Why SOPA Will Destroy the Internet As We Know It
Instead of trying to police the Internet, Congress should probably stick to focusing their efforts on upholding pizza’s status as a vegetable .
The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is a bill that has created a deep divide between supporters and detractors in both the entertainment and technology industries. If passed, SOPA, and its Senate equivalent, the Protect IP Act, would allow the government to take legal against foreign rogue sites, meaning websites that are outside U.S. jurisdiction that allegedly enable or facilitate copyright infringement in some way.
SOPA was first introduced to the House of Representatives on October 26th by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, who submitted the proposed bill along with a group of twelve bipartisan co-spongers, who as blatant as special interests go, have mostly had campaigns that were sponsored by the entertainment industry. The stated intention of the bill is to significantly expand the capacity of U.S. law enforcement agencies and copyright holders to combat online traffic that promotes the theft of copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. The bill would build on the current PRO-IP Act, which was passed in 2008, which allows the Department of Justice to to conduct civil suits on behalf of copyright holders, and established the Office of the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative. The House has since had a hearing on the matter on November 16th.
How This Would Affect You, The Internet User
Now in the most obvious of ways, SOPA would effectively attempt its very best to ban the streaming of stolen content across the internet. While this is obviously a very real issue, SOPA would have a variety of effects that go well beyond the scope of this, and would also create an internet climate that moves well beyond what currently exists. Besides for effecting the websites involved in providing links to stolen content, which would be considered a felony, the Department of Justice would be allowed to stop online advertisers and payment sites such as PayPal from doing business with said website. Additionally, SOPA would make it the responsibility of aggregates, social media, and search engines such as Facebook and Google to self-censor their own content, lest they be charged with a felony. The type of internet culture this would create would be similar to that in China, where people use proxy servers to access the content they want. Cut off the head of the serpent, and three more will grow back, and this has already been seen with social media in the workplace. SOPA would also effect sites like YouTube, which have more than its fair share of copyrighted content used in such content as AMV’s, remixes and amateur creativity.
Who Is For This
With the “slippery slope” culture that this would create online, it is no wonder that the bill is largely backed by the interests of those who own those IP’s. Entertainment and technology giants such as Viacom, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Dell, The Motion Picture Association Of America and Intel have come out in support of the bill. This is no surprising at all, given that these are the companies that are creating the content, and have the most to lose from piracy, particularly those in the entertainment industry. Our representatives that back SOPA all have ties to these companies, and its equally no surprise that the bill has gained legitimate traction. A common argument cited is that SOPA protects jobs by concentrating the distribution of content into the sole hands of the content creators.
Those Who Oppose
While SOPA has gained plenty of traction in the House, its detractors generally come from the aggregate or distribution side of things. Those that have the most to lose from its passage are websites that control the distribution of information, content and products. These include the above-listed sites and others that serve to have their business model directly impacted by SOPA. These companies have banned together to release a statement of opposition as a full page advertisement in a recent issue of the New York Times.
Why You Should Not Support This
SOPA, if passed in its current form, would create an essential “Internet Blacklist” for the government, which is highly analogues with the Great Firewall of China. As an internet user, this would effect your internet use experience in more than just marginal ways, and would also destroy the tech start-up climate that the US has done so well to nurture in recent years. While protecting against piracy is of course, a real and legitimate issue, there are far more effective and less broad ways of approaching this, and when it becomes not quite as obvious that its supporters are in the pockets of the IP creators, then, and only then, should you even consider giving this type of thing your support. That is, unless you don’t enjoy the internet, apple pie, or good old freedom of speech. Because that would effectively be dead, and so would the Internet as we know it.
More on SOPA:
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