Stop Censorship! Protect Internet Freedoms!

Thank you to everyone who contacted me over the last 24 hours as An Sionnach Fionn joined the global internet “blackout” protest against the SOPA/PIPA legislation currently before the United States Congress, and thanks for your patience and understanding. The dangerous nature of the proposed US bill is not just an American concern but an international one since it threatens freedoms across the world wide web, and I felt it only right that the site join in with the campaign. As an Irish Republican website An Sionnach Fionn faces its own troubles with would-be censors, so I’m quiet aware of the issue of restricted internet freedoms (yes Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, et al, I do mean you). The Guardian carries a brief explanation of the US legislation:

“The two bills, Sopa in the House and Pipa in the Senate, ostensibly aim to stop the piracy of copyrighted material over the internet on websites based outside the US. Critics – among them, the founders of Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, Tumblr and Twitter – counter that the laws will stifle innovation and investment, hallmarks of the free, open internet. The Obama administration has offered muted criticism of the legislation, but, as many of his supporters have painfully learned, what President Barack Obama questions one day, he signs into law the next.

First, the basics. Sopa stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, while Pipa is the Protect IP Act. The two bills are very similar. Sopa would allow copyright holders to complain to the US attorney general about a foreign website they allege is “committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations” of copyright law. This relates mostly to pirated movies and music. Sopa would allow the movie industry, through the courts and the US attorney general, to send a slew of demands that internet service providers (ISPs) and search engine companies shut down access to those alleged violators, and even to prevent linking to those sites, thus making them “unfindable”. It would also bar internet advertising providers from making payments to websites accused of copyright violations.

Sopa could, then, shut down a community-based site like YouTube if just one of its millions of users was accused of violating one US copyright. As David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an opponent of the legislation, blogged:

“Last year alone, we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages. Pipa and Sopa will censor the web, will risk our industry’s track record of innovation and job creation, and will not stop piracy.”

Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me:

“These bills propose new powers for the government and for private actors to create, effectively, blacklists of sites … then force service providers to block access to those sites. That’s why we call these the censorship bills.”

I will be carrying the “Stop Censorship” banner for some days in the top right-hand corner which provides a link to the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign in the United States if you want to know more.

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