text Malini Witlox illustration Pascal Tieman
Hunting the pirate Worldwide internet censorship. It sounds frightening, but if we may believe the critics, we’re getting pretty close. New laws regarding internet freedom are currently being prepared in the Netherlands and abroad, resulting in fierce court battles.
et’s be fair. It is a little strange. You would never pocket a DVD or CD in a music store, but you’ll download the latest Coldplay album online without any qualms. All right, according to some this is not really the same as stealing, you are after all just making a copy. However, it is clear that many artists aren’t that happy about the situation and are missing out on revenue. To how much this exactly amounts to, divides opinion. Governments and judiciaries aim to counteract piracy by implementing new laws and regulations. Infamous names of such sections of Bypassing blockades law are SOPA and PIPA. In mid-January, A website is often blocked via the Domain American websites such as Wikipedia Name System (DNS). Your service provider and Firefox went black in protest against links a DNS to an IP address, determining these anti-piracy laws. SOPA (Stop Online whether or not you’ll be given access to a Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) should certain website. These internet blockades both ensure that access to (foreign) sites are relatively easily bypassed. But how? is prevented when they posted stolen or illegal content. Sites enabling piracy are - Via The Onion Router (TOR): a worldwide liable to be blocked as well. This could lead computer network which gives you access to entire websites being blocked because to the internet by via some intermediary someone, somewhere, has placed a link steps. You can download the TOR browser to an untrustworthy site. This approach at The TOR Project website which enables has angered some internet companies. you to surf the internet anonymously. After all this commotion, the SOPA bill was - Via a proxy server. This also functions withdrawn until more support was found. with an intermediary. By way of your The vote on PIPA has also been postponed own internet connection, you’ll access a by the American Senate until more is clear proxy server, which you can use to access about its consequences. the web. Instead of your own IP address, the proxy site’s one will be transmitted. - Via a VPN (virtual private network) connection: VPN connections are specially encrypted connections using a regular internet connection. They are often used for company networks. Using it will enable you to access blocked sites. Hotspot Shield, for example, offers a good VPN solution. - By changing your DNS servers. Various public DNS providers are available, among which are Google Public DNS and OpenDNS. - Mirror sites can sometimes also be used to bypass an internet blockade. This usually is a copy of a controversial site, but has been created by another party. For example, there are some mirror sites of the blocked Pirate Bay website available.
Univers 1 maart 2012
There be pirates ‘ere The Netherlands is facing similar issues. For some students, internet censorship has become quite palpable: the university in Groningen has said to block BitTorrent traffic in its student apartments from March onwards, because of complaints from American film studios and BREIN, a Dutch foundation devoted to counteract violations of intellectual property rights. Furthermore, a judge ordered two Dutch access providers to block BitTorrent website The Pirate Bay in January. BREIN had called attention to this issue. An appeal is in the works, but the providers are required to block the website in the meantime. BREIN has since then sued other Dutch providers as well – the jury’s still out on these cases. It may seem odd that a provider is held responsible for content posted on a website.
It is after all, only concerned with the technical aspect of internet access. “If someone posts something illegally on the internet, they are the perpetrator of an unlawful act. Not the provider”, says Maurice Schellekens, university lecturer and affiliated as a researcher to the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society. “That, however, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t concern the provider at all. Providers are not required to patrol the web to monitor everything their customers post on their server. Nevertheless, when a provider has received a complaint, it must act upon it. This has also been established in a European guideline regarding electronic trade. In practice, many providers have a notice and takedown policy.” Schellekens has previously published his PhD on the responsibility of the providers. “The Pirate Bay is known to move its content to a foreign server every time it is sentenced – so it can’t be called to account by Dutch legislation. So the debate has shifted to the question if so-called ‘access providers’, with which consumers access the internet, should block access to The Pirate Bay as well. That’s new – and it is yet to be decided if it’s desirable. It means that providers will continuously need to be updated on which servers are moving. And it’s possible that they will block websites which are in fact legal.”
