Graphic by Charlotte Rakestraw for The Beacon.
Getting to the root of SOPA
February 6, 2012
By Cash Lambert / News Editor
You log on Facebook and post a funny video that a friend showed you. After your next class ends, you check it again to see if anyone commented. You try to log on but your profile no longer exists. Then an email shows up from Facebook saying that you have been removed from the site because of copyright issues and now Facebook is likely to be removed from the Internet because of your actions.
That's the world with SOPA - the Stop Online Piracy Act that was proposed in early January to the House of Representatives in an attempt to combat online piracy. SOPA has a sister, called the Protect Intellectual Property Act that was sent through the Senate. Both bills have been postponed for vote on a later date.
Let me make it clear that I do not have a problem with limiting piracy, which is what the bill aims to kill. I do, however, have a problem with how SOPA and PIPA wanted to combat the issue.
Being a user of the Internet, my point of view is that these bills not only squash creativity. They kill it.
The bills give the Justice Department too much power, they violate the First Amendment, and are eerily similar to the firewalls in communist countries.
According to the Khan Academy, the bill aims to shut down foreign piracy websites that exist online in America. Since America has no jurisdiction on foreign soil, the bills can't bust down the doors of the website's office and shut it down with military might like America is prone to doing. The only way to shut down the piracy websites is to shut down search engines and websites that conspire with the piracy website. So if you typed in a piracy website into Google, under the new law, the search engine wouldn't be allowed to show it on the search screen. If Google did allow it, then Google could be deleted off the Internet by the Justice Department. This essentially cuts the piracy website's funds, which starves the website to death. Theoretically, it's a fantastic plan.
However, this gives the U.S. Justice Department too much power. A site can be shut down if it is believed to enable copyright infringement. That is why so many people protested, especially social media giants like Facebook, Wikipedia and Youtube. All it takes is for one person to link something to the website who doesn't own the material, and the entire website can be taken off the Internet.