Taiwan faces resistance over SOPA-like anti-piracy proposal

A Taiwan government office is considering taking action to block major piracy websites

A proposal in Taiwan to enforce copyright laws by blocking access to top piracy sites is facing concerns that the measures could impinge on Internet freedoms on the island.

The intellectual property office of Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs is considering making amendments to the government's copyright law in order to crack down on online infringement. In particular, it wants to target overseas sites by ordering ISPs to block them via IP address or domain name.

Taiwan's intellectual property office only wants to go after major offenders, said Li Mei, vice director for the government body, on Tuesday. These piracy sites would include those that "specialize in copyright infringement activities," like Megaupload, a file hosting service that was known to provide links to bootleg movies and software. Last year, U.S. authorities shut down the popular site.

Some Internet users in Taiwan, however, are against the new measures, and have set up a Facebook event advocating for an open Internet. So far, over 16,000 users have joined. In addition, Taiwan's intellectual property office said last Friday it had received numerous messages from citizens, demanding authorities stop their actions.

The uproar is similar to the resistance U.S. lawmakers faced when they tried to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that also called for stiff measures targeting copyright infringement. Under the bill, ISPs could be ordered to block access to offending sites and search engines could also be barred from linking to them.

U.S. lawmakers withdrew the bill from consideration after Internet firms such as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia came out in opposition to it. But other countries have gone ahead with efforts to cut access to sites known for piracy. In March, the U.K. High Court ordered ISPs to block three torrent sites.

In the case of Taiwan, the intellectual property office is trying to calm fears that the measures could lead to censorship. Sites that may contain some pirated content, but are otherwise legitimate, will not be targeted, according to the office's vice director.

"We are going after very obvious offenders. Facebook, Google, Yahoo, we won't block those sites," Li said. "Auction sites also won't be affected."

The office has no timetable on completing the proposed measures, but it will seek input from the public when a draft is completed.

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