4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (III). Content on the internet: regulation or self-regulation?

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session III

Round Table
Content on the internet: regulation or self-regulation?

Chairs: Raquel Xalabarder, Law Professor, UOC

Do we want to give up on the freedom we can have now? Do we want self-regulation or we want more education that leads to more commitment?

http://www.iqua.net, Spanish Internet Quality Agency (IQUA) and CEO Derecho.com

More than self-regulation, what it’s happening is that the liability to apply toughest laws if shifted towards the customer/user or the industry (ISPs and/or carriers).

But this has not been a matter of consensus, nor a widening of the range (from tough to soft) of the regulation spectrum.

Over-regulation puts an extra burden to the industry, making it more difficult for the Information Society to develop in a healthy way.

There’s a big room for metadata to play an important role in self-regulation, without being intrusive while providing good information for both the end user, the competition and the regulator.

Amadeu Abril, lawyer

Collective self-regulation seems another mean to name regulation against competition (i.e. my competitors.

Context matters, really matters, the problem being that exactly the same content is a really different thing when the framework changes. So how can self-regulation be effective with such a slippery landscape?

There’s a big difference between what is legal or not — and this is regulated by the laws that apply in the real world — and what is good or not. And this is another debate. And it was addressed in the TV by defining what was appropriate content depending on the time of the day, but cannot be addressed in the Internet, where both time and space are very relative concepts.

Miguel Pérez Subías, President of the Spanish Internet Users Association.

Self-regulation sounds good when at the individual level. But at the collective level, is it self-regulation? Or is is another thing? Can self-regulation be designed for communities? Besides, “compulsory self-regulation” is just regulation.

A second problem with self-regulation is that it seems to go against all moral and ethics we’ve learned in our childhood: wasn’t sharing good?

Yet another problem: there’s no transition taking place from one mindset to another one. Our mindset and our children’s are way too different and the divide between both has no transition. This poses a problem to any kind of regulatory change or, worse, a real challenge to the transmission of values.

Are we talking about the how’s before talking about the why’s? On the other hand, the debate has been focused on the economic sphere, not in the public (good) sphere. And this has caused many contradictions.

Main conflicts: intellectual property rights, security vs. privacy trade-off, control vs. freedom.

Mónica Ariño, OFCOM

If self-regulation is free adoption from the industry of any form of regulation, this does not exist. Co-regulation is what really takes place: as there is no free adoption of any kind of regulation (self-regulation), the private and public sector try and agree a second best.

For self-regulation to be effective, appropriate incentives have to be designed and these incentives have to be aligned with the public interest.

Norms have to be reasonable.

The participation of the customer is key for a better design of a self-regulatory system.

One of the main problems of self-regulation is the shift in who supports the burden of the responsibility to enforce this regulation. Indeed, there’s been some shifting too from what cannot be done, to list what can be done on the Internet, then subverting the whole rule of Law.

Besides protection, and self-regulation, there’s a tremendous work to be done in the digital and media literacy fields.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

iCities (XI). Round Table: Free Software in the Administration

iCities is a Conference about Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation.
Here come my notes for session XI.

Round Table:
Chairs: Jacinto Lajas

Jose María Olmo

Free Software penetration in the Administration still low. This also means (cause or consequence?) that bidding processes don’t usually include free software in their requirements, either as a condition or as a possibility.

Consequences of this situation:

  • Lack of cooperation and collaboration between administrations
  • Interoperability made more difficult
  • There is a lack of communities of free software for the Administration in which developers and users can meet and exchange impressions and design common strategies

Francisco Huertas

Free Software as a strategy to develop the Information Society.

Free Software avoids:

  • A unique provider
  • Insecurity
  • Imposed adaptability
  • Provider monopolies
  • R+D outshored
  • Lack of local support
  • Functional submission
  • License costs
  • Lack of standards that threat the persistence of public information
  • Impossibility to publicly share common goods

The cost per computer (12,000 PCs) of the operating system and main desktop applications is 1.8 euros.Updating these computers to the last version of MS Windows + Office would have cost 6 million euros. Besides the aggregates, a important aspect that matters at the margin: while with free software adding one more computer means reducing software costs per unit (while being constant at the aggregate level), with proprietary software one more computer means more costs, at both the total and per unit levels.

Lourdes Muñoz Santamaría

Three keys: focus on the use, not the tool; the importance of broadband access; keep Net neutrality.

In political terms, it is unacceptable that public investment is not public. Hence, investment in software solutions and content has to be made in free software so that they can be put at anybody’s reach.

In the same train of though, intellectual property rights need to have recovered their original purpose: public benefit, the protection of the author so that society gets more and better culture and innovation.

Two steps in the free software debate:

  • Non-discrimination because of the technological solution: neutrality, access warranties… for both the user and the provider
  • Opt-in for free software because of argued and objective reasons

A cause does not win just for being fair. If free software is good, its benefits have to be made broadly known, so that the citizenry is eager to get those benefits.


iCities 2008, Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation (2008)