
> commons, have concluded that the *commons* is private, that the
> Internet is private.  In fact, the internet as people experience it
> really only has private components but cannot be said, without being
> misleading, to be "private" on the whole or in general.  The most
> critically valuable and crucial aspects of the internet (even if by
> some method of "counting" they are only 1% or less of the whole) is
> that which is either owned or operated as a "commons" - and therefore
> experienced as free to all.  Sure, somebody has to pay for the commons
> somewhere (taxes support the "public square") but the economic aspect
> to the commons does not defeat its status as commons.
> Even private property owned by a single individual can, by the choice
> of the owner, be operated as a commons or like a commons.  (An
> individual can make a park on her own land and invite all to use it
> for free.)  It's nice if someone chooses to do this, but we can't rely
> on the largesse of private individuals if we wish to keep a commons
> going because they can change their mind at any time, and close the
> gates of the park for any reason.
> No matter what numbers or factors one may focus on, the core of what
> is loved about the internet is its aspects that are most like the
> traditional public commons - a place to freely meet, greet and
> transact business.  Even if, once in the commons, we decide to join a
> more truly "private" party - with a cover charge to get in and "riff
> raff" not allowed in -- we may then be in a more exclusive "private"
> party, and "private" has more meaning here.  But we still used the
> commons to GET TO the private party we prefer, and without that
> commons the private party couldn't have happened across the distances
> typically involved.
> If our guiding star principle were to be that the Internet is
> "private" it would kill the core value of the internet as we know it.
> This doesn't mean that the Internet *could not* be made much more
> private.  Just recently, I've pointed to examples of just such a
> development, where public law-making authority about the internet is
> delegated to a private corporation.  But the more we make, or even
> just think the internet is "private", the more we tolerate exclusion
> (which is the common essence of all property interests).  And, the
> more we tolerate or implement exclusion, or the more we give power to
> forms of governance like corporations that, being property interests
> themselves, have exclusion as part of their structural essence, the
> more we kill the Internet as the open marketplace of friendship,
> communication and commerce that is what most people think is the
> greatest thing about it.
> Paul Lehto, J.D.
> --
> Paul R Lehto, J.D.
> P.O. Box 1
> Ishpeming, MI  49849
> lehto.paul at gmail.com
> 906-204-4026 (cell)


"Stillness in the midst of the noise".
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