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Lessig on censorship and software battles

Lessig on censorship and software battles

FSF's Lawrence Lessig talks about Internet censorship

Ever since the Internet blasted into our lives, Lawrence Lessig has been in the frontline of almost every cause to defend civil liberty and rights in cyberspace. A law professor at Stanford University in California, Lessig founded the school's Center for Internet and Society and is the author of several books, including last year's "Code 2.0."

He also chairs the Creative Commons Project (CC), a nonprofit initiative that provides authors, scientists, artists and educators with free tools they can use to license and copyright their works as they choose. An example of CC use is ccMixter, a community music site featuring remixes licensed under CC licenses.

Lessig also serves on the board of the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Public Library of Science, and Public Knowledge. In this exclusive interview, conducted while Lessig is on sabbatical in Berlin, he talks about Internet censorship and predicts a great battle among the defenders of free software and Microsoft -- and says it will probably be "long and bloody."

According to a recent BBC survey, global state-led Internet censorship is on the rise. Twenty-five out of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of content filtering, compared to two in 2002. Big Brother has finally arrived and will we have to get used to living with him?

It has long been my view that it was just a matter of time before cyberspace was regulated the way real space is -- indeed, more effectively than real space is. I am sorry that this prediction seems to be coming true.

In the same study, a number of European and U.S. states were not included in tests to assess filtering because the private sector tends to censor rather than the government doing it. But the U.S. government is using huge data mining systems to search and monitor the Internet, isn't it?

I don't know what the government does or can do. But there is little that would surprise me.

U.S. IT corporations are developing and providing the most efficient software systems to help Beijing censor the Web. Is China a 'test tube' for the rest of us?

The core argument of 'Code [2.0]' is that real control happens only when corporations and governments work together. China is the best example of that dynamic.

Is it possible that someday we, the cybercitizens, will have to apply for cyberpassports to freely surf the Web? Or will there be first class and second class web users?

We are already close to the world where your IP address is your passport, and already, there are services offering you a second IP address to evade some of the geographic-specific limitations [the so-called anonymous Web surfing].

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