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Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed
into the law the Telecom "Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper
Gore took digital photographs of the proceedings to be
included in a book called "24 Hours in Cyberspace."

I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this
book by writing something appropriate to the moment. Given
the atrocity that this legislation would seek to inflict on
the Net, I decided it was as good a time as any to dump some
tea in the virtual harbor.

After all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate
with only 5 dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and
punishable by a $250,000 to say "shit" online. Or, for that
matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words prohibited in
broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk
about any bodily function in any but the most clinical

It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the
conversation in Cyberspace than  presently exist in the
Senate cafeteria, where I have dined and heard colorful
indecencies spoken by United States senators on every
occasion I did.

This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the
slightest idea who we are or where our conversation is being
conducted. It is, as my good friend and Wired Editor Louis
Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate could tell you
what to read."

Well, fuck them.

Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them.
They have declared war on  Cyberspace. Let us show them how
cunning, baffling, and powerful we can be in our own

I have written something (with characteristic grandiosity)
that I hope will become one of many means to this end. If
you find it useful, I hope you will pass it on as widely as
possible. You can leave my name off it if you like, because
I don't care about the credit. I really don't.

But I do hope this cry will echo across Cyberspace, changing
and growing and self-replicating, until it becomes a great
shout equal to the idiocy they have just inflicted upon us.

I give you...

       A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of
flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of
Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to
leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no
sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have
one, so I address you with no greater authority than that
with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the
global social space we are building to be naturally
independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You
have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any
methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the
governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We
did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do  you know our
world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not
think that you can build it, as though it were a public
construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and
it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering
conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our
marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or
the unwritten codes that already provide our society more
order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to
solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our
precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there
are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify
them and address them by our means. We are forming our own
Social Contract . This governance will arise according to
the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and
thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of
our communications.  Ours is a world that is both everywhere
and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege
or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military
force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express
his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, 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 bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot
obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from
ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our
governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed
across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our
constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden
Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular
solutions on that basis.  But we cannot accept the solutions
you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the
Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own
Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson,
Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These
dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are
natives in a world where you will always be immigrants.
Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with
the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to
confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and
expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic,
are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of
bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air
upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the
United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of
liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of
Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small
time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be
blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would
perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and
elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the
world. These laws would declare ideas to be another
industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our
whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and
distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of
thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in
the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and
self-determination who had to reject the authorities of
distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual
selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to
consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread
ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May
it be more humane and fair than the world your governments
have made before.

Davos, Switzerland
February 8, 1996

John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

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