Five years into the new millennium, the questions of right and wrong in cyberspace are coming into clearer focus. This year, eWEEKs Editorial Board has turned its attention repeatedly to this broad topic, taking positions that we believe are in the best interests of you, our readers, and indeed of all cyber-citizens, present and future. Here is a summary of our most important positions of the year past.
Google, through its Google Print project, once again came up with an idea for an innovative and useful service, only to raise the ire of copyright zealots. Were in the publishing business ourselves, and we firmly support copyright laws.
Google Print seems to recognize these rights, even as it seeks to enable cyber-citizens to quickly search and find what they need. We think that, eventually, content creators will recognize what a boon such a tool can be in providing information, in helping to develop new content and in exposing the works of content creators to a far wider public than would otherwise be possible.
Sony crossed the line of personal property rights in its efforts to secure its own content rights. The entertainment giant used a root kit to hide its DRM (digital rights management) software deep and undetectably within the operating systems of users computers. But the root kit was virtually uninstallable and exposed recipients PCs to viruses.
Amazon leapt to the defense of purchasers; Microsoft made a solution available; and although Sony dropped the offending software, the company vowed to persevere with other DRM schemes. We believe that traditional “fair use” ought not to be diminished in the cyber era and that no one—and no company, no matter how large—has the right to invade and damage anyones PC.
The state of Massachusetts took a stand in asking that all state documents be in fully disclosed and royalty-free formats, such as OpenDocument Text, which has been ratified as an OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) standard or in Adobe PDF. Microsoft protested the requirement but later changed the terms of its Open XML license to meet the Bay States requirements. Score one for user clout.
Although it began life in the United States, the Internet has become a global information highway. As such, people worldwide have a stake in its governance. Internet governance under ICANN, while it might be improved, is not broken. We opposed efforts to hastily place the Internet under the United Nations International Telecommunications Union, and we were pleased when a compromise was reached that keeps ICANN in charge.
Not all nations have the tradition of free speech that made the Internet possible. Chinese government censors apparently requested Microsofts Chinese Internet portal to filter the words “freedom” and “democracy” from its search engine. We think a good way to end the year is to review Article 19 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds: “Freedom to hold Opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Tell us what you think at [email protected].