Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Internet censorship day

I usually don't post political issues here, but there's currently a pair of bills in the U.S. Congress that directly relate to Free Listens. If you're not in the United States, feel free to skip this post. The SOPA bill in the U.S. House and the Protect IP Piracy bill in the Senate have good intentions, but I'm concerned that they will result in an overreach of censorship upon many to protect the property rights of a few.

The bills, as I understand them, would block websites to users in the U.S. if a property rights holder complains that there is any copyright violation on the website. So, if I link to a legally free audiobook or story on a website and there is another audiobook or story on that website that might violate copyright in the U.S., then access to that website is blocked.

As I read it, there doesn't even need to be any laws broken for this law to censor a website. For example: I link to a free Creative-Commons licensed audio version of the public domain book "Call of the Wild" at an Australian website. The same website has a free version of "Gone With the Wind" that I don't link to. Because of a difference in the length of copyright in the two countries, "Gone with the Wind" is public domain in Australia, so no laws are being broken, but access to the entire website is blocked!

The legislation has even worse consequences for sites that contain user-generated content, since if one user violates copyright, all are blocked. My blog is hosted on Blogger, so when any of the hundreds of thousands of blogs on Blogger posts a copyright violation, it all goes down. This is clearly unworkable.

Google, Yahoo!, Mozilla, Twitter, Wikimedia, Facebook, and eBay all oppose this legislation. Please read more extensively on this subject, educate yourself, then visit to write your Congressperson on this subject.

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