Digital Citizenship
Dev published on 2015-10-02T15:28:19Z

Freedom of speech is a 1st Amendment Right in our country, and something we should all take very seriously by protecting its integrity. "Integrity" is a key concept, because sometimes it is important to know how to use a Right in order to protect it... and this is particularly true for each of us in the digital world.

Once upon a time there was a file sharing service called Napster that permitted people to share files, more often than not .mp3 files, directly between peers using a computing architecture called P2P or "peer-to-peer" in which our client machines were able to directly communicate after establishing a connection via the Napster application.

Napster was deemed illegal by the United States Supreme Court based on what was assessed as its primary activity of enabling the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted works, this being music distributed as mp3 files. At the time of this ruling, and still to this day, many people disagreed with this assessment by the Supreme Court, and in many ways the outcome became more onerous and difficult to manage than prior to the ruling.

However, the ruling was made, and from that day forward it became illegal to use Napster to share copyrighted works directly with peers. In this sense, what many thought was a 1st Amendment Right was abridged by Intellectual Property Law. This remains a hotly contested issue, but at its core is the idea that Society is made better by providing certain protections to the original innovators who create ideas that become books, music, movies, software, and other innovative intellectual creations.

The "new" problem that is being confronted is the effective use of technology to disseminate these intellectual creations. The internet in particular makes it extremely easy to 'copy & paste' work that belongs to others. Sometimes this is permitted, and creators assign copyleft permissions to their works to empower the experience. This is in itself an innovative idea, put forth by Lawrence Lessig and Creative Commons in a very well-established and productive way. But the assumption by consumers of data that this is the default Right is an unproductive idea that can have tremendous negative consequences, and can reduce the opportunity for innovators to invest their time doing innovative things.

Intellectual property Rights in America and the world are incredibly important to helping increase the well-being of all people. Respecting this fact is a productive act of digital citizenship in the world today. As young people, "digital" is everywhere for in reality, this becomes a productive idea of citizenship itself, since almost no part of modern Society is going to be omitted from the digital infrastructure of Society.

The reason that "OYO" exists as an idea is because in my own life I have chosen to dedicate most of my adult life since 1992, the year the public internet was openly released into the wild in Fairfax, Virginia while I was attending George Mason University, to supporting, defending, advocating on behalf of and empowering Individual creative Rights. In other words, the Rights you possess as an Individual person. I have been involved in efforts to refine how Napster was ruled against, and I have been involved in working groups under the authority of the President of the United States of America and the US Department of Commerce to redesign what it means to possess a digital identity for use across all parts of Society.

Your Individual Rights, my Individual Rights, are the most important reason why kidOYO does what it does, and why OYOclass is being built the way it is... and our goal here is to empower each of us as Individuals to be positive contributors to Society as Individuals.

We have talked before in our programs about how we put our "hacker skills" to use... as "white hat" or "black hat" hackers. In either case, people with advanced skills have a choice to make, and the choice defines what kind of digital citizen you are in Society. The choice to make Society better and stronger by your own efforts is to be celebrated. The choice to reduce opportunity, increase costs, steal value and break the social contract is properly defined as an illegal choice in Society.

So what does this all mean to a kid who is 8 years old? 10? 12? 14? 20? And what about adults too? Grandparents?

Each of us have a responsibility to make choices that increase the value of our own life, as well as the community we are a part of, starting with our family, our friends, our classmates, our local community, our State, our Country and the whole of the world that is increasingly connected to us via digital tools we can access with the click of a mouse or the touch of an app.

Education is the process of learning how to make better and more productive choices, to ask better and more powerful questions, and to advance our cause through our refined efforts as we grow more intelligent or self-aware.

Education is an in-born Right... in fact, in the spirit of open source ideas turned into software which we use in many of our coding classes, most information on this planet is accessible to you by direct observation in a manner similar to open source data... and all that is required from each of us is a desire to learn and to advance our understanding of what is really happening by our own motivated and persistent effort. Once in possession of knowledge, each of us are presented with the same choice:

What do you want to do with the knowledge you possess?

This is where opportunity and freedom intersect, and this is also where intellectual property Rights intersect with ideas such as copyleft and open source. The Individual represents the point of greatest importance, for it is the Individual that chooses how to advance their own innovative ideas into the world. History will become a key consideration in this choice, as will your own personal beliefs about how the future should work. But in the end, you will have a choice to make.

This is the same for each of us within every education program, community, and effort we join. How we project our choices as creators and consumers defines what kind of digital citizen we are in this world.

You get one chance to make each choice you project into the world. Thankfully, life is more forgiving than not...and second chances are usually afforded to people who make bad choices. But not always... sometimes there are consequences for our choices that can not be undone. This is why making good choices is so important. This is why education, and your ability to learn how to educate yourself effectively, is perhaps the most important skill you will ever invest effort into.

My hope for each of you is that you become powerful choice makers, and choice creators for others.


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