Following the events of the 'Arab Spring,' numerous countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa have begun assessing—or reassessing—their regulation of the Internet. Last April, we criticized Iraq's attempt at legislation: a heavy-handed bill that, if passed, would impose life imprisonment for vaguely-worded "crimes" such as promoting "ideas which are disruptive to public order" and lesser sentences for a range of other offenses.
The Cybercrime Act, as it was dubbed, would also levy heavy punishments over infringements of copyright-like protections. This includes publishing or copying "any scientific research work, literary, or intellectual properties which belong to someone else and is protected by international laws and agreements" and accessing "a private website of a company or institution with the intent to [change, modify, delete or unduly use it]." Such vague language could expand protections over online content and research in ways that leaves the door wide open for abuse. Even the most questionable copyright infringement allegation, such as a student's school paper that quotes published research or even political comments made on a web forum, could be used as a basis for severe criminal penalties including imprisonment.
Fortunately, it looks as if this bill will not become law. A document released on January 22, 2013 and shared by Social Media Exchange (SMEX) shows that a request was made by the parliamentary Culture and Media Committee and approved by the Speaker of the House to revoke the egregious law. A portion of the document, translated by SMEX, reads:
We inform you that our committee attended several conferences and panel discussions of the Cyber Crime draft law at the recently organized UNESCO meeting in Baghdad. Most of the debates were against this proposed law. We consider it as a decline of freedom of speech in Iraq. And therefore, our committee suggested to stop the legislation because it is outdated and because the security situation has improved since the government sent the draft law to the committee. We don’t want to pass this law because it will be a negative indication of the committee’s work. We request that this bill be removed from the website.
Though the Iraqi Parliament must still vote to withdraw the bill, it seems likely that the influence of the Committee and the Speaker of the House will be positive. EFF urges the Parliament to vote in favor of revocation and will continue to keep an eye on this story.