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How Should a Constitution Protect Digital Rights? 151

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-guns-and-bombs-don't-work-so-well dept.
Bibek Paudel writes "Nepal's Constituent Assembly is drafting a new constitution for the country. We (FOSS Nepal) are interacting with various committees of the Assembly regarding the issues to be included in the new constitution. In particular, the 'Fundamental Rights Determination Committee' is seeking our suggestions in the form of a written document so that they can discuss it in their meeting next week. We have informed them, informally, of our concerns for addressing digital liberties and ensuring them as fundamental rights in the constitution. We'd also like to see the rights to privacy, anonymity, and access to public information regardless of the technology (platforms/software). Whether or not our suggestions will be incorporated depends on public hearings and voting in the assembly later, but the document we submit will be archived for use as reference material in the future when amendments in the constitution will be discussed or new laws will be prepared. How are online rights handled in your country? How would you want to change it?" Read on for more about Bibek's situation.
He continues,
Here is an email I wrote to FOSS Nepal mailing list. I wanted to post a similar message to some international mailing lists (like the FSF, EFF) but I know only of announcement mailing lists of that kind. If you have something to suggest, please do. We're committed to doing everything we can to make sure that in the future Nepal becomes a country where digital liberties are fully respected. It's my personal dream to make our constitution a model for all other developing (or otherwise) countries as far as digital liberties are concerned.

There are many issues on which your suggestions would be valuable. If you've interesting examples from history, they'd help too. If you're a legal expert, please mention the legal hassles our issues could generate. If you're from the FSF, the EFF etc, please provide your insights. If you're just another citizen like me, how would you like your government to address file sharing, privacy, anonymity, platform neutrality, open standards, etc? This Slashdot discussion itself would serve as a reference to our document.
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How Should a Constitution Protect Digital Rights?

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  • How about if you can't explain in one sentence what your company actually produces. You will not be protected by patent, copyright or trademark law!
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:01PM (#28314069) Homepage

    We're all legal experts here.

    • by SomeJoel (1061138)
      Well, I'm not.
    • Someone is asking for constitution drafting advice on Slashdot? And I thought I had seen everything.

      What's next? Mars human base construction advice?

      • What's next? Mars human base construction advice?

        I don't know about Mars, but I find it interesting that an Earth-normal atmosphere constitutes a lifting gas on Venus. In other words, we could build a giant blimp on Venus, filled with normal air, and live inside it. We could have our floating cities. All it needs is an envelope that can survive the sulfuric acid clouds and rain, and the temperatures.
        • Depending on what altitude you actually reach neutral buoyancy on Venus, you may not have that much temperature to deal with, just acid... Garbage disposal would be fairly easy, just drop it if it's not recyclable.
          -nB

  • Very simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:04PM (#28314103)

    There should be no such thing as separate "digital rights". Computers are just tools, and nowhere near important enough to be a special case in a national constitution.

    Of course, many rights and freedoms that we might like to see preserved on-line in the Internet age are worth preserving in general: freedom of belief, freedom of association, freedom of expression, the right to a private life, and so on. But it doesn't matter in the slightest whether the infringement of such rights and freedoms is done via digital means or otherwise.

    • Thank you.

      Specifying "digital" rights sounds like a sure way to find them nullified by semantical loopholes.

    • The problem with that is that many people still equate computers and paper as separate mediums. The rules should not be separate for digital and paper, but any such rules should elaborate with well crafted language something to the effect of "this includes digital media."

      Also, Another post further up insists that all government information be available in free and open standards of formatting. This is one rule you can't express in terms of paper, because there is no equivalent problem in paper media. You

      • by ring-eldest (866342) <ring_eldest&hotmail,com> on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:49PM (#28314655)
        I agree with the GP, there is no need to specify that you have free speech online as well as in general.

