On Friday, Jan. 20, the postponement of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) legislations was publicly announced, leaving many relieved and in shock of the effect of recent protests.
SOPA and PIPA are bills aimed at halting internet piracy and copyright infringement. SOPA, as the more extreme of the two, would define a “foreign infringing site” as any website or search engine that commits or facilitates copyright infringement. PIPA focuses more on stopping websites whose sole purpose is to provide copyrighted material to internet users.
These bills will get rid of much of our free expression rights as internet users. They will cause the extermination of many blog sites, and force legal action for example on anyone who posts a YouTube video featuring an unoriginal song, as it is considered to be copyright infringement. Websites and internet users will also be blocked from having access to another company or website’s logo, pictures, etc. Google’s blacked out logo was meant to demonstrate an example of the toll these bills will take.
The House of Representatives’ introduction of PIPA, the first of the two bills, began with serious consideration by the government and led to a vote of the House scheduled on Jan. 24, but was pushed back “in light of recent events” according to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as reported by the New York Daily News.
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, two of the internet’s most thriving companies, Google and Wikipedia, and several others took action in response to the scheduled vote. Wikipedia launched a 24 hour blackout of the English site, and Google blacked out the logo on their homepage.
As executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation stated in a press release, “The blackout was led by millions of ordinary internet users, and the people who make projects like Wikipedia possible – writers, photographers, editors and illustrators,” proving the role of citizens and internet users in the fight againstunfair government actions.
“Obviously the music and movie industry is backing these bills, and it seems as if the government is being run by them,” senior Matthew Heyl said. “The bills are unconstitutional. It would halt a lot of advancement and innovativeness on the internet and backtrack on how far we’ve come.”
These legislations are essentially destroying Americans’ right to free expression on the internet. While it may be understandable that large entertainment and marketing companies claim to be losing hundred millions of dollars due to piracy, money should not be a more important issue than the free speech of Americans.
As students, internet users, and citizens, we have a responsibility to protect our right of free expression on the internet, as destroying that brings us closer to becoming more of a fascist country than a democracy. Click here to learn about some of the things we can do to stop the PIPA and SOPA bills from being passed.