ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Controlling the Internet

Bills in the US Congress that are meant to check piracy will simultaneously lead to control of the internet.

Smooth sharing of information is an integral part of the internet. A part of the explosion in this sharing of information – texts, blogs, news, videos and multimedia – has undoubtedly been driven by online piracy. The introduction of peerto-peer sharing has led to a vast amount of copyrighted content from books to television shows to films being illegally available for downloading or being hosted on sites that register themselves in countries which have lax internet laws.

In what they see as the best way to curtail internet piracy, legislators in the US have introduced two bills – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) – in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. The bills come with some stringent provisions. These call for search engines to render sites carrying illegal content – irrespective of whether they are registered in the US or elsewhere – difficult to reach while surfing, for internet service providers (ISPs) to filter out such sites through domain address resolution and by blocking internet protocol (IP) addresses, provide for punitive punishment of payment providers who link up with such websites, and more. Disturbingly the bills also call for curtailing access to websites that carry a link to another website that may have illegal content, even if that link is merely “posted” by a user. The US bills have drawn strong protests from internet users and companies. The popular web-based “open encyclopedia” Wikipedia went “dark” for an entire day on 18 January, blocking access to its English edition in protest and to raise awareness about the bills. The website of the popular browser Mozilla and the social networking website Reddit followed suit; so did many others.

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