Jan 182012

We apologize for the inconvenience caused by our joining the global blackout protesting SOPA / PIPA.

Our philosophy at Innovation Toronto is to find the most interesting and useful articles on the leading edge of innovation and invention from everywhere and encourage you to find out more.  We always point you to the originating source to complete the thoughts expressed and to recognize the value of their efforts.

At Innovation Toronto we are very aware of what is at stake if these two bills pass.  It would mean that Innovation Toronto would effectively have to cease operations.

The reasons we join with Wikipedia and WordPress in supporting the strike are many.  The two explanations below get to the heart of the matter.

We thank the BBC for posting 2 brief and elegant explanations from Jimmy Wales of  Wikipedia and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress:

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia

At Wikipedia we are very strong defenders of freedom of speech and the open internet. We believe that if you want to combat piracy then measures that ask search engines to delist things or DNS services that block things are the wrong approach.

The right approach is to follow the money. To go after the people who are engaging in large scale criminal enterprises rather than burdening the entire internet with a regime that doesn’t have very much promise of working.

And things could get really bad if we get into a situation where some of the worst burdens of these rules go through.

We have strong indications from venture capitalists that they would find it hard to invest in new start-ups in the user-generated content space.

Certainly innovations like Wikipedia would become very difficult if it were necessary for us to police everything that users were doing against some blacklist of websites.

In the worst case scenario we could have a situation where the US creates a Chinese style firewall in which sites can get blacklisted merely on an accusation. Some of the variations of the bill make it a little harder to get blacklisted, but in general we just think the entire approach is the wrong one.

Bad US law affects people all around the world. Look at the case of Richard O’Dwyer [the British student who created TVShack – a site which provided links to other pages containing pirated material].

The young man is being threatened with extradition to the US over alleged violations of US copyright law even though he lives in the UK and everything he did was on servers based in the UK.

A big part of Sopa is about dealing with overseas websites. That will have a huge impact on the very exciting UK IT internet start-up scene if it becomes likely that on a single complaint from a US movie studio some promising young British firm would be shut down.

We think it is a global issue because the US has such a strong impact on the internet.

Many of the supporters of this bill portray those of us who are against it as being somehow pro-piracy.

That is absolutely false. We are pro-freedom of speech.

Many of us, including me personally, are quite anti-piracy. I just want to fight piracy in a way that will really work and make a real difference.

Mr Wales is the co-founder and promoter of Wikipedia

Matt Mullenweg, WordPress

I’ve built my life on a free and open internet. As the co-founder of WordPress.org, a free software project that aims to democratise publishing, and the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com that hosts blogs from around the world in pursuit of the same goal, the proposed US legislation to regulate and censor the free and open foundation of the internet makes my mouth go dry with fear.

The rise of the web over the past two decades and the freedom to publish and express yourself online will be looked back upon as a cultural revolution.

We have gone from a world split between gatekeepers and media “consumers” to a world in which anyone regardless of geography, finances, social class, race, gender, or any other demographic identifier is free to engage with the rest of the world on their own terms.

That freedom is of paramount importance and must be protected.

That’s why we’re blacking out our websites on the 18th to raise awareness of this issue, and giving our users tools to do the same.

The tech world is fiercely competitive and companies seldom agree on anything, when you see so many united in solidarity on a single issue, you know there’s something to it.

What concerns me the most about Sopa and the Protect IP Act is not that media companies and legislators want to have measures in place to protect copyright – for example we reply to and comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices on WordPress.com when we receive them, it works well for everybody – it’s that the authors of the legislation don’t seem to really understand how the internet works.

The definition of domestic versus foreign sites shows a woeful lack of comprehension about how domains are used and how traffic flows on the internet.

Where do I stand? On the side of publishing freedom.

What do I hope for? That these pieces of legislation be set aside, and that any future legislation in this arena be drafted by people who understand how the internet works – and how it won’t if they do the wrong thing.

Mr Mullenweg is the founding developer of WordPress

The BBC explanations of the bills can be read here.

Read the industry viewpoints here at the bottom of the article . . .


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