Turkey Unblocks YouTube After Face-Saving Copyright Claim

As we have mentioned before, Turkey has some problems with censorship. Between its governmental and religious authorities, it has shut down, and kept down, everything from YouTube to Blogger and a lot of what came in between.

In the past year, Turks have taken to the street to protest this censorship. And now, the YouTube ban has been lifted.

The ban, which was in effect since 2007, was lifted today. It was originally banned because the company would not delete certain videos, including some that ridiculed the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. So, a judge ruled that the entire site be banned, one of the frequent fruit of blocking and filtering regimes.

Turkey’s professional and information class felt the bite. Turkey is a forward-looking, mercantile country. The block was both a liability – as information was off limits – and an embarrassment. Even the country’s president, Abdullah Gul, registered his displeasure – via Twitter.

However, the reason the ban was lifted was not a sudden spasm of right-thinking. It was because an unnamed German company enabled the objected video’s take-down, creating a dreadful precedent. (A Wall Street Journal article presents a different, and less plausible, scenario.) According to CNN:

“Government agencies were finally able to clear the deadlock last weekend when a company in Germany intervened by claiming copyrights to the controversial videos and removing them from the website.”

Is this for real? Or was it a face-saving workaround? YouTube’s owner, Google, found the copyright claim to be false and has reinstated the videos, though they are still blocked in Turkey. Either way, it is a terrible precedent and leaves Turkey as hamstrung by online censorship as it ever was.

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