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Westford's Librarians on Wednesday's Internet Blackout Protests

The feeling at the J.V Fletcher Library against proposed legislation relating to internet content currently in Congress is comparable to the general opinion of Westford's Congressional delegation.

As dozens of influential websites such as Wikipedia, Craig’s List and Google participated in protests on Wednesday to shine attention on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), the issue became a topic of discussion in Westford on not just the future of the internet, but the future of information as well.

At the , librarians were generally supportive of the protests, which also had garnered the support of the American Library Association.

“Everyone feels that this legislation will be too much,” said Head Librarian Ellen Rainville. “There are some activities depicted on the internet that society should deplore, but the blacked websites helped put the message out that if this passed, there would be a real change of access for users.”

Librarians on call reported that they did not hear of any problems from patrons burdened by the lack of access during the protest day, and there were hopes that if anyone at home had issues accessing information that the protest could act as a reminder toward the importance of public libraries.

“I definitely agree with the shut down,” said Youth Services Director Nancy Boutet. “But no matter what happens to the internet, it’s our purpose as a library to always provide a place where people can come to find reliable and accurate information.”

Among Westford’s members of Congress, Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) announced his opposition to the legislation, as did Representative Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell.)

“I support the goal of protecting intellectual property and combating commerce in counterfeit goods, and I support a targeted approach that does not entangle legitimate websites, but I believe that SOPA and PIPA are written too broadly and would have an adverse affect on free speech and internet innovation,” said Tsongas.  “The legislation is a major departure from the current ‘notice and take-down’ system that provided protection from liability for internet service providers and websites that expeditiously remove infringing materials from their networks, and new regulations may result in uncertainty that could disrupt Internet innovation and growth.”

Westford’s other member of Congress, Senator John Kerry (D-Boston), did not have a position on the legislation as of press time.

Tracy LeBlanc January 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Per Wikipedia - The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a U.S. House bill to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Proposals include barring advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with allegedly infringing websites, barring search engines from linking to the sites, and requiring Internet service providers (ISP) to block access to the sites. The bill would criminalize the streaming of such content, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. User-content websites such as YouTube would be greatly affected, and concern has been expressed that they may be shut down if the bill becomes law. Opponents state the legislation would enable law enforcement to remove an entire internet domain due to something posted on a single blog, arguing that an entire online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority. In a 1998 law, copyright owners are required to request the site to remove the infringing material within a certain amount of time. SOPA would bypass this "safe harbor" provision by placing the responsibility for detecting and policing infringement onto the site itself.

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