[IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the Internet.

Tapani Tarvainen tapani.tarvainen
Fri Dec 10 10:49:58 EET 2010

On Wed, Dec 08, 2010 at 11:32:58PM +0530, parminder (parminder at itforchange.net)
> What does it mean to say, I am not sure if you have a right to the
> Internet, but you have, say, a right to association over the
> Internet?

It means simply that nobody is obliged to provide you the means
to get there but if you can, nobody has the right to stop you
from associating there or whatever.

For comparison:

You have no right to demand that a given newspaper print your
advertisement, let alone that someone else pay for it, but
if you have the means, nobody has the right to stop you from
printing it. That's what freedom of the press means.

Or, you have no right to come to Finland, should Finnish authorities
to refuse you entry they can and don't have to justify it to you -
but if you are allowed in, you have lots of rights under
Finnish and international law.

But of course you knew that already.

> I did earlier give the example of how it would be like saying the
> LGBT community has a right to association, without being willing to
> admit a right to freedom of sexual orientation.

The analogy is flawed. Right to freedom of sexual orientation
essentially means nobody has the right to force you to hide or
suppress your sexual orientation or prevent you from practicing it,
but it does not mean someone else is obligated to pay for your sex
change operation, let alone provide you with a willing partner if you
can't find one on your own.

> The above is similarly meaningless, and politically empty.

I find "right to the Internet" to be essentially meaningless,
mere well-wishing, but also mostly harmless, so I don't object
to including it in the charter - although I may object to
specifics, when and if it is elaborated later.

A "right to access the Internet" isn't much better,
perhaps even more susceptible to misinterpretation.
But again, I can live with it as well, depending on
how it is explained in the later sections.

> IMHO, I cannot take any such set of Internet rights to qualify to be
> rights. This would be a misuse of the terminology of rights to
> express some non-universal (club good) privileges.

Rights cannot be universal in the sense that they'd actually
be applicable to everyone in every situation, that is simply

Every right you have is qualified by your ability to use it.
That qualification may be financial or physical.
Right to marry doesn't mean that anybody can demand someone
will marry them even.
Right to life doesn't mean you'll never have to die, or even
that somebody has to pay for every possible treatment that'd
prolong your life.
Right to freedom of speech doesn't mean you don't have to pay
for advertisements you want to publish or for the papers
you want to read or tv you want to watch.
And so on.

Tapani Tarvainen

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