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Clock

Wikipedia - After the Blackout

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© The Associated Press
Breathe again students, relax fact-checking journalists, Wikipedia is working once more - so let's step back and evaluate Wednesday's blackout. Did the dramatic gesture made by the online encyclopaedia and other websites really change anything?

And before we get started - yes, I know we should not rely on Wikipedia as an unimpeachable source so please take my first few words with a pinch of salt. And I also know that it was easy enough to get round the blackout if you wanted, but that's really not the point.

The aim of the gesture was to raise the profile of the debate about America's proposed anti-piracy laws, Sopa and Pipa, and to try to change the terms of that debate. And it looks this morning as though the blackout succeeded on both counts.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind the site, reported this morning that 162 million people had "experienced the Wikipedia blackout landing page" in the space of 24 hours.

Attention

Best of the Web: Update on SOPA and PIPA: What's Happening With the Web Censorship Bills?

In the face of massive Internet protest today, key senate and house backers of the SOPA and PIPA web censorship bills - including Senators Marco Rubio, Roy Blunt, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, John Boozman and Jim DeMint, and Representatives Ben Quayle and Lee Terry - have dropped their support. So have a number of other senators.

At least 17,000 websites allegedly joined in the protest.

Indeed, even several congresspeople joined in the protest. Here's what Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's homepage looks like right now:
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Bizarro Earth

Copyrights on Foreign Works Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

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© H. Darr Beiser/USATJustice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that the statute inhibits the dissemination of millions of foreign works.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law that gave copyright protection to millions of foreign-produced books, movies and musical pieces and may undermine Google Inc.'s effort to create an online library.

Today's 6-2 ruling takes works by Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and J.R.R. Tolkien out of the public domain, barring use without permission of the copyright owner. The decision is a victory for the film and music industries and a setback for Google, which had said it would lose access to many of the 15 million books it wants to make available online.

The justices rejected arguments from orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists and movie distributors. They argued that the 1994 law violates the constitutional provision that lets Congress set up a copyright system, as well as the Constitution's free-speech guarantee.

The law "lies well within the ken of the political branches," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito dissented, and Justice Elena Kagan didn't take part in the case.

MIB

UK: Gibson Inquiry into MI5 and MI6 Torture Collusion Claims Abandoned

Ken Clarke promises another judge-led inquiry into claims by two Libyans once police investigations are completed


The judge-led inquiry into the UK's alleged role in the torture and rendition of detainees after the 9/11 attacks, already boycotted by most human rights groups, has been scrapped by the government.

The surprise decision to abandon the investigation led by Sir Peter Gibson into MI5 and MI6 officers' participation, which carried out only preparatory research, was announced in parliament by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke.

The Detainee Inquiry will produce a report for the government before being dissolved. Clarke stressed that the government was still committed to holding an independent inquiry once police complete their checks. Parliament's intelligence and security committee, which is examining MI6 links with Muammar Gaddafi's regime, has nonetheless pledged to continue its work.

Last week the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan police established a joint panel to look into evidence that the intelligence agencies were involved in the secret rendition of two Libyans back to Gaddafi's regime in 2004.

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A Black Day for Internet Privacy in Canada: Expert

SOPA
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U.S. anti-piracy laws called heavy-handed

Canadians would be affected if online anti-piracy laws proposed south of the border get passed by Congress, say advocates of free speech and privacy. The laws - The Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act, known as SOPA and PIPA - would require Internet-service providers to block access to any site accused of posting, or linking to, copyrighted content.

It also would force search engines to remove the offending sites from their databases and prevent advertisers from giving the site their business.

Critics say the law would make media companies judge and jury of copyright infringement, rather than having the process resolved in court.

They also say it's a blatant attack on freedom of expression.

"The goal, in many ways, of SOPA is to reach beyond the borders of the United States," said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and copyright expert.

Star of David

Pressure Israel, Not Iran. Israel has an Arsenal of 200-300 Nuclear Weapons...

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Neocons in Israel and the United States are escalating their rhetoric to prepare us for war with Iran. Even the infamous John Yoo, architect of George W. Bush's illegal torture and spying programs, is calling on the Republican presidential candidates to "begin preparing the case for a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear program."

