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SOPA and PIPA: Just Say No   1 comment

Posted at Jan 16, 2012 @ 6:41pm News

If you check out basically any technology-related website this week (and many non tech-related sites as well) you will find information relating to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property, Protect IP Act (PIPA).  This proposed legislation (which has, for now, been avoided) would not only halt online piracy, it would take away a whole lot of online freedom too.

Sure, I believe that protecting intellectual property is important. Many artists, entertainers and the companies that employ them don’t want consumers getting their products for free. This is understandable. We all need to make a living. But we can’t protect intellectual property on the Internet by universally censoring content. Before I go any further, let’s explore what PIPA and SOPA really are.

PIPA

PIPA was first introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, and Chuck Grassley. PIPA would give the government and U.S. corporations the right to seek legal action with any website they determine has allowed copyright infringement. This extremely loosely-defined legislation could potentially:

- Force Internet providers to block websites on their networks.
- Force advertisers on “infringing” websites to pull their ads.
- Seek legal action by suing blogs, search engines, directories or any other site on the internet.

Goodbye, User-Generated Content

PIPA would create a perilous online climate for any website. It would encourage harsh restrictions on user content, effectively censoring any type of user-generated participation. This means user-generated writing, videos, audio files… ANYTHING. The fact is, user-generated content is a huge part of what makes the Internet so rich. If PIPA passes, we will lose our free forum. This will have wide-reaching implications for social behaviors and social control.

SOPA

SOPA would work in conjunction with PIPA. It would allow:

- The U.S. Attorney General to seek court orders to force search engines, DNS providers, advertisers and more to sever contact with any “offending” websites or content.
- Private corporations to create their own hit lists of websites they feel are breaking their copyright policies, for ANY REASON. Read: legal mafia. The companies would be able to contact a website’s provider directly to sever service within five days.

Sayonara, Innovation

Not only would these bills severely restrict user-generated content, they would stifle innovation. Developers aren’t going to experiment with new ways of distributing content if they are constantly under threat of take-down. Think about the big sites we all use today: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, DropBox… none of these would have made it a week under PIPA and SOPA.

Ridiculous Consequences

Imagine this scenario: a child makes a video of herself singing a popular song and posts it to the Internet. That child could be responsible for the blackout of YouTube. That child and her family could face legal action. They could face fines in the millions! Is this the kind of Internet we want?