Germans join internet blackout protest

German political and tech groups blacked out their websites on Wednesday, in support of protests against proposed American laws critics say could hamper the free exchange of information online.

Germans join internet blackout protest
Photo: DPA

The symbolic protests by operations as diverse as the Green Party, the Chaos Computer Club and the popular German blog Spreeblick, mirrored the self-blockage of the English-language Wikipedia site.

It has been leading the charge against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), currently winding their way through Congress.

Though major entertainment industry groups in the United States including the Motion Picture Association of America and large television and book publishers support the legislation, tech-focused companies including Google and Yahoo have come out strongly against it.

Supporters of the laws say they would protect intellectual property owners by forcing American internet service providers to closely police websites they host for material that violates copyright laws. Opponents say websites like Wikipedia and could be shut down every time someone is accused of uploading infringing material.

Websites in Germany and other countries could be affected by the legislation because it would oblige search engines, like Google, to remove listings deemed to violate copyright laws, from their search indexes – and if they are hosted in the United States, the websites could be taken offline.

The Green Party called on Germans to oppose similar legislation currently under discussion in the European Parliament. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement would create standardised international regulations to fight piracy online, but opponents say it has many of the same flaws as SOPA and PIPA.

“We need a new balancing of interests of authors, copyright holders, users and the general public. We consider the current plans disproportionate and counterproductive,” the Greens wrote in a statement posted on their website.

Though Wikipedia sites in languages other than English did not join the blacking-out protest, the German version put a large banner on top of its site saying the legislation being considered in the United States “threatens the existence of Wikipedia.”

The Local/mdm

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