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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 February 2012

The battle against internet censorship

US copyright law threatens UK student

Dawn Hunt , Socialist Party, Sheffield

On 21 January I organised a 'Rally of the 99%: Voice of the Voiceless'. The rally was part of the third national Occupy conference, held in Sheffield - a coming together of the Occupy movement within the UK and Ireland.

Speakers ranged from the unemployed, people with additional needs, those suffering in the housing crisis and people affected by cuts in Surestart services. Particular emphasis was on cuts to benefits through the welfare reform bill.

The unions are organising for another day of strike action to defend pensions, jobs and pay. The rest of the 99%, those of us who have no pensions to fight for, let alone access to the job market, must link up with this action so we are all standing shoulder to shoulder, in the fight to live with dignity.

Julia O'Dwyer spoke about the case of her son Richard, a 23 year old Hallam University student, who faces extradition to the US, having set up the TVShack website which US authorities say hosts links to pirated copyrighted films and television programmes. Richard has not been charged with breaking the law in the UK.

Speaking to Sam Morecroft for the Socialist, Julia told us that when police first called Richard in for questioning on 29 November 2010: "two American men were present throughout the proceedings". But her son was not informed of any possibility he could be extradited, and chose not to request legal representation.

It was not until 23 May 2011 that Richard was told that all charges brought against him by UK police would be dropped, but he would be subjected to an extradition hearing. Julia said Richard's extradition hearing had felt like a "conveyor belt" where around 30 individuals were waiting to be rubber-stamped for extradition.

Following the hearing on 13 January, Julia and Richard must wait for up to three months for a letter confirming the extradition from the home secretary Theresa May. Then Richard will have two weeks to appeal.

Who gains from internet censorship?

In these times when the mainstream media tries to spoon-feed us our views, the internet is letting us all express ourselves. Between pictures of cats and toddlers playing table tennis, police brutality has been exposed, protests organised, voices heard and government spin shattered.

Big business detractors argue that such freedom of information is hurting their astronomical profits. But file sharing has levelled the playing field for many small artists and independent film studios, letting creativity flourish.

Recently the US government fronted the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts (SOPA and PIPA respectively) under the guise of protecting intellectual property rights. The EU is seeking to do similar with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

These proposals would mean any website accused of copyright infringement or association with accused websites could be censored. This call to censor the internet does not come from impoverished artists. It is made in their name by corporations and businesses, who cream a large chunk from their earnings.

But only the top 25% lose out from file-sharing. The other 75%, the artists who probably do deserve more funding, benefit. Instead of having Jonathan Ross or Chris Moyles tell you what you like, you can use Grooveshark or Moviedatacenter to suggest new artists and films. Even big-name money-making artists like South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone agree that file sharing actually benefits artists. It gives smaller names an audience and encourages fresh ideas.

This will mean that any association with elements of copyright infringement on the internet will see you censored, deported and imprisoned. Imagine somebody posts a link on a website you run.

If this link is deemed to be an infringement of copyright, your website can be taken down and you could be prosecuted. That is why such huge protests took place over SOPA and PIPA in the USA and are now taking place against ACTA in most major European cities.

Reddit, Wikipedia and many other websites ceased operation for a day in protest against the US government's proposals, giving a glimpse of what the internet will become if these laws are passed.

Nial Vivian

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In The Socialist 29 February 2012:

Fighting workfare

We won't work for free!

Working class needs real political opposition to Con-Dem millionaires

A4e: workfare vultures in crisis

'We want jobs - not slave labour!'

Interview with a jobcentre worker

Socialist Party news and analysis

Stop the Health Bill

Solidarity with Occupy London protesters

Unison leadership found guilty of "unjustifiable discipline" against four Socialist Party activists

Sun launch can't hide corrupt practices

It's bonuses for bankers

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Why I'm standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the London Assembly election

Student walkout - build mass action

Kirklees Sure Start children centres

Voluntary sector cuts expose Big Society lies

Stop North East NHS childcare cuts

Sheffield housing - failed by privatisation

Campaign news in brief

The battle against internet censorship

May Day Greetings in the Socialist

International socialist news and analysis

Iran: Tensions with the US and its allies are ratcheted-up

Europe - Young people fight ACTA

Socialist Party workplace news

'Priceless victory' of sparks against the Dirty Seven

Continuing the pensions battle: PCS consultative ballot

Continuing the pensions battle - Universities

Three-year pay freeze hits hard

Workplace news in brief


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