        If it MUST be done put it in a separate amendment similar to our Ninth. " The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." + "or restrict these rights to any particular venue, medium, technology or to any other specific means."
        • Mod UP! That is exactly what I was trying to say a few posts up, but you explain it much more concisely.
      • Also, Another post further up insists that all government information be available in free and open standards of formatting. This is one rule you can't express in terms of paper, because there is no equivalent problem in paper media.

        A constitution should be technology-agnostic. Framing it purely in terms of paper would be just as bad as framing it purely in terms of digital technology. The problem does exist with paper, in any event; even without computers you need standard processes for recording data, storing it, indexing it, requesting it, communicating it, etc. The means be which these questions would be answered for paper information storage can be applied to digital systems as well.

        Anyway, the real problem (as I see it) is that t

    • Re:Very simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:35PM (#28314485) Homepage

      Well what if we put it another way? You're talking about basic human rights issues, and I think you're right to indicate that those shouldn't change (at least not in an essential way) because we're using new tools. On the other hand, some things have changed in the digital/internet age, and that may warrant some consideration.

      For example, in the US Constitution, the federal government isn't given any particular powers regarding the Internet (obviously). It's technically not even given the right to have an interstate highways system (obviously). However, the federal government is given the right to create roads for the purpose of delivering mail. So in this new constitution, what role do you want to assign the government in terms of creating/maintaining/regulating communications infrastructure?

      The US Constitution also gives the federal government the power to grant copyrights. Given the current technological age, if you were writing the Constitution today, would you have included that? Would you have been more specific?

      Should the government be required by the constitution to disseminate any particular information in any particular way? Just a random example: you could make it required that any laws be posted on the Internet at least 5 days before any vote. What format do you want it in?

      What kinds of records may the government keep on the citizenry? What kinds of databases and compilations of information can they reference, and under what circumstances? Would it make sense to have some time frame after which records expire? Is there some time frame for when even the most secure documents become public?

      There are lots of decisions that have different ramifications today than they did 20 years ago. It's not a dumb question to ask.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        For example, in the US Constitution, the federal government isn't given any particular powers regarding the Internet (obviously). It's technically not even given the right to have an interstate highways system (obviously). However, the federal government is given the right to create roads for the purpose of delivering mail. So in this new constitution, what role do you want to assign the government in terms of creating/maintaining/regulating communications infrastructure?

        What a fucking perversion of the int

        • I'm not talking about a perversion of the interstate commerce clause. I'm talking about the following (article I, section 8):

          To establish Post Offices and Post Roads

          Now I don't know if this was ever raised historically to justify the interstate highway system, and really that wasn't my point. My point was that, aside from that one line about "Post Roads" (and arguably the interstate commerce clause), the federal government has no legal authority to do anything regarding national infrastructure.

          However, it's hard to read the failure to enumerat

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            My point was that, aside from that one line about "Post Roads" (and arguably the interstate commerce clause), the federal government has no legal authority to do anything regarding national infrastructure.

            The government was granted the right to declare that the post would travel along a particular right of way. Whoopee? We would be better off without any federal infrastructure. We could have had more rail, and trains that would carry our cars on long trips, instead of the federal highway system that is mostly a way for the federal government to exert undue influence over the most and least populous states.

            • We would be better off without any federal infrastructure. We could have had more rail...

              So are you complaining about the fact that we went with a highway system rather than a railway system? Or against the idea of the federal government being involved in either?

            • Anyway, the language of the Constitution is not, "to declare the post will travel along a particular right of way". It's, "To establish Post Offices and Post Roads". The word "establish" seems purposefully vague-- it's not "build" or "declare". Using "establish" leaves them free to use whatever methods make sense, so long as the end result is post offices and post roads. It seems likely to me (unless someone can propose a better interpretation) that the authors of the Constitution saw the need for relia

      • So in this new constitution, what role do you want to assign the government in terms of creating/maintaining/regulating communications infrastructure?