Under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the legal right to produce nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said on CBS that Iran is not currently trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Nevertheless, the United States and Israel are mounting a campaign of aggression against Iran. The United States has imposed punishing sanctions against Iran that are crippling Iran's economy, and pressuring other countries and strong-arming financial institutions to stop buying oil from Iran, the world's third largest exporter. The Obama administration is also preparing new punitive measures that target the Central Bank of Iran. And the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 which would outlaw any contact between U.S. government employees and some Iranian officials.

Attention

Best Evidence Showing We Need SOPA Based on 'Government Studies' That Never Existed

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Content pirates not nearly the profit-gutting force of nature lobbyists describe

No one disputes very seriously that there is a lot of content piracy going on, especially online.

The hip-but-surprisingly hidebound music industry lost it's booty during the late '90s and early 00s after Napster, KaZaa, LimeWire, Morpheus and half a dozen other fixed and P2P ad hoc file-sharing networks turned music appreciation into an all-you-can eat buffet rather than the budget-busting one-course tapas restaurant it had been when music publishers controlled both price and distribution.

The movie business didn't take quite as big a hit, mainly because its distribution people spent more time looking for new sources of revenue and venues for their products, rather than trying to hunt down every potential customer who'd ever used the product for free, as the music business' RIAA copyright-enforcement thugs did.

The movie business never got in as much trouble as the music business, largely because it was able to find lots of other outlets through which to sell movies - cable TV, Netflix and other online services, ISPs, hotel-TV-movie services, Blockbuster, Red Box, yada, yada.

Magnify

A Close Look at the Stop Online Piracy Act Bill

internet giant Google is opposed to SOPA
© GALLO/GETTYEven internet giant Google is opposed to the SOPA legislation.
This article was first posted by Professor Zittrain on his blog Future of the Internet on December 2, 2011. Even with President Obama's threat of veto, the bill may resurface in Congress at a later date. The following article gives a highly detailed breakdown of the bill and how it will affect the nature and use of the internet.

This article is a guide to the Stop Online Piracy Act as proposed in the United States House of Representatives. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), HR 3261, 112th Cong. (2011). It represents our notes as we sought to understand exactly what it does and how it does it - along with our corresponding sense for why its principal mechanisms make for poor law. Our aim is for this analysis to be useful to anyone wanting to understand the act - whatever their point of view may be on technology or intellectual property policy.

According to its advocates, SOPA will strengthen copyright in the United States by establishing a number of public and private tools to hinder infringement by international "rogue" sites previously unreachable by US law. The act also includes a number of independent provisions targeting the sale and dissemination of prescription drugs and military materials and equipment.

Display

SOPA Will Take Us Back to the Dark Ages

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I had an epiphany today. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was not written by people who fundamentally misunderstand how the web works. They understand all too well, and want to change it forever.

Behind the almost unreadable (yet truly scary) text of SOPA (and its Senate doppelganger, PIPA, or the Protect Intellectual Property Act) is a desire, likely fueled by powerful media conglomerate backers, to take us all back to the thin-pipe, content-distribution days of 1994 - right before the World Wide Web launched. From the moment the Internet and websites arrived, a veritable Pandora's box of opportunities have opened to every average Joe and Josephine in the world. Everyone became a content creator. Everyone had an audience.

The Internet also almost immediately became the transport mechanism for a steady flow of pirated content - first images, then music and, when the pipe got fat enough, movies. Major media companies, which once upon a time had sole control of the creation and distribution of popular entertainment, were appalled - and also powerless to stop it.

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Freedom of Speech, Internet Censorship and SOPA

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The First Amendment to the Constitution states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Whoa boy. I don't want to imply that there has been the wholesale disregard on the part of our current government when it comes to upholding hold this amendment, but, at least when it comes to the part about "freedom of speech", things are beginning to look a bit murky. And, today, with many popular websites undergoing a "blackout" in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) legislation, I thought I would offer my own thoughts on the matter.

First of all, it is a given that freedom of speech is the right of citizens of the United States. This means that our government cannot and should not be making an attempt to restrict or penalize speech because of its content or viewpoint. So, when there is talk of restricting Internet content, my eyebrows go up quizzically, wondering just what limits would be placed on those restrictions. Moreover, as electronic media becomes the norm rather than the exception, how does reading something on the Internet differ from reading a book, a magazine, or a printed newspaper?