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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

Users and Citizens

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

We had a bit of a commotion around an “agreement”, negotiated with the help of Polish Ministry of Coulture and National Heritage between Polish copyright collectives and the ICT companies (including ISPs).

There is much to be said about it – for instance, I could say it’s another salvo in the War on Fun – but after participating in a meeting regarding it, I would like to appeal to all those defending freedoms and rights in the Internet (and outside of it):

Let’s call things by their names – and stop saying “Users” when we mean “Citizens”!

In this whole discussion both sides are locked on interests of rights holders, ICT industry, and users. I believe allowing that makes our fight much more of an uphill battle than it needs to be.

First of all, it frames the discussion in a very convenient way for the other side. When we’re talking about users, we’re talking about people with contracts signed with companies, or about people consuming cultural works one way or the other. In other words, from square one we seemingly agree to play on the “business turf”, and on their terms.

Then there’s the problem that things that look beneficial for users can be unacceptable for citizens. For example lowering the fee by an ISP if the user agrees to use only certain web services (vide the whole Net Neutrality debacle). This might look like a good deal for a user, but a citizen should be able to see that it’s dangerous for free speech, among others.

And finally – and most importantly – rights and freedoms that we defend are citizen’s, not user’s. We should not be ashamed to call upon them if we’re supposed to defend them! And seemingly all other sides to this dispute (and many beside it) have to be reminded, over and over again, that people are citizens first and foremost; they can be users afterwards.