        None whatsoever. Regulation of specific communication channels in specific ways is well short of a constitutional issue. Heck, even the existence of specific communication channels is well short of a consitutional issue. The right to make political statements via any public medium without fear of government persecution is the sort of things that needs to be enshrined in a constitution.

        As it happens, I think there's also a decent argument that if you allow artificial legal entities such as corporations then

        • Every one of your objections amounts to, "we shouldn't put specifics into the constitution," but I didn't advocate getting specific in the constitution.

          Looking at the US constitution again as an example, it says the president should inform the congress of the state of the union "from time to time", and so we have a State of the Union speech every year. It didn't mandate that it be broadcast on TV (which would be overly specific, besides being anachronistic), and it doesn't dictate the form or content of t

      • Article 1, Section 8:

        "The Congress shall have power... To establish post offices and post roads;"

        Roads are totally Constitutional, especially if any mail is carried over them. Other uses can be considered to be incidental.

        • Yeah, I know. That's what I was referring to when I wrote, "However, the federal government is given the right to create roads for the purpose of delivering mail." So there's the slightly expanded version of my argument:

          The government was not explicitly and specifically given the power to create an interstate highway system, but of course they wouldn't have been given that power because there were no cars. They weren't give any general powers to build infrastructure like telephone networks, the Internet

    • I absolutely agree with this principle. However "digital rights" are a useful thing to think about when composing your statements of fundamental rights. Sometimes technology changes things in a way that wasn't predicted, which may cause the particular wording of your constitution to not really cover issues that it should.

      For example, the 4th Amendment reads:

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      This wording is quite specific to physical objects, and the extensions of these rights (or not) to data and communications has been very patchy, and oft

  • To be clear, the whole idea of "digital" (versus analog) is that a signal is recorded and/or encoded in a numeric representation of an analog signal or message. The advantage of digital is that the fidelity of the digitally encoded data need never be compromised and so exact replication of the analog object (whether sound, video or both) never needs to be lost beyond its original format.

    Why should rights be any different based on this fact? It doesn't need to be. The fact that things can be copied and tr

    • by Gospodin (547743)

      While all you say is true, let's be generous and assume that the story poster really meant "information rights".

      My own thought on that question is that if Nepal wants to put in a couple of clauses of information rights, great. But it seems to me that they have bigger fish to fry: get basic freedoms, separation of powers, checks and balances, etc. right. Otherwise your information rights are pretty much irrelevant.

      Related thought: It ill serves a Constitution to be long or attempt to be complete. It should b

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuoteMstr (55051)

        IMHO, it's far better to spell out explicit restrictions directly in the constitution so that potential violations are blatant. Negative restrictions are useful because if the constitution claims "the government can do X", the government will invariably try to do Y and claim Y is a type of X. You breed monsters like the Commerce Clause [wikipedia.org]

        ...in Katzenbach v. McClung (1964) the Court ruled that the federal government could regulate Ollie's Barbecue, which served mostly local clientele but sold food that had pre

  • Open Standards. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Narpak (961733) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:06PM (#28314119)
    At least regarding open standards this is my country's (Norway) current policy:

    The Norwegian Government has decided that all information on state-operated web sites should be accessible in the open document formats HTML, PDF or ODF. This means an end to the time when public documents are published in closed formats only.

    - Everybody should have equal access to public information. From 2009 on, Norwegian citizens will be able to freely choose which software to use to get access to information from public offices. More competition between suppliers of office programs will be another effect of the government's decision, Minister of Government Administration and Reform Heidi Grande RÃys says.

    The Government's decision is as follows:

    * HTML will be the primary format for publishing public information on the Internet.
    * PDF (PDF 1.4 and later or PDF/A ISO 19005-1) is obligatory when there is a wish to keep a document's original appearance.
    * ODF (ISO/IEC 26300) is to be used to publish documents to which the user should be able to make changes after downloading, e.g. public forms to be filled out by the user. This format is also made obligatory.

