Taiwan's Copyright Act amendment proposal comes under fire

Plans to amend Copyright Act to compel Internet service providers to block illegal content on foreign Web sites are being criticized by locals for violating their freedom of speech and rights.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
Taiwan citizens are protesting against the new proposal to amend the country's Copyright Act, saying it infringes against freedom of speech and their rights.

The Taiwanese government announced plans to amend the country's Copyright Law last week, but the proposal has come under fire by Web users for violating freedom of speech and people's rights.

The Taipei Times reported Tuesday that Taiwan's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is proposing to amend the country's Copyright Act to ensure local Internet service providers (ISPs) will block illegal content posted on foreign Web sites. This is to prevent copyright infringement from taking place, and the proposal will be reviewed and come into effect next year if approved, it added.

However, Jamie Lin, founder of venture capital firm appWorks Ventures, told Taipei Times the proposal goes against the values of freedom and democracy, which locals hold in high regard.

"It doesn't make any sense," Lin said. "The move seems like building a firewall to prevent local Internet users from seeing illegally uploaded content, but the content would still exist in servers overseas and can be viewed by foreign Internet users."

Other Web users have turned to blog posts and Facebook to voice their unhappiness over the latest proposal, according to a separate report on GlobalVoices last Sunday.

Ching Chiao, vice president for community relations at DotAsia, a top-level domain registry operator, wrote in a Facebook post that the proposal is a "setback for democracy and a stupid policy that wastes people's money".

"Countries which have implemented ISP-level blocking are turning the Internet into intranet, the first step for turning a modern country into a self-enclosed country," Chiao said.

Another blogger, Tsai I-Chen, said in a blog post the amendment has violated citizens' rights.

"Can you accept the blocking of Facebook because there are too many infringed movies or the blocking of Dropbox because it is frequently used for the transmission of illegal software? This is not a copyright infringement issue, [but] it is an issue on the violation of people's rights," Tsai said.

Citizens also created a Facebook event titled "#freeandopen! Resolutely oppose closing the country, strongly support complete Internet freedom!" to gather information and mobilize against the amendment. To date, more than 15,000 have responded they are "attending" the event while almost another 90,000 were invited.

GlobalVoices also compared the latest proposal to amend Taiwan's Copyright Act to last year's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill in the U.S., which caused online protests because citizens believed it threatened online freedom of expression and flow of information. The bill was ultimately dropped on January 27, 2012.

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