The African Commons Project is blacked out

There’s a political campaign spreading across the internet, one that is ‘turning out the lights‘ on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter profile pictures, and throwing a dark shadow on blogs around the world. It’s all because of an unfair amendment to the Copyright Act in New Zealand that will threaten the rights to privacy and access to information in that country.

According to Creative Freedom Foundation, who is running this campaign, “Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial, and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement.”

This is an outrageous amendment, but why does this matter to us South Africans (and Africans), not quite on the other side of the world, but quite a distance away at least? It matters because this issue is about a broader problem within modern society – people in power not understanding that technology is an opportunity and not a threat, how copyright needs to be reinterpreted to match technological progress, and how reactive responses to piracy will simply lead to a public outcry. This issue highlights how South Africa need public education and effective lobbying on new and innovative approaches to copyright in preparation for our Copyright Act amendment. As the CFF states, “Laws like this will keep being proposed unless there is wide understanding within the [art] community of what’s being done in our name. The long-term solution is for you to help fellow artists understand the issues.”

On a different note, we’ve been thinking about creating and implementing effective internet ‘meme’s’ and have been marveling at the success of this campaign. In our opinion this has been really effective because of the powerful message behind the campaign that really fires people up because this law will have a tangible effect on how they use the internet in the future. We like the simplicity of the campaign (all you really need to do is right click, save as and then replace your profile pic – three easy steps!) and the ‘many pronged approach’ they have undertaken – the very least you can do is follow the three easy steps, tweet it, or change your Facebook profile – or if you’re more enthusiastic – you can email government, add banners to your site, sign the petition, attend a rally and more. It’s all about providing a variety of platforms for people to be involved ‘on their own terms’ with easy ways to pass the message on.

We congratulate Creative Freedom Foundation and wish them well in the last eight days of their countdown to 28 February.

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