No copyrights without human rights - APC joins the SOPA blackout

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jan 18 (APC)

Today, APC joined dozens of sites and organisations in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) by blacking out. These two bills, if passed, represent an unprecedented threat to the open internet as we know it, with impacts felt far beyond the borders of the United States. APC believes the internet is a global public good and is joining today’s protest in solidarity with those who fight to uphold internet-related human rights.

APC is concerned with the global trend towards greater censorship of the internet through legislation like SOPA and PIPA. The increasing number of arbitrary and unlawful interferences with human rights by a number of governments in recent months highlights the need for the UN Human Rights Council and global internet policy fora, such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), to bring the issue of freedom of expression on the internet to the forefront. That is why APC has called for human rights to be the main theme of the IGF in 2012.

As APC’s Executive Director Anriette Esterhuysen explains: “SOPA comes in the guise of legitimate protection of business interests and intellectual property, but in practice carries with it the power to arbitrarily shut down innocent websites and social networking platforms. The issue of internet piracy is complex and nuanced, and any legislation addressing it should reflect this complexity. We need a law that balances copyrights with rights to freedom of expression. SOPA is not that law.”

Coming from the United States, a country that prides itself as one of the foremost champions of freedom of expression, the proposed legislation is particularly alarming. As stated in no uncertain terms by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it would threaten the security of the internet and runs counter to the notion of the internet as a tool for information-sharing around the world.

“As drafted, the legislation would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the internet’s underlying infrastructure. The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to block users’ attempts to reach certain websites’ URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the internet grows increasingly balkanised."

The Senate is set to vote on PIPA next week. APC urges individuals and organisations to demand that their governments honour their commitment to human rights. APC supports the call for all stakeholders of internet governance to encourage governments, members of the private sector and civil society to discuss how we can preserve the openness of the internet.

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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. www.apc.org

(END/2012)

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