Cyberspace Declaration of Independence
GGovernments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. In the name of the future, I ask you in the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. Nor do you exercise any sovereignty over the place where we meet. We have not elected any government, nor do we pretend to have one, so I address you with no authority other than that with which freedom always speaks.
I declare the global social space we are building independent by nature from the tyrannies you are seeking to impose on us. You have no moral right to govern us, nor do you have methods of enforcing your law that we must truly fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of those who are governed. You have not asked neither received ours. We have not invited you either.
You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace is not within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as if it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is a natural act that grows from our collective actions.
You have not joined our great collective conversation, nor have you created the wealth of our markets. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society with more order than what could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You proclaim that there are problems between us that you need to solve. You use this as an excuse to invade our limits. Many of these problems do not exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are errors, we will identify and resolve them by our own means. We are creating our own Social Contract. This authority will be created according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different. Cyberspace is made up of transactions, relationships, and thought in itself, which spreads like a quiet wave in the web of our communications. Our world is at once everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that everyone can enter, without privileges or prejudices due to race, economic power, military strength, or the place of birth. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere, can express their beliefs, no matter how unique they are, 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 here. Our identities have no body, so unlike you we cannot obtain order by physical coercion.
We believe that our authority will emanate from morality, progressive self-interest, and the common good. Our identities can be distributed across many jurisdictions. The only law that all our cultures would recognize is the Golden Rule. We look forward to building our particular solutions on that foundation. But we cannot accept the solutions that you are trying to impose. In America today you have created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, that repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville and Brandeis. These dreams must now be reborn in us.
You are afraid of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. As you fear, you entrust your bureaucracy with parental responsibilities that you cannot cowardly face. In our world, all the feelings and expressions of humanity, from the vilest to the most angelic, are part of a single whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that suffocates from that on which the wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of freedom by setting up guard posts on the borders of Cyberspace. They may prevent contagion for a short time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be covered by bit-borne media.
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim their ownership of the word worldwide. These laws would declare that ideas are another industrial product, less noble than rusty iron. In our world, whatever the human mind can create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global transfer of thought no longer needs to be carried out by your factories. These increasingly hostile and colonialist measures put us in the same situation that those lovers of freedom and self-determination were in who had to fight against the authority of a distant and ignorant power.
We must declare our virtual "selves" immune to your sovereignty, even though we continue to consent to your power over our bodies. We will spread out across the planet so that no one can imprison our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more human and beautiful than the world that your governments have created before.
Davos, Switzerland to February 8, 1996
John perry barlow