Three strikes and you’re out It doesn’t stop with The Pirate Bay. The Dutch Justice State Secretary, Fred Teeven, is also working on a bill aiming to combat internet piracy. Teeven wants to replace the current private copying levy, which charges extra costs for empty CDs and DVDs to compensate artists, with a ban on downloading. The proposal states that providers should be tough on people who download excessively. Apart from that, it proposes foreign websites offering illegal content to be blocked as well. Bits of Freedom is an organization dedicated to internet freedom in The Netherlands. Daphne van der Kroft, communication strategist at the organization, worries about Teeven’s bill – in particular about the monitoring role providers would assume. “This has serious consequences to internet freedom. We also feel that artists should be paid for the work they do. However, politicians and the entertainment industry only focus on enforcement of policy and not on possible alternatives. We have no issue with the goal itself, but we do question whether the end justifies the means.” Teeven’s bill states, according to insiders, that among others, excessive downloaders may be denied access to the internet after three violations. This law is already in effect in France and is also considered in Germany and the United Kingdom. Schellekens: “Such a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy does raise a few questions. Do you block all of the internet or just certain websites? For life or for several months?”
The French bartenders seemed to enjoy the party much less than we did
Als We Gaaan! The Dutch invasion
The right to internet access A potential ban on downloading may be an innocent example of the infringement on internet freedom, as there are more serious examples of internet censorship. The Chinese government, for example, regularly prevents access to certain western websites. The Iranian government has been working on plans since 2011 to completely prevent its country’s access to the public internet. But with the current government bills, critics are saying that the West is following the trend of censoring the World Wide Web. Internet activists assert that free internet access is important enough to be legally constituted worldwide as a basic civil right. Schellekens comments: “It will take a while before that actually happens. Freedom is important, but you wouldn’t want to allow everything. In cases such as child pornography, you need to be able to take action.” Still, an open internet is essential. “The events in Egypt have clearly shown the necessity of the right to free speech on the internet. It’s key to establishing a protest movement. Internet freedom allows you to find news from an independent source; it allows you to shape your views. That is essential to any democracy.”
Who could imagine that a week in France would be such an enriching Dutch experience? I just came back from Studenten wintersport 2012, a skiing and snowboarding trip to the French Alps. Every year, five hundred students from all over the Netherlands invade an unfortunate, little French village. We clogged the public transport for four hours, trying to stuff all of our luggage up to the roofs of the small ski buses and get to our rooms. Once at the ski resort, we were constantly occupying the best seats in all the ski bars. I didn’t have a chance to catch up with latest music trends in France, because we brought our own DJs and occupied a local bar. All week long, Dutch hits echoed in the valley, while hecto liters of beer flooded the floor of an après-ski bar. The French bouncers and bartenders seemed to enjoy the party much less than we did. They observed our polonaise dance without much enthusiasm and they frowned trying to understanding the rules of our Beerestafette contest. If I needed to ask for time or directions, I would just come up to a random person and ask in Dutch – it was more probable to bump into a person from Eindhoven than into a Frenchman. It was also easy to recognize who was “one of us”, because all Dutch students were wearing eye-catching, blue StuWi hoodies. You could also expect that being in France would be a great opportunity to try French cuisine. But croissants and fondue had to wait, because during this special week bars and restaurants were serving the haute cuisine of Holland: kroketten, bitterballen and frites with mayo. We were also given food packages to survive these harsh winter conditions, in which we found stroop, pannenkoeken and ready-made lasagna bolognese. The only French touch consisted of fresh baguettes delivered to our doors every morning. I have to say, the trip was unforgettable even if it was more Dutch than French. Or, perhaps, precisely because of it. Sonia Kolasinska is a third-year Liberal Arts student Univers 1 maart 2012
Univers Magazine, 1 maart 2012. www.universonline.nl Uitgeverij: Tilburg University. Auteur: Malini Witlox