20130531 Netizens oppose proposed change to copyright law
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Netizens oppose proposed change to copyright law

‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL: Netizens called a government proposal to restrict access to foreign Web sites that flagrantly violate copyrights as a restriction of freedom

By Loa Iok-sin / Staff reporter

A Facebook campaign against a proposal by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to block Web sites that seriously violate copyrights has attracted the support of more than 37,000 Internet users.

Concerned about the spread of unauthorized copies of videos and music on the Internet, the office proposed amending the Copyright Act (著作權法) to block Web sites that contain a large amount of material or content engaged in “flagrant copyright violations.”

Although it is only a proposal, it has stirred an uproar online, with netizens calling it an encroachment on freedom of expression.

“What’s wrong with the government? It has no solution for problems that the public is facing, but it’s quick to come up with a policy proposal that is unconstitutional and restricts civil liberties,” Yang Cheng-chuan (楊正傳) wrote in a message posted on the Facebook campaign against the proposal.

“The government may do more stupid things like this, and we the people will teach you a lesson with our ballots,” Yang wrote.

The campaign, called “Free and Open,” was started by several netizens after news of the IPO’s proposal came out and in less than five days, more than 37,000 Facebook users have joined the campaign.

Many of the netizens said the proposal reminds them of Internet control in China.

“If the government continues to strengthen control [over the Internet], we would not be like China; we are more likely to become the next North Korea,” Facebook user Lu Hsi-yen (呂錫彥) said.

Besides criticizing the policy, netizens also called on the public to protest to the IPO.

“If you think the proposal is unreasonable — as you should since it would definitely affect you — then write to the IPO to protest,” Facebook user Kung Kai Lin said.

In spite of criticism from the public and lawmakers, the IPO has said it is firmly backing the proposal.

It has promised to set up strict procedures for evaluating whether a Web site should be blocked and has said it will only target Web sites with servers located abroad that seriously violate copyrights.

Internet users have questioned the effectiveness of such a measure in stopping copyright violations, because illegal copies of copyrighted material will still be on the Web site even if they are blocked from access by Internet users in Taiwan.

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