The Marco Civil da Internet, a “bill of rights” for Internet users proposed in Brazil, would represent a paramount advance in country's progressive digital policymaking agenda. Officials expect the law will come to a vote on August 8.
The Marco Civil da Internet [pt] (Civil Regulatory Framework for the Internet) establishes a clear set of rights and responsibilities for users, sets strong net neutrality principles, and shields Internet intermediaries (Internet service providers, hosting platforms, social networking and blogging sites) from liability for illegal content posted by users. Pedro Paranaguá, an Internet policy advisor for Brazil's House of Representatives, has a detailed archive of the law's legislative history on his blog [pt].
Unlike Internet-related laws addressing piracy or copyright infringement, the Marco Civil is not a criminal law, but a civil one. Rather than framing digital policy as a matter of criminal violations, it puts forth a clear set of rights for users and aims to balance these with the interests of online companies and law enforcement. The Marco Civil is also strategically deft in this regard: by establishing user rights and responsibilities forthright, the law aims to guarantee that these interests will be protected if or when laws addressing online crime and copyright infringement are introduced in the future.
The Marco Civil is also unique in that it was developed in a highly participatory style. Lawmakers were not the only entities involved in drafting the law–academic experts, civil society groups, and Internet users had a critical role in developing the law's text as well.
Commenting on the process, Internet policy activist and leader of the Mega Nao campaign João Carlos Caribe [pt] writes:
O Marco Civil da Internet foi escrito com a participação da sociedade, e tem fundamentalmente o objetivo de criar bases e limitações para novas leis sobre a Internet, criando uma camada de proteção à sociedade livre e democrática…
Lawmakers partnered with scholars at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, the country's leading social science research institution, to draft the preliminary text for the law. It was then posted for an open online consultation where all Brazilians were invited to comment and make suggestions for the bill through Cultura Digital, the website of the Ministry of Culture. The process reflected a potent vision for Internet policymaking, one in which all individuals who hold stake in the social and technological power and functioning of the Internet can have a say in how it is governed. Visit Cultura Digital [pt] to see the online forum.
Over the past decade, Brazil has pioneered a digital policymaking approach that many countries have looked to as a model for promoting innovation and openness online. During the administration of Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, Minister of Culture and acclaimed musician Gilberto Gil developed a policy agenda that focused on increasing Internet access and digital education for all Brazilians.
Advocates are urging Brazil's Congress to vote in favor of the Marco Civil, the passage of which would make Brazil a global and regional leader for progressive Internet policy and a model that many countries may look to as they develop their digital agendas.
Netizens in Brazil and around the world can learn more about the Marco Civil by visiting the websites of Brazil-based groups including the Centro da Tecnologia e Sociedade [pt] at FGV; Mega Nao [pt], an online advocacy initiative promoting Internet openness; and MegaSim [pt], a blog that promotes progressive cultural policy for the digital age.
Netizens can directly voice support for the law by signing a petition that grew out of the Olinda Internet Forum, an open conference that preceded Brazil's Internet Governance Forum, or a separate petition at Avaaz. Brazilian citizens can also contact their congressional representatives to voice their support for law.