Last updated: May 26, 2011 - 8:50am
[Commentary] It was probably inevitable that when Nicolas Sarkozy invited the leaders of the world’s biggest technology companies and high representatives of Silicon Valley to Paris to mull over the future of the Internet, a culture war would break out.
At one extreme was the French president, who has backed one of the strictest anti-piracy enforcement laws of any country. At the other end were activists and open source advocates such as John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor, warning governments to back off. The Internet was not broken now, they said, but efforts to protect publishers, film and music companies could break it. The truth, inevitably, lies in the middle but the president is right about one thing. It is jejune to treat copyright enforcement as a breach of human rights, ethically equivalent to cracking down on free speech in China or the Middle East. Governments need to tread lightly to avoid damaging innovation but the Internet cannot become a safe harbor for illegality.
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