A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace - 20 Years Later

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DeepBlueMorocco

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Originally published 05-27-16 to The Innerspace Connection by yours truly.

ed. note: While my journal focuses primarily on milestones of music history, today's entry is particularly relevant to TPS, as it highlights a core text of our internet freedoms. As the paper is more relevant now than ever before, I thought it important to share this piece of history to remind us all of the freedoms we must defend. Enjoy!

Over the past several months I’ve taken a considerable interest in Copyright Reform, Fair Use, Free Culture, and the fight for Internet Freedom. I purchased a copy of Prof. Lawrence Lessig’s cornerstone text, Free Culture and have been reading papers on the subject at every opportunity.

This returned my attention to one of the most prophetic and cautionary pieces ever written on our collective freedom – John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Written during the infancy of the internet in 1996 by the co-founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Declaration warned readers to be ever-vigilant, warning that the governments of the industrial world would continuously work to erode and destroy the liberties afforded to us by the world wide web. At the time of its drafting, Bill Clinton had just signed the Telecommunications Reform Act into law – an act which perpetuated the merging of the largest corporations in the communications industry granting them even greater control of information than ever before.

Barlow has the distinction of being the only person to be inducted into both The Internet Hall of Fame and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And his short but incredibly relevant paper is a pivotal piece of internet history. That’s why I am so honored to have claimed this latest addition to my library.

While poring over the EFF’s deep links, I came upon an article from December of 2014 describing a special limited release from The Department of Records. DOR’s homepage describes its mission, “to preserve cultural artifacts for the collective memory in both the physical and digital worlds.” And the first historical work for their catalog is a recording of John Perry Barlow reading his Declaration.



This special vinyl edition was limited to just 500 copies worldwide and distributed directly by DOR. The 180g album sports a smart minimalist black cover with the title of the work embossed at the center of the jacket.



The gatefold sleeve contains a transcript of the original document and information about the three recordings on the album.



Side A Track 1 features A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace as spoken by John Perry Barlow

Side B Track 1 is A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace (ft. John Perry Barlow) by Dražen Bošnjak

Side B Track 2 is an Instrumental version of A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by Dražen Bošnjak.




DOR kindly offers the album’s contents free to all courtesy of The Internet Archive.

When I discovered that DOR still had copies remaining for sale, I purchased it for my own archive without a moment’s hesitation. It instantly became the most significant artifact of my cultural custodianship.



You can watch the recording session below. Tune in for an incredible moment of our culture’s history.


 

Cherokee

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Ah, John Barlow. Definitely one of the best poets of the last decade. He wrote the lyrics to some of my favorite songs. Here's one he wrote decades ago that still seems current to me called Throwing Stones:

Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
Dizzy with eternity
Paint it with a skin of sky, brush in some clouds and sea
Call it home for you and me

A peaceful place or so it looks from space
A closer look reveals the human race
Full of hope, full of grace is the human face
But afraid, we may lay our home to waste

There's a fear down here we can't forget, hasn't got a name just yet
Always awake, always around, singing ashes, ashes all fall down
Now watch as the ball revolves and the nightime calls
And again the hunt begins and again the bloodwind calls

By and by again, the morning sun will rise
The darkness never goes from some men's eyes
Well you know it strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets
Stalking turf, dividing up meat

Nightmare spook, piece of heat, it's you and me, you and me
Click, flashblade in ghetto night, Rudie's looking for a fight

Rat cat alley roll them bones, need that cash to feed that Jones
And the politicians throwing stones
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down

Commissars and pin-striped bosses role the dice
Any way they fall guess who gets to pay the price?
Money green or proletarian gray
Selling guns instead of food today

So the kids they dance, they shake their bones
While the politicians throwing stones
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down

Heartless powers try to tell us what to think
If the spirit's sleeping then the flesh is ink, yea
History's page, it is thusly carved in stone
The future's here, we are it, we are on our own
On our own, on our own, on our own

If the game is lost then we're all the same
No one left to place or take the blame
We will leave this place an empty stone
For that shinning ball we can call our home

So the kids they dance, they shake their bones
And the politicians, throwing stones
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down

Shipping powders back and forth
Singing, black goes South while white comes North
And the whole world full of petty wars
Singing I got mine and you got yours

And the current fashions set the pace
Lose your step, fall out of grace
And the radical he rant and rage
Singing someone got to turn the page

And the rich man in his summer home
Singing, just leave well enough alone
But his pants are down, his cover's blown
And the politicians are throwing stones

So the kids they dance and shake their bones
'Cause its all too clear we're on our own
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down

Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
It's dizzying, the possibilities
Ashes, ashes all fall down
Ashes, ashes all fall down
Ashes, ashes all fall down
Ashes, ashes all fall down

All fall down, all fall down
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down
All fall down, all fall down
Singing ashes, ashes all fall down
Ashes, ashes all fall down
Ashes, ashes all fall down
 
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DeepBlueMorocco

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Ah, John Barlow. Definitely one of the best poets of the last decade. He wrote the lyrics to some of my favorite songs. Here's one he wrote decades ago that still seems current to me called Throwing Stones:...
Wow - that actually retrieved a forgotten memory for me; thanks! I remember seeing a Further show on 06-25-10 in Rochester, NY and while "Stones" was not among the setlist, it was definitely played a few times on tapes in the car :)

Thanks for the memory!
 
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