Getting on the 'SOPA box'

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Online media giants Google, Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have staged a joint protest against the proposed Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts, taking out a full page ad in the US national press and variously joining Wikipedia in its ‘day of darkness.’

My immediate reaction upon hearing about the Bills went something along these lines: “the censorship debate again, really? This is never going to fly! How hypocritical that Congress is even considering it. I wonder what China thinks…”

History suggests that these Bills will fail, regardless of whether or not they are brought into law. Yet, as an avalanche of #StopSOPA tweets hit my news feed, there was one voice, singular in its support of the Acts. Rupert Murdoch tweeted against detractors, labelling Wikipedia et al: “Silicone Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy.” Ouch!

He raises an interesting point though. Does respect for the sanctity of property rights necessarily square with support for these Bills? Probably not. There are better methods of preventing piracy than employing wholesale censorship. Besides, implementing this legislation doesn’t even seem possible. As the focus of debate looks set to hop across the pond with the UK Government rumoured to be reprising the Digital Economy Act, I’m betting I’m not the only one hoping that they make a better stab at it than the Yanks.