    - For many years, Norway had no specific software policy. This is now changing. Our government has decided that ICT development in the public sector shall be based on open standards. In the future, we won't accept that government bodies are locking users of public information to closed formats, Ms Grande RÃys says.

    The new demands will take effect from January 1, 2009 for state bodies. The Ministry of Government Administration and Reform will be working to formulate regulations making this obligatory for municipal organs as well. The Government's aim is that the regulations should take force from January 1, 2009.

    The government decision does not prevent state bodies from using other document formats in their communication with the users, provided that the documents also are produced in one of the obligatory formats, ODF or PDF.

    Heidi Grande RÃys says that state and municipal organs as well should be able to receive documents in these formats from their users and partners. - This is the first step in standardising document formats. We are also considering formats for document exchange with the public sector and for the exchange of documents within the public sector, Ms Grande RÃys says.

    A list of obligatory and recommended standards in the public sector according to the Government's recent decision is to be found in Referansekatalog for IT-standarder i offentlig sektor (Reference catalogue of IT standards in the public sector, Norwegian edition only).

    From regjeringen.no [regjeringen.no]

    Currently they are considering what standards to use for audio and video; the current policy of Open Standards apply.

    • by Narpak (961733)
      You might also be interested in SINTEF [sintef.no]s report eCitizen2.0 [regjeringen.no].

      New report: The government must use the culture of sharing on the Internet

      Web users wish to spread information from public sources through internet communities. However, there is a risk that the government is slowing down this process, according to the report eCitizen 2.0, received by Minister of Government administration and reform, Ms. Heidi Grande RÃys, recently.

      - There are enormous possibilities for dialogue and distribution of information, if the government and the users of web communities are cooperating. This report will provide us with better knowledge of how the government can meet the citizens where they are, Ms Grande RÃys says.

      The second title of the report, which has been commissioned by the Ministry from the research institution SINTEF, is âoeThe ordinary citizen as provider of public information?â SINTEF recommends that the public sector to a larger extent must regard the citizens as collaborating partners rather than as passive recipients of information.

      - Todayâ(TM)s web users expect to be able to share and edit texts, pictures and videos they find on the internet. The challenge will be to create a culture of sharing, in which public information is distributed by the citizens themselves, without losing important content or trust in the process, Grande RÃys says.

      The recommendations from the researchers imply that public information should be made freely available and reusable, and that public institutions to a larger extent must be willing to experiment and take risks. The report mentions examples of innovative services from other countries, like the US and Great Britain.

      - There is a lot of useful government reform in an active ICT policy providing possibilities for inclusion, sharing, openness and dialogue. This is all about the ability of the government administration to be innovative in developing public services, and how we can improve our services by utilizing the usersâ(TM) competence, the minister says.

      eCitizen2.0 - The ordinary citizen as a supplier of public-sector information (PDF) The report is made by Petter Bae Brandtzæg and Marika Lüders in SINTEF.

      SINTEF:

      The SINTEF Group is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia. Every year, SINTEF supports the development of 2000 or so Norwegian and overseas companies via our research and development activity.

      Business concept
      SINTEF's goal is to contribute to wealth creation and to the sound and sustainable development of society. We generate new knowledge and solutions for our customers, based on research and development in technology, the natural sciences, medicine and the social sciences. /quote

    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      Those a good standards. But none of those things should be in a constitution. Perhaps something simpler like "the right to open access to government documents" could be in a constitution.
      • by Narpak (961733)
        Of course, my posts were simply to give some information about the developments regarding Open Standards in my country. This is policy decisions and not in anyway a part of the Norwegian Constitutions. If any thing should be written into a constitution then it should, hopefully, be written and rewritten until it is a clear and single point that don't specifically mention formats or anything that might change several times over the next century or so.
  • Rights are Rights. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:07PM (#28314131)
    I don't see how - from a constitutional perspective - it's especially important to enumerate (or even mention) "digital" or "online" rights in any form. Stick with freedoms of speech, privacy, assembly, and commerce, and let the legislative bodies worry about whatever particular media type or communication method happens to be popular that month... and then let the courts decide if challenges to the legislature's actions are in keeping with the fundamentals. Constitutions are about what the government cannot do, and getting granular (to the point of making a distinction between cell phones and land lines, or between postal mail and e-mail, or between online banking and walk-up banking) is a bad fit in a document like that.
  • Reference here [baens-universe.com].

