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SPÖ Parliamentary Group position paper for a progressive internet policy


You don’t have to be a Facebook freak or tweet several times a day to see that the Internet is part of our daily lives. E-mails, Internet platforms like Youtube and blogs simplify and change things, and accelerate the way people communicate and share their ideas and concerns. The digital world creates opportunities for making everyday life, the workplace, and living together less complicated and more diverse. Never before has it been so easy to connect people and their knowledge through text, image and sound. But is it the same for everyone? Can everyone take advantage of this progress? Where are there barriers, and for whom? These are questions we social democrats have to address.
In the 21st Century, connection to the Internet is of vital importance because it allows access that creates new forms of participation and sharing. Against this background, public service obligations need to be revisited. In the same way that communes guarantee the operation of mobility networks such as local roads, railways, telephone lines or electricity, heating and sewerage, the provision of secure and affordable broadband Internet technologies should also be a public service responsibility.
People don’t use Twitter and Facebook “just for fun”, they also use these platforms as a form of democratic participation and public involvement. The Internet enables people without a lobby, money or media to air their concerns and make them a topic of public debate. The Internet can foster a diversity of voices as long we ensure that the digital gap doesn’t widen through the race being won only by those most Web2.0 savvy.
Advances in digitization will remain untapped if we fail to enable access not only to archives and libraries, but also to government data (such as geo- data, land-use plans, official statistics). Publicly funded knowledge should be made available and accessible to all interested parties. What use is it to anyone if all the knowledge, texts, files and papers, notable film and sound material are left hidden away? We should “push open the doors” and so generate new knowledge, enable discoveries that deepen and refine our own knowledge.
Although cultural activity has changed in the era of Web 2.0, the legal situation has not. “If everyone respected copyright, there would be no modern creativity. Today’s “remix culture” is based more than ever on previously existing creations,” said the German copyright law expert, Till Kreutzer, at the SPÖ Study “New Network Politics”. Modern copyright law would focus on how creativity and artistic activities can be promoted as a whole. A still pending copyright contract law must take into account the inadequate remuneration for creative services and guarantee fair contracts for artists. Copyright that extends 70 years beyond death is of no use to the artist/creator, but rather only to the person owning the exploitation rights.
Network policy covers a wide array of matters. Our social-democratic values of equality, freedom, justice and solidarity in many areas are still waiting to be updated to the digital world. The digital revolution must be democratized and it could be an exciting and rewarding task to do so.