Copyright law and internet freedom
Many internet users' rights are being infringed upon as governments look to stop copyright infringement.
While stealing intellectual property is illegal, many governments have or are in the process of going too far in their attempts to enforce copyright law, and in doing so limiting the rights of internet users around the world. As the internet has grown more popular, it has given many people access to a wealth of information to which they would not have otherwise been able to utilize. For example, Wikipedia serves as a source of free information to anyone who wishes to learn about a variety of topics.
However, it has led many people to access illegal content. This comes in the form of online privacy of movies, music and other forms of intellectual property, as well as giving people access to streams of T.V. shows and sports broadcasts that they would have otherwise needed to pay for. The access to these forms of content is a violation of many forms of copyright law, however, its enforcement has infringed upon the rights of many people who use the internet.
A recent story in the Information Daily explains that Radio Times, a popular British website that posts the daily T.V. listings, was mistakenly shutdown as the government attempted to enforce copyright infringement laws against sites that were illegally broadcasting English Premier League soccer matches after the league received a court order.
While sites that do stream the content are illegal, this mistake, and other similar ones that were made under the same court order, are indicative of one of the major conflicts that have emerged surrounding internet freedom as of late – the idea that a website should be innocent until proven guilty. With Radio Times, this was not the case as the government hastily shutdown the website without first considering its guilt or innocence.
This trend is running the risk of becoming all too popular as Russia just recently passed a similar law, according to Tech Week Europe. As a result, 1,700 Russian websites have "gone dark," in protest of legislation that would give government the power to take websites offline if they violated copyright law. These protests are similar to those that occurred in the United States when the autocratic SOPA and PIPA laws were being discussed in Congress.
While copyright infringement is illegal, the problem with these laws are that they lead to a slippery slope when it comes to internet freedom. While they are geared towards copyright law, they afford the capabilities of their enforcing governments to make mistakes such as the case of Radio Times, or even worse, shut down websites because the governing body does not approve of their content.