If bill passes, long-term consequences could change internet use in America
Ah, the Internet. Gigabytes, megabytes, even terabytes worth of free information readily available at one’s convenience—but not for long, if a new bill currently undergoing review in Congress has anything to say about it.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as SOPA, is a bill written mostly to protect against the growing problem (if you want to call it a problem) of Internet piracy.
SOPA was first introduced into the House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011, by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, a man whose personal background lies in the corn industry, and a bipartisan group of 12 co-sponsors.
Originally, the proposed bill aimed to allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court involvement against websites accused of distributing copyrighted material. The actions taken would depend mainly on who requests the orders and the level of infringement committed. Court orders could bar online advertising networks and payment facilitators (like PayPal) from doing business with an allegedly infringing site.
Other negative effects include barring search engines from linking to said sites, and requiring internet providers to block all sites found guilty of copyright infringement. Also included in the bill is a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison for an individual found guilty of streaming copyrighted material, such as music or films, over the Internet.
Big name corporations such as Sony, Nintendo and other household names originally supported the bill. Sony and Nintendo threw their support behind SOPA in order to stop piracy of their video games; other services, such as GoDaddy, had less clear reasons.
Since then, however, Sony and Nintendo, as well as EA Games and GoDaddy, have quietly removed their names from the lists of official SOPA supporters.
While the companies did not provide official statements as to why they stopped supporting SOPA, it has been suggested that it may have been due to a video posted by the hacktivist group Anonymous.
In the video, Anonymous threatened to attack Sony’s infrastructure for their support of the bill. Sony, a previous victims of hacking fiascos, ended their public support to SOPA. Various pop icons were also listed as targets in said video.
Popular websites such as Wikipedia have stated that SOPA is acting as an “Internet blacklist,” and many sites, including Tumblr, censored content streams in protest of SOPA.
For a country that proudly lauds the many freedoms of its citizens, the SOPA bill represents something that has never played much part in Internet media: censorship. All clichés aside, if SOPA is passed, it will mean the end of the Internet as we know it. With SOPA comes censorship, as well as lowered Internet security for web users.
Basically, if SOPA passes the Internet will cease to be both entertaining and informative. Major websites like Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Tumblr will either be shut down or heavily censored, and those found guilty of online piracy will be punished.
If SOPA existed solely to stop online piracy, there wouldn’t be such heavy opposition—even though it seems as if we’re all guilty of online piracy in some way. Claiming someone else’s work as your own is wrong, ethically and morally, and those found guilty of doing so should be punished. But completely censoring the Internet isn’t going to stop piracy and copyright infringement.
There isn’t one set solution for ending online piracy and copyright infringement, and honestly, there probably never will be. If SOPA is indeed passed, all it will accomplish is putting all the power in the hands of one individual. The people who are serious about piracy will still do it because it really isn’t that hard to do in the first place.
SOPA is set to have a congressional decision made on Jan. 24. If it is indeed passed it won’t necessarily go into effect right away. It will more than likely go into effect in the following year.
If you’re interested in stopping the passing of SOPA, do something about it. Make a call or write a letter to your state senator or other political figure. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden already put a hold on it in late 2011 to avoid an early vote. That proves that more can be done if we speak to the right people.
Go to americancensorship.org to sign multiple petitions regarding the end of SOPA and lobby congressmen about stopping this bill from passing. Tell these people that you don’t want your Internet censored.
The internet should remain a free, uncensored enterprise and we need to reiterate how important it is to us and our daily lives.