Greens urge online rethink as Wikipedia closes for day

Wed, Jan 18, 2012, 00:00

THE GREEN Party has urged the Government to adopt a fresh approach toward internet piracy, saying it should support the public good rather than “vested interests” in the entertainment industries.

The party was commenting ahead of a one-day shutdown today by online encyclopaedia Wikipedia in protest at anti-piracy legislation under consideration in the US.

The website, which has more than 25 million visitors a day, is closing its English versions for 24 hours in protest at the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

The legislation is designed to crack down on sales of pirated US products overseas but critics say it could hurt the technology industry and infringes on free speech.

The White House last week responded to the proposed Bills by stressing the importance of maintaining an open and innovative internet while also protecting intellectual property online.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan urged the Government to follow President Barack Obama’s line by deciding not to proceed with its planned legislation which would compel internet service providers to block internet access for customers engaged in illegal downloading.

The Government last month announced plans to tackle illegal downloading by enacting a statutory instrument that will plug a gap in the existing Copyright Act identified in a High Court case in October 2010.

The Department of Enterprise, Innovation and Jobs has written to music publisher EMI Ireland confirming the order will be published and incorporated into existing legislation this month.

The move comes after EMI Ireland, which was involved in the High Court case that highlighted the loophole in the law, warned the Coalition that it would take legal action against the State if the Government did not address the problem.

Mr Ryan said while there was a need to protect copyright for local creative industries, the Government was going about it the wrong way. “Rather than infringing on basic privacy rights they should look at measures which would curtail the search, payment and advertising capabilities of those companies and websites that profit from piracy,” he said.

“The rights industry has taken a court action arguing that under European law, the Government has no choice but to introduce the legislation. Their case is very questionable and the Government should reassert the right of the Dáil rather than vested interests to decide on what laws we need to pass,” he added.

Wikipedia is the biggest website that is planning to shut down today in protest over proposed online piracy legislation. Other websites that have confirmed they will close for 24 hours include Reddit and Boing Boing.