The consumption of grilled food and cold beverages likely overwhelmed any discussion this holiday weekend of America’s evolving role in shaping internet law throughout the world. As such, net rights activist and copyright reform lawyer Lawrence Lessig spoke to a crowd who’d be more interested in hearing about the dangers we face adapting to the networked world …in New Zealand.
This incredible network has brought us many things, both good and bad, he says. But we’ve failed in a crucial area — finding an effective means of bringing out the good and ousting the bad. Instead, he says, our governments see the bad and they react by attacking the institutions or individuals which represent these perceived threats. And in doing so, they’re ignoring the very nature of the internet and the inevitability of these harmful elements, all at the expense of the network’s most beneficial impacts.
This is precisely why Lessig has travelled to New Zealand — The country represents to him a “high-functioning democracy,” relative to other areas of the world, with regard to internet policy. That is to say, for example, the acceptance of “open access” is keeping places like New Zealand, France and the U.K. connected to high-speed, low-cost broadband internet, while places like the United States deny their populations this infrastructure, yielding instead to pressure from the private sector.
“The world misses how profoundly bad government in the United States is,” Lessig warns, citing how both New Zealand and the US had made the mistake mentioned above, and how New Zealand was the only one of the two to correct it. But this bad policy oftentimes doesn’t stop at American borders. This fear of a truly networked world and the unwillingness by leaders to find creative solutions to its problems has led to a disturbing trend of large-scale bullying in hopes that foreign governments will yield to the United States in adopting the same backwards, anti-progressive policies.
“We need you to resist our form of extremism,” Lessig implores. “Help us, teach us, shame us to become something more. But until we do, protect yourself from us.”