What Happened at the eG8 Conference

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The eG8 Forum in Paris sought to bring together leaders from the political and Internet worlds to think about the future of the networked society. Some notables like Cory Doctorow declined invitations, but the event still was star-filled with French president Nicholas Sarkozy rubbing elbows and butting heads with academics like Yochai Benkler, Jeff Jarvis, and Larry Lessig.

Alex Howard of O'Reilly Radar has a full report from the proceedings. He traces the battle over intellectual property on the Internet, where there was a substantial gulf between Sarkozy and Benkler.

Benkler was baffled that opposition to the open model of innovation persists after 15 years, as if "we've learned nothing," calling the assumptions made on the intellectual property panel on the first day of the eG8 laughable. "Whether liberty, equality or fraternity, we all have to be on the same page about retaining an open Net," he said.

There is reason to both hope and fear for the moment that we're in. Governments, telecommunications providers and the content distributors of the 21st century are in some alignment. While the "very architecture of the Internet is its best protection," as Jarvis asserted, he expressed fear about what he'd heard and seen at the eG8. In response, he advocated for an "Internet Bill of Rights" that would push for a right to connect, protection for free speech, and the right to act and assemble.

While a big bureaucratic conference in Paris might not be as exciting as PayPal suing Google or Spotify coming to Facebook, check out Howard's report. It's important to know how the world's political leaders approach the possibilities of the Internet.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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