How the Internet Works
Private Property Rights Rule
by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.
There has been quite a lot of talk lately in certain circles on the Internet about making the Internet a “creative commons” and providing some sort of government funded wifi access available to everyone without having to pay for the service. I am against both policies on the grounds that the Internet works as well as it does due to the fact that private property rights are respected throughout, for the most part, and due to private associations and private companies running the show.
The idea that the Internet ought to be looked at as a “creative commons” comes from the idea that everything ought to be free if it is presented on the Internet. Regardless of how much work went into the creation of a product – such as a movie or a long dissertation – the enemies of private property are claiming that since the cost of copying and distribution are so low on the Internet, that everything ought to be given away for free. For one thing, this view leaves out all the tremendous thought and effort it takes to come up with a new idea and to bring it to production and then to stay in business as one sells it to the highest bidder. From movies, to lectures, to postings, to even tweets, someone had to originate the idea and he deserves to have the credit and the say so as to who can and cannot have access on terms that he sets as the creator, whether this be a fee for service or limiting access to a computer database or having a password protected website for a forum (See my short essay on Intellectual Property Rights). For another thing, it claims that the producers of products wanted by the public ought not to be paid for their efforts or paid for their services anywhere at any time.
Such ideas as no private property and very limited rights to one’s own property (if it is even recognized at all), has been tried in various forms throughout history, but primarily and ideologically by the now defunct Soviet Union. Maybe some of you have heard about how everyone lived in poverty where even the farmer was not permitted to have the fruits of his own labor due to the idea that no one could own anything. America had a very different founding, and that is what has made America so great – the idea of private property and limits to access to that property as set by the owners of said property. It’s what makes it possible for you to have a house without having to let every stranger and every bum have access to your stuff. Think about the hard work you put in to owning and upkeeping your house and property, and then think about what it would mean if anyone walking down your street could come in and lay on your couch and watch TV or play on your computer, as if he had a right to your stuff. That wouldn’t be very pleasant for anyone, don’t you think?
Well, the same holds true to the content of the Internet and also the underlying infrastructure of the internet – from the wires to the serves to the computers to the programs to the content to the websites themselves – all of this is owned by someone in particular and he has limits on how you can use his stuff. Sometimes you have to pay him for his services, like paying your ISP for internet access, sometimes he makes some of it available for free, such as my own website and many others out there that you simply have to type in the address to have access to. But even though there is a range of access, from payments to free, the terms of access are set by the owners of that property. To have it otherwise would destroy the entire structure of what is available on the net. Would you have much left if every bum could eat your food or borrow your car or whatever? I don’t think so. And yet, there are those stating that there should be absolutely no private property on the web whatsoever. How long do you think it would be before it all came crashing down when no one is being paid for his efforts or for access to his property? Not long. It may seem like a great deal at first, but notice the early Soviets thought so likewise and lived through over 70 years of utter misery and poverty. You cannot get something for nothing. It’s the nature of reality that someone had to put thought and effort into creating that which you enjoy on the Internet. At least have the decency to say he owns it and can set the terms of your access to his stuff. Otherwise, the whole thing will collapse into a no man’s land of communal property and no one lifting a finger more than his neighbor in keeping it active and full of life that we now have on the Internet.
It is due to the variety of mutually acceptable private agreements across the Internet that makes it so vibrant and so full of information and so many enjoyable things to be viewed and to be read. If you violate their rights to their products, it will all go up in dust. So, do not long for free stuff as an ideal. Be prepared to meet the creator’s acceptable access policies, whether it be money or politeness or whatever, across the board, and enjoy a vibrant Internet that is not matched anywhere else in the entire world or at any other time throughout history due to private property and limits on access set by the owners of said property.
I'm also very much against the idea of "net neutrality" and the efforts of some to get the Internet regulated as a utility, as President Obama recently proposed. The Internet is as vibrant as it is due to the fact that it is all privately owned and operated. Making the Internet into a public utility will spell doom for those speaking their own minds on their own blogs, who do not currently have to ask anyone for permission to do so. By reclassifying the Internet as some sort of public utility, the government will be able to eventually regulate every bit of it, including content, and those of us concerned with the right to free speech ought to be very concerned with this proposed move. First Amendment advocates ought to be speaking out against this proposal as loudly as they can. Keep the Internet privately owned and operated and a bastion of free speech.
My Protest Letter to my Congressmen:
I'm writing to protest the proposal of President Obama to reclassify the Internet as a Public Utility so that the FCC can regulate it. I am completely against the FCC having anything to say about regulating the Internet as it is mostly private property, and I am concerned that once the government starts to regulate the Internet our First Amendment rights will be lost. Right now, the Internet is a bastion of free speech and it ought to remain that way. Turning the Internet into a Public Utility will destroy the diversity on the Internet and will dampen people's enthusiasm to speak their minds openly about all issues. Please vote no to any proposal to regulate the Internet via the FCC as a Public Utility.