France's highest court, the Constitutional Council, ruled that access to the internet is a "fundamental human right" this week in striking down a controversial "three strikes" anti-piracy law called Loi Hadopi, according to a report today from the UK Daily Mail. Were such an opinion agreed upon by other governments around the world, the implications would be striking.

Conversely, are peoples' fundamental human rights being violated when they don't have access to the internet? It's tempting to consider internet access a luxury, but consider the increased quality of life that comes with the huge jump in access to cultural and logistical information the internet brings. We think this is an important opportunity to think about expanding our understanding of human rights.

Internet access in a time of democratized online publishing may be understood as a contemporary form of the right to self-expression. It could also be understood as part of basic access to public services in an increasingly online world. We do wonder what such a designation would mean for pricing policies and the internet economy.

Legal theory trailblazer Corey Doctorow wrote the following bold prediction in an article about homeless people and internet access last week:

Here's a prediction: in five years, a UN convention will enshrine network access as a human right (preemptive strike against naysayers: "Human rights" aren't only water, food and shelter, they include such "nonessentials" as free speech, education, and privacy). In ten years, we won't understand how anyone thought it wasn't a human right.

What do you think? Do you think internet access should be understood as a fundamental human right? Do you think that it's a frivolous distraction at a time when millions of people still don't have access to food, clean water and shelter?

France is a nation that decided earlier this year to give its citizens free one year subscriptions to a newspaper of choice on their 18th birthdays. Ostensibly to bail out the newspaper industry but also to foster a life-long habit of learning. That's pretty neat.

If you're interested in more details about this particular French ruling and can read French, check out our partner blog ReadWriteWeb France. If English is a requirement, Techdirt will no doubt have solid coverage of this and related issues.

Image: "PC bang", Seoul. By Flickr user tawalker