Wednesday, 18 January 2012

On internet censorship...

Currently, two bills (a bill is a draft of an act of law, before it's is subjected to a vote; if the vote accepts the draft, it is passed to the President of the United States to be signed into US statute law) are going through the United States Senate, and the United States House of Representatives; these are SOPA and PIPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protection of Intellectual Property Act.

Much has been written about these two bills, and much information and disinformation spread thickly and widely about.

Here's the details in a nutshell from CNET...

And here's an article (with a helpful video) from The Guardian...

Food for thought point one: Broadly put, a malicious infringement claim could put a website out of action, and subject the owner to court action in the USA.

Food for thought point two: Since this would be a court action played out in the USA, it is reasonable to assume that, given that the offence created would be a 'felony' one in the USA, jail time could - and most likely would - be involved. As a result, an extradition request would most likely be made from the USA to a British Court. And remember, whether you're innocent or guilty of the alleged offence has no bearing on the extradition process; for a British Subject to avoid a US extradition request is in all practicality impossible at the moment, due to the exceedingly poorly judged agreement in force, brought in by the previous Labour government over here.

Food for thought point three: The USA had continually been harping on about preventing internet censorship, with such examples as China's Great Firewall being bandied about left, right, and centre. Guys, you can't have it both ways: Either you condone censorship, or you condemn it. You can't do both at the same time - that's called being a hypocrite. Of course, that's an oxymoron too, as most politicians appear to be hypocrites at some point in time or another. Nature of the beast, and all that.

Still, the points above are very valid.

Let's go with a vexatious (that's legalese for vindictive) infringement claim. A blogger, let's call him Tommy Goodshoes, based in New Zealand, comments that he thinks a certain brand of American hot dogs, available on many supermarket shelves, don't taste very nice, and prefers, instead, Cumberland Sausages. He posts photos of the tin that the hot dogs are shipped in, and a photo, for comparison, of the sausage. The hot dog company regularly monitors (searches) the internet for mentions of their product, and sees Tommy's blog entry, laughs it off, and does nothing more about it, realising that it's fair use of the photo.

Unfortunately for Tommy, a rather over-enthusiastic hot dog fan takes exception to his blog, and posts an infringement claim on behalf of the hot dog manufacturer. You can see where this is going. OK, not a very good example, I'll grant, but the potential for genuinely vindictive infringement claims is massive.

There are other massive problems with SOPA/PIPA that are addressed elsewhere online, and a simple google search on SOPA/PIPA will show these.

As a British Subject, I cannot do anything about these insidious and very poorly-thought-out proposed acts; I can, however, ask any Americans reading this to research, quickly, what the implications of these bills would mean if brought into law, and ask that they contact their elected representatives as quickly as possible, to ask them to vote 'nay' to the bills when presented for a vote in the two houses.

Thanks for reading this, and good luck.

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