Last Wednesday, Jan. 18, a massive online protest was launched against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/ Protect IP Act (PIPA). An estimated number of 75,000 sites (such as Wikipedia, Reddit, and Craigslist) blacked out and explained the consequences of this bill being passed into law.
The SOPA bill’s objective is to protect the intellectual property of Americans from pirated material on the internet. If passed, the U.S. Justice Department would be able to take down any website that contains copyright infringement without a court hearing or a trial.
This bill would also allow the Justice Department to prevent pirate sites from receiving American visitors and funds. Therefore, an order could be made for U.S. Internet providers to restrict access to any foreign pirate site.
Opponents claim the bill’s wordage is arguable too broad, which would mean that a site unknowingly hosting pirated material would be at risk for shut down. If passed, popular sites such as Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, eBay, and more would be at risk for being shut down.
International student, Nelly Phan, heavily relies on sites that would be affected if this bill turned into law. “Craiglist is so necessary for us, especially for international students. We found the info about housing online. If they shut it all down, what would happen then?”
The authors and supporters of these bills claim that only foreign piracy sites would be targeted and would protect America from online burglary. Companies that support PIPA and SOPA include TimeWarner, Walmart, Nike, Chanel, VISA, Mastercard, Comcast, and ABC.
The biggest supporter of this bill is the Motion Picture Association of America, which estimates that about 13 percent of American adults have viewed illegal copies of movies or television shows online, which has cost media companies billions. The legislation would enable private Hollywood studios and content owners to take legal action against any website housing pirated material.
An optimistic Adam Mirza suggests that the bill could be something all could benefit from. “It stops piracy, which means the cost of many items will go down. At the same time, no more free stuff. I think it depends on how far it will go to censor the web. Less piracy means greater demand to buy the stuff, which decreases prices.”
It was reported on Wednesday by Google that at least three million people have signed the online petition opposing SOPA, and that the number will continue to rise.
Westley Evers, a German tutor at BC, states, “It’s against the rights of the people. We have a right to information and a right to use communications however we like, and we as Americans can and will not be monitored while doing so.” Though this act is aimed at preventing online piracy, it is predicted to inevitably turn into censorship. “Some of the largest changes in recent history, such as Libya and Egypt, were thanks to our open right to use and access the internet.”
If anyone is opposed to these bills, it is encouraged by participants in the blackout to contact members of Congress expressing disapproval of PIPA and SOPA.
The Senate will begin voting on these bills on Tuesday, Jan. 24.