A couple of times I have posted about an event that hasn’t yet been resolved. While it’s nice to hear about things as they happen there is the problem of follow-up. So I’ve decided to take this opportunity to address some earlier stories and what’s been happening there.
In my Valentine’s day post I mentioned that Alexander Aan was facing prison time and possible execution because of Indonesia’s law against blasphemy. I looked a bit to see if there was any progress but I didn’t find anything conclusive. About the best I can say is that Atheist Alliance International has been able to appoint Aan a lawyer. It’s not as good as him being cleared but at least he will have a chance.
In January, I also covered three threats to free speech and science. I haven’t heard anything more about the US bill to prevent access to publicly-funded research but I have got news regarding SOPA/PIPA and the H5N1 flu papers.
The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), a US organisation, had called for censorship of parts of two papers that looked at mutant versions of the H5N1 flu virus which were highly infectious in ferrets. Not everyone agreed the research should be censored, although the journals Nature and Science and the study authors did agree to suspend publication until an international committee could review them and advise on publication. That meeting was held in Switzerland by the World Health Organisation where it was decided that the studies should be published in full. While the papers will eventually be published they are still on hold until discussion on the safety levels for such research projects is concluded. Nature has a piece in question and answer form that looks at various points in the controversy.
Lastly, was the threat of SOPA/PIPA which was intended to protect copyrights but was widely seen as overreaching and as a threat to free speech on the internet. Following a huge public outcry, and some big name sites taking themselves offline in protest, SOPA/PIPA lost a lot of support and were essentially defeated in what was described as “…a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.” The debate over SOPA/PIPA has not stopped entirely and there are still pieces being written about the topic and the ways to better manage copyright and piracy. Articles about the topic range from changes to copyright to pieces that explain the positive effect piracy can have, effects that the movie and music industries apparently ignore.
The issues of copyright and piracy have moved beyond the US though in the form of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA was formed secretly and seeks to strengthen anti-piracy laws internationally, already having being, most notably, signed by the US and Japan. Admittedly, I have not heard that much about it but there have been multiple protests in Europe against the agreement so, hopefully, it will go the same way as SOPA/PIPA.
In P.L.U.C.K I spoke against the French law making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. Although that bill passed the French parliament, the Constitutional Council has negated the bill on the grounds that it infringes on freedom of speech.