    An unfair law is ignored - and should be.

  • The U.S. document is a much more general framework, extending to about a dozen pages or so. The European one, rejected by France and the Netherlands after ratification by a dozen other nations, runs to almost 500 pages. Yes, that is per language. There is obviously a vast difference in the meaning of the word "Constitution" depending on where you hale from.

    "Rights" shouldn't be separated out as to "digital" or otherwise. Things like a right to privacy and access to public (government) information should

  • There's only human rights. Separate the medium/media from the rights. By example the postal mail and digital mail. Constitutional rights in the United States were lost to the medium. Simply because the medium changed from paper to digital the tyrants in Washington DC felt they were entitled to read our mail. And remember a true Democracy does not rely on a Department of Homeland Stupidity.
  • I would like to see if you could pull off an interesting idea. See if you can get the Nepal government to allow the citizens to use whatever level of encryption they see fit. I believe my government does not allow an encryption level so high that they can never hope to crack it. It's strange, companies are allowed to implement DRM at whatever level they see fit yet I'm restricted, especially if it might be exported.

    Take a look at this and see if you can get your country grouped into level 1 [rsa.com] at the b
    • See if you can get the Nepal government to allow the citizens to use whatever level of encryption they see fit.

      +1 insightful

      The right to use encryption of any sort should be explicitly mentioned and permitted in the constitution. The right to encrypt one's personal data is fundamental to the right to privacy. Being forced to give up encryption keys should also be mentioned and protected in the same manner as self-incrimination (such as in the US 5th amendment).

      The reason the right to encrypt is vital to place in the constitution is that aggressive or controlling/totalitarian governments (and there are varying

  • digital rights and freedoms logically flow from that

  • Amendment I
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    ...That should about cover it. Ho modeled VietNam's Constitution on the USA's, there's no reason Nepal can't borrow a bit.
    • Do people have a right to access the Internet? Because that right, if it exists, is not enshrined in the first amendment.

      Many argue it should be a right; how effective can you be in this modern world without access to the wealth of information the Internet puts at your fingertips? If this is a right, does this mean the government has a responsibility to ensure access is available? There are plenty of northern communities where access is not available in Canada. There are many public access points in mos

      • by QuoteMstr (55051)

        However in the US, it is illegal to publish software which would circumvent a digital lock, thanks to the DMCA. Some would argue the DMCA is unconstitutional in this regard, however the DMCA has been around for a long time. If this right were explicit, would that be the case?

        The DMCA, and a host of other laws, blatantly violate the ideas of the enlightenment upon which the constitution was based. That the DMCA stands, far from demonstrating the nuances of our constitution, instead merely shows that generati

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Why can't you return purchased software? You were when software sales to consumers started out, in line 1978 for CP/M. But it is really, really easy to install a product and then return the packaging to the store saying you don't like it. You win, you got the software. The store loses, they have a "return" or an "open box" item to either return to the publisher or sell at a discount.

        The publisher loses, loses, loses because it is now obvious that you don't have to pay to use their software.

        Returns were

  • Corruption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:33PM (#28314467)

    "Digital rights" provisions may actually enter the constitution, and if they do, that's great. If they don't, the legislature can approximate their effect.

    It's far more important to put provisions in the constitution that will slow the onset of corruption. Corruption rots a state from the inside out; no matter how well-protected rights are in a constitution, those protections are worthless if the government becomes an entity that serves the few, not the many. Keep in mind that the U.S.S.R., in its constitution, guaranteed freedom of expression. That didn't work out so well. The United States guarantees freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, yet we have civil forfeiture. The constitution only means something when there is some mechanism to hold accountable those who violate it.

