Sunday 2 December 2012

What kind of online content is protected by free speech laws?

Most of the free speech legislation we have today was written for a time when music was only played live, movies were only for theaters, and people actually bought newspapers.

But a lot has changed. The web not only changed the way we communicate, but also the very concept of expression.

The issue made headlines in the United States last year when a bill (SOPA) was introduced that would require search engines to delete links to websites “dedicated to copyright infringement”. Proponents of the bill said the links were tools enabling piracy. Opponents argued that hyperlinks are a form of expression and should be protected.

Now, in a similar light, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has asked the UK Pirate Party to disable their Pirate Bay proxy service. Obviously, the Pirate Party has declined.

UK Pirate Party Leader Loz Kaye defended the service and said it’s an issue of censorship and freedom of expression.

According to Loz Kaye, "The battle against censorship and indeed the use of site blocking to deal with issues like copyright infringement is disproportionate and not productive. Issues like these are at the core of why we exist and why we want to change the current system and stand up for internet users." [TorrentFreak]

However, BPI’s Geoff Taylor said the proxy service is not an issue of free speech and should be disabled.

"Pirate Party UK's free speech arguments are a complete red herring. We are passionate believers in freedom of speech, but it doesn't justify The Pirate Bay helping themselves to other people's work. The human rights implications of blocking this illegal site have been fully considered by the High Court. Whatever their views, Pirate Party UK are no more above the law than anyone else." [MusicWeek]
Conveniently, no matter which side you fall on, you can always access the entire, uncensored internet (including the Pirate Bay) with a good VPN like SumRando.

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