Although yesterday was chock full of workshops and welcomes, the MW2008 Conference official kicked off this morning with Michael Geist as the Plenary Speaker. Geist, from the University of Ottawa, Canada, describes himself as a Law Professor and “trouble-maker.”
His thesis is that we need to have an engaged and active Hands On the Internet Policy.
He began with a look back at the web in 1997, and some of the prevailing ideas of that time:
government and policy needed to stay away from the web,
leave it to the industry and community that could self regulate as they go along,
but the truth is that this was a myth.
Geist went on to touch on a number of the treaties and policies that have been put in place in the intervening years, and areas where legislation was pending.
Geist's point is well taken though: what were once regarded as “alternative” choices, are swapping places with the old guard.
For example, the enormous pressure a sort of flash-mob FaceBook group can bring to bare on public policy such as the recent group started by Geist on copyright issues in Canada, now with more than 40,000 members...or
Star Wreck - a Finnish movie that took 7 years to make. Though made available for download for free, it still made back all the investment in one year.
Similarly, Geist asked his publishers - Irwin Law – to publish his book, In the Public Interest under a Creative Commons license. People recognized the value of the book, and in two years it has become a commercial ‘success.’
What will be important in 2018?
Michael Geist concluded with a look forward to 2018 and what he imagined would be the critical issues:
- Broadband for all - We aught to be concerned that significant populations today (e.g. 1/3 of Canada) [and 3/4 of my little Massachusetts town] don’t have the price for admission, and in 10 years 5% still won’t.
- Net Neutrality - That there is a 2 tier internet where those who can pay to play will have the hi-speed pipes, and the rest of us will have to settle with the lo-speed pipes and hope our content will be found. This was not the idea in 1997 when all the pipes were ‘dumb’ – and this was critical for little guys at the time – like Google – to have a chance. A broad community of voices is essential.
- Intermediary liability - What liability do you have for other’s content on your site as you build out the community. What kinds of protections will be in place when you are asked to take down comments that are defamatory and don’t do it fast enough.
- Privacy - We need to insure that this is robust. For example, like ensuring that security breaches require disclosures.
- Copyright issues - fair dealing / fair use - Need balance of under-protecting as well as over-protecting rights such as in news reporting, or parodying
- Digital Rights Management - anti circumvention legislation - The ability to use the fair dealing rights, for review, criticism or reporting - We may find them locked out even when intended purpose is fair. Effects everyone and access to culture.
- Public Domain – How long should rights be protected before they are public domain.
Says Geist....To insure that these issues are addressed, we must have our Hands On the Internet.