  • (Not a student of the law or constitution)

    I'm not sure why you want to add anything as specific as file sharing or platform neutrality to a document like a constitution, as it will just turn into an absolute nightmare of trying to enumerate the rights and privileges of your citizens.

    A constitution should be a general statement of principles and (just as importantly) an outline of how your citizens elect to be governed. I think what you're trying to do is a good thing, but you might be better off tryi
  • Anytime anyone uses some kind of DRM, require them to provide the government with a copy of the key and a release date - when the copyright ends. Charge them a small yearly fee for key storage. If they stop paying the fee (i.e. they go bankrupt and no one takes over the fee payment) or the copyright protection date ends, the keys become public property, available for free.
  • Set aside rights of way for infrastructure. Make those rights of way available as franchises to all infrastructure providers. That way, it will be harder for one provider to behave like a dictatorial monopoly.

    Don't let the infrastructure providers (the people who own the cables) get into the content business.

  • Ability to access human information networks must be one of the human rights.

    This access has to be untampered, unrestricted, non-censored and privacy has to be respected.

    US/EU constitutional amendment should be issued to support this cause.

    Also net neutrality has to be of utmost importance. Preventing corporate influence and fair competition in the global networks. Constitutional amendment should cover this also.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:58PM (#28314773)

    Digital rights should be not much different from the rights you (should) enjoy in your real life. Basically they are

    protection from search and seizure
    protection of privacy
    protection from undue profiling

    The last bit may not be an issue in reality, it is in the "information age" and the "information society", though. Computers are great at storing, filtering and cross linking data.

    In detail, this would mean that the search of personal belongings stretch to your personal data that you store on your PCs. I.e. searching your PC should be protected as searching of your worldly possessions is. Intercepting and examining your traffic should follow the same rules that intercepting and examining your other correspondence follows. Collecting data should be limited to the necessary minimum. Cross referencing data should be defined and subject to review.

    Most of all, demand a system of auditing and surveillance of those that may (under special circumstances, to protect the law) overstep those boundaries. I.e., a search of your computer can be conducted without your knowledge (unlike, say, a search of your home which you would most likely notice), so demand a system that someone searched has to be informed afterwards that he was searched, and why. Either the law enforcement found what they were looking for (and thus have every right to do the search in the first place), or they have to explain why they did it. Without, the temptation to "just make sure", on a "hunch" is way too big.

    Also, a penalty system for organisations collecting data has to be put into place that ensure they don't take securing private data of others lightly. So far, the penalties I know of are something that's factored in as part of the risk management expenses. I would not deem it overblown to revoke the right to store personal data from repeat offenders. Yes, that means close your business. If you're unfit to secure your customer data, you're unfit to do business in a digital information-heavy world.

    The main portion here is "watching the watchers". And the "storers".

  • I think that's an equivalent question. Both are imaginary/purely concepts.

  • Based on the troubles we have been having in the United States (and a bit of knowledge of history), I would make these suggestions:

    (1) Original written works (stories, novels, magazine articles, poems, music, and software are properly governed by copyrights, not patents. Ever. [This eliminates the innovation-stifling patent wars we have been having over stupid things that should never have been granted patents in the first place.]

    (2) Copyright must be claimed by the creator of the work BEFORE a vio
  • I'd take that phrase of yours and apply it as broadly as possible. To the greatest extent possible make sure that all laws are written so that they apply equally and explicitly to digital and otherwise. There is nothing fundamental about digital that requires different rights, protections, etc. Given the chance to segregate digital from other concerns, many politicians and law enforcement people will treat them differently even when it's not warranted. Some times this is through ignorance, some times pleadi

  • Go back to the original bargain at the heart of copyright. The government grants you a monopoly on the profit from the work for a limited time, and you agree to not hide the work.

