Today sees the blacking-out of Wikipedia and a host of other popular websites in protest at the SOPA bill under debate in the US. SOPA is the copyright legislation bill Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and its ugly sister Protect IP (PIPA) – two of the worst thought out abuses of democratic and internet freedom in a decade.
As the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation eloquently states: “SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure. SOPA does not target websites serving up unauthorized content. SOPA does not target people accessing those websites. SOPA targets all the rest of us.”
Response From The Internet Community – Most have been firmly against these bills – as well as Wikipedia, heavyweights like Mozilla and Google are also committed to publicizing the dangers of this legislation and many other popular sites like WordPress, Reddit and BoingBoing are also supporting the cause.
Sadly, Facebook and Twitter are not joining in – Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo reckons that applying single-nation politics to a worldwide service is ‘foolish’ – but what is really foolish is that he fails to understand that the legislation is not just an American issue.
Does It Impact The Rest Of The World?
Yes it certainly does. As an example of the ‘thought crime’ views these bills would further enshrine into law – Techweek Europe report a copyright test case where a young British college student has just lost his appeal against extradition to the US (where he could face up to 5 years in jail, cut off from legal funding) – yet his supposed copyright ‘crimes’ appear to have broken no British laws, he never left Britain and the servers hosting his website were based in Britain.
This student’s website simply hosted links to films and TV programmes and did not host any copyrighted material but, instead, redirected users to other sites in a similar fashion to Google search – but of course it is much easier to chase a poor student than a multinational corporation with hundreds of lawyers…
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement claim that website owners with a .com or .net address could face extradition to the US, even if the activity was legal in the owner’s country, because .com and .net addresses are routed through American internet infrastructure owner Verisign, based in Virginia…
This type of twisted and malicious thinking is why the SOPA and PIPA bills are so dangerous to internet freedom – it is easy to see why Wikipedia and Google are concerned as they host links to millions of websites. But it doesn’t just affect large websites – anyone with a .com domain (like TechLogon, gulp!) could also be at risk from the ‘shoot the messenger’ approach of SOPA and PIPA.
It’s hard enough to understand the copyright laws of your own country but how are you supposed to know that a foreign law is possibly being broken – not by you but by some website that you link to? If you want to protest against these bills and prevent web censosrship, Google are hosting a petition against them here for US residents – please take a moment to sign up.
Bypass Wikipedia Blackout?
- IE – Tools \ Internet Options \ Security \ Custom Level \ scroll down to Scripting and disable ‘Active Scripting’ – you must restart IE