On May 21, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Intellectual Property Office (IPO) proposed an amendment to the Copyright Act (著作權法) to block foreign Web sites that engage in copyright violations. While the proposal triggered considerable opposition, the office said the public was exaggerating the issue.
However, the amendment will likely not be enough to curb copyright violations, and could hurt the nation’s image as a free and democratic country.
China is the most notorious of the countries that impose online filtering and censorship. The Chinese government’s network technology and law enforcement systems are not inferior to those of Taiwan’s government, but Beijing is still unable to prevent Chinese from “crossing the firewall” to browse Web sites blocked by the authorities.
If Taiwan were also to impose a system to block access to certain Web sites, Taiwanese would inevitably react by trying to cross the wall.
An information engineering professor has already said he would teach people how to cross the wall if the government does impose such measures. In that case, the amendment would not meet its goal of cracking down on copyright violations, and the nation would become just another country notorious for filtering and blocking Internet access.
Similar legislation has been defeated in the US and the EU because it was deemed to violate human rights and freedom.
At the beginning of last year, Wikipedia, Google and more than 7,000 other Web sites shut down for one day to protest against the US Congress’ proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, while more than 7 million US citizens signed a petition against it. In the end, Congress withdrew the proposal.
In the Europe, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) signed by 22 members also triggered large street demonstrations in major cities. The agreement was rejected by the European Parliament on July 4 last year, with 478 votes against and just 39 votes for the act.
It should be noted that the IPO once pushed for Taiwan to sign the ACTA, and even planned to amend laws so that Taiwan could live up to the agreement’s “high protection standards.”
The IPO plans to establish a committee to determine if a Web site engages in copyright violation and so should be blocked, but who has the right to decide which Web sites 23 million Taiwanese can be allowed to browse? Such a violation of human rights is likely to cause much controversy.
Since the Web sites targeted by the IPO’s proposal are outside of Taiwan, why cannot copyright holders file suits in the countries where the sites are located? Why do they want the IPO, network operators and Taiwanese to protect their rights for them?
Wu Kuo-wei is the chief executive officer of the National Information Infrastructure Enterprise Promotion Association.
Translated by Eddy Chang