Turkish web surfers heaved a big sigh of relief this past Sunday. After almost three-years, Turkish authorities lifted the ban a court had placed on the YouTube online video sharing service.
YouTube's original sin had been to allow users to post videos that a Turkish court ruled insulted the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder. Although Google, which owns YouTube, blocked access to the offending material in Turkey, the court asked for a global blackout on the videos, something Google refused to do and which led to the ban.
The ban was lifted on Sunday after a mysterious Germany-based, Turk-owned company claimed it owned the copyright to the material in the offending videos and was able to get YouTube to remove the material.
But now it appears that it may be too soon to celebrate YouTube's return. According to Google's representatives in Turkey, the company has reposted the Ataturk videos after it determined that there was no copyright infringement going on. Although access to the videos in question is still blocked in Turkey, there is concern that the courts will again issue a complete ban on YouTube.
"We're back to square one, basically," says Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of law at Istanbul's Bilgi University and a leading critic of the Turkish government's internet policy.
Turkish law gives the government and courts broad powers to shut down access to websites. There are close to 8,000 websites currently banned in Turkey. Although many of them are connected with pornography and online gambling, among the sites banned are those of pro-Kurdish news agencies and several social networking-related sites.