Happy American Censorship Day

American Flag hangs down

You know, as a Canadian growing up north of the 49th parallel, I learned an awful lot about freedom of speech from American Movies.   Films like

1984
and

Brazil

Were stunning. Although there was a particularly good French film, (based on the Ray Bradbury story) ofFahrenheit 451, too.

The Hollywood community knew all about censorship, you see. The Hollywood fight to prevent censorship from without by creating their own censorship in the form of the Hayes code is legendary. For decades film makers tried every ploy imaginable to sneak things past the Hays Office.

My own personal brush with industry self censorship was when I was working on Hot Shots and Night Heat, which were Canadian-American co-productions. I was never aware of any such directive from CTV, the Canadian network that ran the shows in prime time. But even though CBS ran the series’ as part of CBS Latenight (at a time when all the children ought to be asleep) although I don’t believe it was written down anywhere, I certainly recall the verbal ground rules we writers had to abide by. A 1 hour episode was allowed to contain as many as ten “hell”s and/or “damn”s, and one of either “bitch” or “bastard. All bets were off if a character could be legitimately talking about a female dog, or an ‘illegitimate’ child.

It always boiled down to the idea that self censorship would prevent externally imposed censorship. And films get banned in different places anyway, as can be seen from this Wikipedia list of banned films. (The most bizarre to me is the Manitoba ban on comedies.)

Free speech is something many Americans value in the extreme.

But it’s awfully hard to have either creative freedom or free speech if there is external censorship. The unique aspect of the proposed American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) law isn’t that it allows the state to censor, it sounds as though it will allow anyone to censor anything. Some people think this is a good thing, because they will be able to stop the the free speech of others, speech they disagree with. Of course, they never realize that it can also be used to silence them.Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

If the American “Protect IP” or “SOPA” law passes by Christmas, as intended, the Internet as we know it will be over. I have to wonder, too, if the rush to get our Canadian DMCA, Bill C-31 passed by Christmas is connected.

The Irony, of course, is that all of this censorship, and all these repressive measures are being driven by Hollywood, the former champion of free speech.

This little (non-Hollywood) film explains it better than I can:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDX8Lyl16Qs

If you have video issues, you can watch the webm version here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/fftf-actionkit/Protect_IP_Act_Breaks_the_Internet.webm

If you’ve never read George Orwell’s book “1984”, or seen the movie “1984”, now would be a very good time. This is the “1984” movie trailer.

You can also follow the grass roots Occupy Wall Street Movement all over the interwebs (at least until they get shut down) at http://www.ustream.tv/TheOther99

In solidarity with our American friends trying to convince their government not to break the Internet with IP Protect, I have also posted “Stop Censorship” on my personal blog, the StopUBB blog and my family website.

go to American Censorship websiteCanadians: tell our government not to pass Bill C-11, which will have much the same effect on Canada. 😦

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

La Quadrature du Net on Censorship

Net Neutrality is necessary to the Internet, for the good of us all. The La Quadrature du Net group continually impresses me with their thoughtfulness, commitment, dedication and focus. [As a mono-lingual Canadian living in a pseudo bi-lingual nation, I find it thrilling to see they operate so beautifully bilingually too!]

the Pi symbol enclosed in a circle on a blue field captioned La Quadrature du net

Internet blocking is a form of unacceptable censorship, and I believe it will do far more harm than good. Censorship inevitably does. But it’s a thorny issue, particularly when it comes done to some heinous perpetrators. It may seem like a good idea, but blocking a domain does not pull the plug, it simply turns out the light. The bad stuff keeps on in the dark. But LaQuadrature Du Net did a much more amazing job explaining the issue than I can, so I share it here:

The letter sent today to LIBE MEPs

Dear MEP,

black and white graphic of a man's face with hands covering his eyes and mouth.
La Quadrature Du Net on Internet Censorship

As the LIBE committee prepares to discuss the Angelilli Report regarding the blocking of child abuse websites, we call on you to go further than the rapporteur and reject any measure instrumentalizing the protection of children in ways that would install a censorship infrastructure on the Internet. Whether it is implemented at the EU or national level, blocking is a false solution to a very serious issue that deserves effective and resolute action:

* Blocking fails to give proper incentives for the removal of content, which is only way to actually tackle sexual abuse of children. As the example of Germany suggests, only measures tackling the problem at its roots (by deleting the incriminated content from the servers; by attacking financial flows) and the reinforcement of the means of police investigators can combat child pornography.
* Blocking is ineffective, since Internet blocking measures can be easily circumvented by people and criminal organisations exploiting child pornographic content.
* The Commission’s proposal ignores the risk of over-blocking – i.e the “collateral censorship” of perfectly lawful websites -, which will appear regardless of the filtering techniques that are chosen at the national level.
* The Commission’s proposal omits to specify that only judicial authorities should be entitled to allow Internet blocking measures to ensure that they are proportionate and respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Short of this crucial insurance, core principles of the rule of Law in the European Union will be undermined.
* The Commission’s proposal lacks protection against “mission creep”, i.e the extension of Internet blocking to new fields, such as copyright. Such severe measures could be extended to new fields in the near future, thereby further calling into question Europe’s fight for freedom of expression on the Internet and undermining its moral legitimacy at the international level.

We trust that you will protect the fundamental rights of EU citizens by expressing a clear refusal of filtering and blocking measures. We remain available for any inquiry you may have.

Sincerely,

Phone with the circle of EU stars captioned Click to Call Now

La Quadrature du Net, Net Censorship Comes Before the EU Parliament

This letter was written because the issue is coming before the EU parliament. If you live under the jurisdiction of the European Parliament, i can’t ask you strongly enough to visit the La Quadrature du Net site so you can find out what you can do to help prevent bad law but instead work for good.