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Spirit of Justice in America

First they came for our search history, then they came for the open Internet, and then they came for our public spaces.

 

Imagine a future where all spaces, actual and digital, are privatized. In this world you will always be operating under terms of service rather than the Rule of Law. The same click-away-your-rights protocol that currently infects website, app and software usage will be brought to the actual world. Everything you see, hear, feel, and smell in these environments is subject to copyright. Your right to photograph, video, write about or in any way reproduce or share anything will be severely limited.

 

As you enter a mall, a highway, a doctors office, a privatized park (like Zuccotti Park), a subway, a movie theater, an airplane, a grocery store, a university, or any privately owned space, your communications device receives a terms of service request based on your location. You will be required to accept the terms of service to be eligible to enter the space.

 

You won't be given permission to access if you are undocumented, have been convicted of a crime, have a low credit score, don't have insurance, are on some terrorist/protestor/copyright infringer watch list or don't have a recognized device. "No shirt, no shoes, no chip, no service." "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." If you don't want to live by the rules, then you always have the freedom to... stay home... move to another country... change the law, or whatever.

 

If you attempt to enter the space without accepting the terms of service you could immediately be e-ticketed. Now you will have to appear in court or pay a fine. The same holds for copyright violations. Three strikes and you are immobilized, apprehended and escorted straight to the privatized prison. You won't see a day in court or be tried by a jury of your peers. You'll be lucky if you are entitled to redress your grievances in front of a corporate hired arbitrator. You'll stay in prison until you serve your term and emerge in debt for the cost of your conviction, incarceration and probation. You'll loose the right to vote. Your prospects will be diminished.

 

In this future we will no longer be citizens, we will no longer even be consumers, we will become users trading our liberty for the right to work and shop.

 

This scenario may be extreme, but it suggests how the never ending march of privatization and robo-justice could result in a world where we justify every breech of liberty by citing the property rights of corporations. The rights we give up in the so called digital world are real rights and are setting precedents to be used against our rights in the "real world."

 

The cellular network is accessing the real Internet. It should not be a corporate wild west where Net Neutrality does not apply. The Internet is part of the real world where our constitutional rights must be upheld. We must be less forgiving of business practices for digital goods that restrict our rights and prevent the creep of these practices into the non-digital realm.

 

Another step in this escalating process of corporate control is SOPA, aka the Protect IP Act, which will bring less liberty and more robo-justice for all in the name of reducing copyright infringement and piracy.

 

Read Senator Ron Wyden's SOPA statement where he warns of severe repercussions to a Free and Open Internet if bills are passed."

 

You can read a Senate version of the bill in this PDF.

 

Sculpture of the "Spirit of Justice" from the Great Hall, 2nd floor of the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. The artist, Carl Paul Jennewein, created this aluminum sculpture in 1935. The dimensions are 12' 6" tall x 48" in diameter. The CC image used in this post is from my Flickr photostream. The source for this image of the "Spirit of Justice" is a another great photo by Carol M. Highsmith and available via the Library of Congress.

 

The image has been cropped, exposure increased, contrast increased, and the color is adjusted. The "Spirit of Justice" is holding the letter "INC" the abbreviation for incorporated.

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Taken on November 20, 2011