    A key here is _limited_ time. That definition has been stretched past the point of credibility these days. It should be something like 5 years, instead of lifetime plus 75. Let's face it, the bulk of the profits on a work will come in those first few years. After that, let the public have it.

    The other key would be that any wor

  • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Friday June 12, 2009 @08:18PM (#28315935) Journal

    "No person shall be convicted of any criminal or civil offence solely on the basis of the data contained within any digital storage media within their possession and the recording of any of their network addresses upon any other digital storage medium"

    I'll be honest about my motivation for making this suggestion; I am appalled by the fact that people are frequently imprisoned for possessing/accessing child pornography which they did not produce, purchase, trade, or solicit. The argument that viewing child pornography creates an increased demand was formulated in a pre-internet era when people who were determined to view child pornography had to either produce, purchase, trade, or otherwise solicit the material in order to view it. In those cases - and in cases where pornography was abusive rather than just offensive to the sensibilites of the time - I believe that prosecution was justified. In the era of the internet, however, people are able to access child pornography without encouraging production, yet many of those people are traced through access logs, then arrested, convicted and imprisoned.

    The suggested clause would not prevent the prosecution of people for purchasing child pornography, as card details would be recorded; these details could be coupled with data from the hard drive to secure a conviction. Anyone who trades child pornography could presumably be convicted, as evidence of trading should be available on another person's property. Anyone who solicits child pornography could likely be caught through their dealings with those who produced or distributed such images.

    The suggested clause would also stifle attempts to introduce a local equivalent of MediaSentry et al, as such organisations rely heavily on evidence from users' computers and on the logging of the IP addresses of people who download copyrighted media.

    Such a clause would also hinder the introduction of victimless criminal offences which are falsely alleged to discourage the commission of harmful crimes; the British and American legislators have begun to introduce such laws to bypass allegations of creating a police state obsessed with the concept of pre-crime. In the UK, for example, it is illegal for a person to possess information which could be useful to terrorists, on the absurd basis that anyone who wishes to view such material intends to engage in terrorist behaviour.

    The reality is that the excuses provided for intrusion into peoples' digital lives are generally an excuse for the state to investigate the private lives of anyone who is presumed to wish to challenge the state, or anyone who may offend the electorate which legislators are forced to represent in order to maintain their seats.

  • Something that forces companies holding private data to think about security (both physical and electronic). Something that would force companies to stop making web apps with security holes wide enough to drive a 747 through. Something that would force companies to actually give a stuff about phishing. Something that would force companies to put stronger locks on the rooms holding all those personal files they have on you so that people cant steal those. Etc.

  • by grantdh (72401) on Friday June 12, 2009 @08:49PM (#28316155) Homepage Journal

    The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) produced their Internet Rights Charter [apc.org] to help provide a basis for taking the UN's Declaration of Human Rights into the online world. It's amazing the number of countries that signed onto the Declaration of Human Rights but think nothing of censoring and snooping on people on-line.

    Worth checking out and contacting APC in addition to EFF, etc.

  • The Constitution is not the place for that.

    A Constitution is a meta-law, the law from which all other laws are derived. In it, you put the general, broad principles that are the norm of your society.

    The Constitution should not be too specific in the means of effecting rights, as those means will change over time.

    Suppose that you did the same exercise 20 years ago, and you put in the constitution “the right to freely gopher on the Internet”. That would not prevent the government from implementing

  • And explicitly state the your constitution only gives the government the powers enumerated in the document, and the people have all the rest of the powers.

  • The constitution should really do nothing more than restrict the powers of government to a well defined, minimum set.

    Please see wikipedia articles on negative liberties vs. positive liberties (sometimes also called negative/positive "rights").

    Negative liberties make sense to put into a national constitution. Positive liberties are a recipie for disaster and servitude.

    So to the extent that you feel that a "right to privacy" should exist, in terms of how to express it in the constitution, it would place clea

  • Ask China - they're the ones pulling the Nepalese government's strings.

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

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