June 3, 2013 | By Maira Sutton

Taiwanese Users Thwart Government Plans to Introduce Internet Blacklist Law

Taiwan’s intellectual property office proposed a new Internet blacklist law that would have targeted websites for their alleged use in copyright infringement. The initiative would have forced Internet Service Providers to block a list of domains or IP addresses connected to websites and services found to enable “illegal” file sharing. In the face of massive online opposition and a planned Internet blackout, the IP office has now backed down and abandoned support for the law.

Taiwanese users were going to stage an Internet black out on Tuesday June 4th. Several websites, including Wikipedia Taiwan and Mozilla Taiwan pledged to go dark in order to raise awareness. At the time this was written, more than 45,000 people had shown their commitment to protest the bill.

The proposed amendment to Taiwanese copyright law eerily mirrored SOPA and PIPA in its vague language. Any content sharing platform—including sites like YouTube, Dropbox, or Reddit—could have been blocked entirely in Taiwan if authorities found that they were used to share copyrighted works illegally. This kind of overreaching enforcement could easily lead to mass censorship of online content.

After several news outlets reported that the new initiative was akin to mainland China’s “Great Firewall,” the Taiwanese intellectual property office made an effort to reject the comparison, claiming that they would only go after “very obvious offenders” and not sites like Facebook, Google, or Yahoo. Yet their definition of what sites they would have blacklisted remained too vague to be reassuring for sites that lack the international clout of those major services.

In the face of these criticisms and the planned blackout, the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office abandoned this severe copyright law. In its announcement, the office stated that this plan would be “adjusted.” It’s clear that the government intends to introduce another copyright enforcement initiative in the future. Still, it’s enormously encouraging to see how users in Taiwan have organized to defend their rights and successfully stopped this draconian blacklist law.

The unfortunate reality is that many government authorities around the world still buy into the belief that the health of the Internet is acceptable collateral damage in this manufactured war on copyright infringement. Lawmakers need to understand that creativity and innovation can only thrive when our platforms remain open, where users are free to share and experiment with content. While it’s clear that the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office did not learn from the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA in the U.S., let’s hope others see the defeat of this latest copyright blacklist law and recognize that users will not put up with efforts to censor the Internet.

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