Taiwan’s Fight Against Digital Piracy

Taiwan has accusing various portals of facilitating copyright infringement. The latest proposed amendments to their legislation aimed to ban various sites and portals to aid in their fight against digital piracy. They targeted organizations deemed to participate in clear cases of copyright infringement. Faced with mass opposition to their plans, Taiwanese authorities have backed down.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs(MEA) judged the amendments to copyright legislation a necessary step. The Intellectual Property Office(IPO) was to be given the power under the new law to compel ISPs to enforce DNS blocks on IP addresses and domain names. They were also charged with identifying what online services they considered to be or to contain tools that threaten intellectual property. Operators of online services were considered as a whole by this team to be in the business of stealing copyrighted material. Websites like BitTorrent, Megaupload and Foxy, and portals like FTP were on the list.

Protests continued in light of the amendment with internet users complaining that banning such services across the board was unfair. The Taiwanese government would be modeling their copyright laws on those already enforced in countries like the US, Spain, and in the UK. They therefore defended that there is sufficient precedent for the proposed actions against illegal sharing. They further expressed that online services that they deem have a large amount of legal content will not be affected. This was not enough to calm Taiwan netizens. Over 45,000 had already committed to protest the amendment, and one day before the scheduled blackout, the MEA withdrew their proposal.

Public opposition remains strong against proposed copyright legislation. Continued protests are seeing lawmakers making more concessions. The mass of Taiwan internet users continues to insist that taking down foreign websites is not an acceptable solution. The IPO took an aggressive stance in support of their proposed DNS blocking scheme, but let go when threatened with an internet blackout. Taiwan users refuse to allow SOPA-like legislation to take effect in their state.

A statement published on Wikimedia Taiwan defined the similarities to the scrapped SOPA legislation and reinforced the protests against the amendment. The statement makes the claim that mass blocking of foreign content has a detrimental effect on cultural and intellectual growth. The lack of rules governing which sites were to be blocked was an abuse of power that could get innocent sites banned. The granting of full authority over the blacklist of sites to the executive branch of government is a dangerous overextension of powers that could lead to even more abuse. The statement also stressed that ISP blocking was a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of communication.

On the defensive, the IPO has issued a statement that the office had no intention of challenging free speech. The IPO also stated that they are not scrapping plans for legislation against piracy. The office will continue to work towards a solution that will serve all concerned parties. IPO Director-General Wang Mei-hua declined to comment when asked whether public opinion was taken into account when the amendment was first discussed and drawn up. Wang instead referred to the IPO’s earlier comment that the Taiwanese protesters were exaggerating the issues tied to the amendment. She then repeated her own statement about the IPO having no intention of violating Taiwan’s laws on freedom of communication.

Although the IPO will not now exercise powers to block websites, Wang stated that the owners of content can approach ISPs themselves to request for blocks to be put in place against local websites that violate their copyrights. Wang added that executive agencies would not play a role in the blocking process.

This is one battle won for Taiwan netizens. But in anticipation of further moves by the MEA and IPO, they are not letting go of their VPN services and tools for protecting their online privacy and freedom of speech. For more information on these tools, read our top VPN page.

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