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 different.

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 all based on matter, and 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 world, 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 thoughts.

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

A Declaration of the Independence of Cy…
···