Fri, 9 Feb 1996 17:16:35 +0100
From: John Perry Barlow firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: A Cyberspace Independence Declaration
that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law the Telecom
"Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital photographs
of the proceedings to be included in a book called "24 Hours in
also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by writing
something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this legislation
would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a time as
any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor.
all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate with only
5 dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000
to say "shit" online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the
other 7 dirty words prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion
openly. Or to talk about any bodily function in any but the most clinical
attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in
Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have
dined and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators
on every occasion I did.
bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who
we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good
friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate
could tell you what to read." Well, fuck them.
more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have declared
war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and powerful
we can be in our own defense.
written something (with characteristic grandiosity) that I hope will
become one of many means to this end. If you find it useful, I hope
you will pass it on as widely as possible. You can leave my name off
it if you like, because I don't care about the credit. I really don't.
I do hope this cry will echo across Cyberspace, changing and growing
and self-replicating, until it becomes a great shout equal to the idiocy
they have just inflicted upon us.
[ Top ]
A Declaration of the Independence
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants
of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On
behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are
not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I
address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself
always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to
be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us.
You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of
enforcement we have true reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you.
You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie
within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it
were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature
and it grows itself through our collective actions.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor
did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture,
our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society
more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You
use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems
don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs,
we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming
our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the
conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.
Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself,
arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours
is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where
[ Top ]
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice
accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or
her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into
silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and
context do not apply to us. They are based on matter, There is no matter
Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order
by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest,
and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may
be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that
all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden
Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that
basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications
Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams
of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis.
These dreams must now be born anew in us.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in
a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them,
you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you
are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments
and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts
of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate
the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.
[ Top ]
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United
States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting
guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion
for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be
blanketed in bit-bearing media.
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate
themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to
own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas
to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our
world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed
infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires
your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same
position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination
who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We
must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as
we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread
ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be
more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
Davos, Switzerland February
John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Home(stead) Page: http://www.eff.org/~barlow
Message Service: 800/634-3542
Barlow in Meatspace Today (until Feb 12): Cannes, France
Hotel Martinez: (33) 92 98 73 00, Fax: (33) 93 39 67 82
Coming soon to: Amsterdam 2/13-14, Winston-Salem 2/15, San Francisco
2/16-20, San Jose 2/21, San Francisco 2/21-23, Pinedale, Wyoming
In Memoriam, Dr. Cynthia
Horner and Jerry Garcia
It is error alone which
needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
--Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia