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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Two Books on Control of the Internet

FGI volunteer ShinJoung Yeo reviews two books about global political struggles to govern the world’s distributed communication infrastructure.

  • Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace; Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance, by ShinJoung Yeo, JASIST, Volume 62, Issue 8, pages 1647-1649, August 2011. Article first published online: 9 MAY 2011. [subscription required]

    A recent series of events–Google’s dispute with China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, the Egyptian government shutting off nearly all Internet services during the 2011 pro-democracy revolution, .xxx domain approval by ICANN after much political controversy–is indicative of the heightening global politics surrounding the Internet.

    Two books–Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace, edited by Ronald J. Deibert, John G. Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, and Jonathan Zittrain, and Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance, by Milton L. Mueller–have drawn attention and provide context to exactly these global political struggles to govern the world’s distributed communication infrastructure, increase governments’ efforts to control, and reassert sovereignty rights over cyberspace by nation states. Both books contribute to explicating the complex tensions between nation states and the extraterritorial nature of the Internet.

    …If one has not yet been convinced that the Internet is far from value neutral, once again these books corroborate and stress the fact that cyberspace has grown ever more tightly intertwined with global political economy and has become a site of political, economic, and cultural struggle among nation states.

The Web is Alive! (But threatened)

It was twenty years ago (December 1990) when the World Wide Web went live on the desktop of its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. But today, Berners-Lee says that the web is threatened.

  • Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality, By Tim Berners-Lee, Scientific American (November 22, 2010).

    The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments — totalitarian and democratic alike — are monitoring people‚Äôs online habits, endangering important human rights.

If you only read one article this Thanksgiving week, Tim’s is the one. Contrast his vision of the web as being essential to democracy with the view from Wired magazine from August:

  • The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet, By Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff, Wired, (August 17, 2010).

    Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services — think apps — are less about the searching and more about the getting. Chris Anderson explains how this new paradigm reflects the inevitable course of capitalism. And Michael Wolff explains why the new breed of media titan is forsaking the Web for more promising (and profitable) pastures.

    …The story of industrial revolutions, after all, is a story of battles over control. A technology is invented, it spreads, a thousand flowers bloom, and then someone finds a way to own it, locking out others. It happens every time.

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Day 32

All right, all right. Readers won’t let me get away with the single comment in the last blog entry I had about the article in the New York Review of Books — and I think this feeds into the long-standing conversation I have been having with J A Jacobs. Simply put: I do not think libraries, as institutions, have any role in claiming a “public use” provision within the infrastructure of copyright. In other words, print and paper technology gave libraries a “gap” between those who owned the information and those who want to use it. While library circulation did not threaten the sale of the same material through the private market, information producers were quite comfortable in letting the libraries enjoy the “free ride” of offering their information products without any compensation for the free use. It was good public relations and a “feel good” partnership.

The mass digitization of the information changed that relationship.

I really think what the google technology does, and what the research libraries agreed to when they chose to work with google four years ago to find an “economical” way to digitize their collections, is create a private market version of “public lending right.”

See you on Day 33.