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Copyright ‘not in fact evil’

HARD-PRESSED journalists will have noticed a famously encyclopaedic website, and others, "going dark" for a day in January in protest at the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US. SOPA triggered a lot of "sky is falling" rhetoric, few objections that make sense - and the amusing finding that sponsor Representative Lamar Smith was stealing photos on his website.

The proposal - now withdrawn - was for court orders ensuring US internet users trying to connect to sites carrying unauthorised works were redirected to web pages telling how bad "piracy" is. Such orders would work by intervening in the "domain name system"(DNS) - this translates names like into actual addresses of websites, which look like "".

This would require rewriting a proposal for secure DNS - hard work, but achievable. And it would tempt people wanting free films to click a virtual button leading to an alternative DNS - likely to be controlled by unsavoury characters seeking to mine people's online bank accounts as well as their viewing habits.

Then came another proposal, to make internet service providers keep records of which subscribers used what internet connection when. Out went the message: this means "tracking all of your financial dealings online". Write your Senator now! In fact the law would only have allowed (broadly-defined) law enforcement to track internet connections, as in current UK law.

While the signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) provoked thousands to march in Poland on 26 January, we can find nothing in ACTA not already in EU law - and therefore in UK (and Polish) law. ACTA could in fact strengthen the hand of those accused of copyright infringement.

The sky was still up when we last looked; but the perception that defending copyright is the concern only of evil media corporations is not good for those of us who depend on it for our livings, often in conflict with said corporations.

Last modified: 05 Feb 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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