Tim Berners-Lee Says “Six Strikes” Threatens Democracy

    March 13, 2013

It’s been a few weeks since the launch of the “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System. There haven’t been any widespread reports of people receiving copyright alerts yet, but the programs opponents are growing. In fact, opponents now have a powerful man on their side – the father of the Internet.

Marketplace interviewed Tim Berners-Lee at SXSW Interactive, and the Internet freedom proponent had some choice words for programs, like the Copyright Alert System, that attempt to police the Internet.

The World Wide Web should be a blank sheet of paper. The Internet service providers, their duty is to get me bits. Bits in, bits out. If the police want to come and arrest me for doing something illegal, then the police have to come. But it’s not the job of an Internet service provider to be, in this case, not just the police, but then also the judge and the jury.

Berners-Lee’s concern is similar to previous statements made by public figures that have come out against the controversial CAS program. New Jersey Gubernatorial candidate Carl Bergmanson was quoted last month as saying “ISPs have no right to decide what you can and can not download.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Berners-Lee says that the Copyright Alert System and similar programs threaten the open Internet and democracy as a whole:

To start with, for business, you really use the Internet to produce an open market. And perhaps more dear to me for the future, is democracy. We need to be able to find ways of governing ourselves in peace. We need to be able to find ways of coming to agreements with people in other countries, in other cultures, about what we are going to do with our planet and how we are going to solve global warming. For that, we need a very strong democracy. Democracy involves people being informed, being able to communicate, being able to hold each other accountable. And all that absolutely depends on the neutral Internet.

The FCC, the agency in charge of creating net neutrality rules for the U.S., has stayed remarkably quiet during the debate over the Copyright Alert System. Their silence can only mean that the Commission supports the program for now, but it will be interesting to see what the Commission does if the CAS starts to target innocent Internet users.