XO’s Column, February/March Newsletter
In a previous column, I talked about one of my favourite non-profit organisations called the Electronic Frontier Foundation who is a digital rights advocacy group. As you might’ve read in the history lesson, they’ve had a pivotal role in many of the court roles that have shaped how our digital rights are handled. Recently they have joined the fight against internet censorship an issue that is of great importance to us all.
In the past few months, two pieces of legislation and a trade agreement have gotten a great deal of talk around the internet. Websites went dark, many organised in protest, and a goat got to make love to a koala on CNN. What were these topics that brought so much ire? You may know them by – Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), Protect IP Act (PIPA), and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Just what would these acronyms do to the internet? SOPA is an anti-piracy bill that gives content makers (like Hollywood) a great deal of power against the entire internet. It gives the movie studios and record labels the ability to shut down foreign sites they have copyright claims against and even worse make the site’s ISP keep people from going to those sites and pull finances away, without any court appearance and just with a letter asking for it to be done. PIPA is a very similar bill to SOPA which are presented to us by congress as bills intended to “help combat online privacy and protect internet users.” What PIPA does as well is it gives the federal government to have huge amounts of (unconstitutional power) over censoring Americans’ access to the internet, makes all websites liable for the content of it’s users, open those websites up for prosecution over the content of their users, and forces ISPs to block those same websites from the internet. Lastly, there is ACTA which is an international treaty geared towards giving countries the ability to stop copyright infringement a standard way to prosecute digital piracy. It would establish a legal body that governs itself outside of already established international organisations (like the World Trade Organisation, World Intellectual Property Organisation, or the United Nations). The EFF already warns us against ACTA and want to educate us about the problems it will cause.
SOPA and PIPA has already been tabled, but the victory won by all of us on the internet is a shallow one indeed. There is still ACTA on the table and many countries are taking a stand against it already. We still need to be vigilant! I encourage you reading this article to educate yourselves through the links in this article. Until next time!