A Bill of Electronic Rights and Ethics

Version 0.23 (1996) Author: Peter Merel

The intention of this document is to provide an ethical standard with which to measure the policies of states and corporations in regard to the Internet and related multicast communications networks. This document is not intended to be used as legislation; it is intended to qualify legislation.

0. Rights

The following section represents rights that belong to every adult Internet participant. Laws or policies that infringe upon these rights endanger the personal liberty, property, security, and ability to resist oppression of all Internet participants.

Rights of Communication
The right to accept any information from any source.
The right of every person to control and license intellectual property invested in their own original expressions, but not in algorithms nor other properties of mathematics.
The right to transmit any information to any person, as limited only by intellectual property rights.
The right to publish any information in any unmoderated forum, and to submit any information to any moderated forum, as limited only by intellectual property rights.

Rights of Privacy
The right of every person to refuse to disclose any information they originate or receive.
The right of every person to encrypt, decrypt or transform in any way any information they originate or receive.
The right of every person to refuse to disclose the identities of the originators of information they transmit or receive.
The right to monitor others only with their prior consent.
The right to ignore information of any nature.

Rights of Jurisdiction
The right of every person to abide only by those laws and regulations that apply at their physical location.
The right to seek legal recourse against the originators of actions and expressions that cause damages, but not against any intermediary person, organisation or medium.

Rights of Access
The right of access to any information in the public domain, restricted only by cost.
The right of every person to access any report, record, policy, regulation or law that may apply to them, or which has been created in whole or in part by their representatives or their agents, as limited only by the Rights of Privacy.

Rights of Administration
The right, as moderator of a moderated forum, to observe and enforce the charter of that forum.
The right, as administrator of a system, to deny participation in that system to any person for any reason, as limited by contractual obligations.
The right, as parent or legal guardian of a minor, to control the information made available to that minor.

1. Ethics

These are ethics that inhere to the exercise of the above rights. These ethics can not be and should not be guaranteed by law, as any law that provides such guarantees will infringe upon one or more of the above rights.

Ethics of Toleration

It is unethical to suppress the expressions of others, even when those expressions directly offend your own opinions and beliefs.
It is unethical to harass or threaten others.
It is unethical to pursue judicial recourses before exhausting all conversational and mediatory remedies for perceived damages and inequities.

Ethics of Trust
It is unethical to publicly distribute the expressions, images or particulars of others without their consent.
It is unethical to misrepresent yourself, your observations and opinions, or the expressions of others.
It is unethical to request or to transmit information created through the use of coercion or other non-consensual practices, except with the consent of the victims of those practices, or, in the case of their death, incapacity or unavailability, with the consent of their legal guardians or heirs.
It is unethical to omit adequate warning with any information that may mislead or endanger a naive recipient, or which may spoil the enjoyment of an experience for others.

Ethics of Consideration
It is unethical to transmit information to persons and forums not explicitly concerned with that information.
It is unethical to be inconsiderate of the costs of network bandwidth and storage space.

Ethics of Regulation
It is unethical for the representatives of states and corporations to omit or oppose guarantees in law and policy of the rights represented in the first section of this document.
It is unethical for the representatives of states and corporations to provide or maintain any guarantee in law or policy of the ethics represented in the second section of this document.
It is ethical to observe, discuss, refine and promote the rights and ethics represented in this document.

This document has been constructed from suggestions by and discussions with many Internet participants from diverse countries and cultures; its development is supported and promoted by EFA, the EFF and CPSR.