What, you may ask, do all these things have in common? All of these entities are in opposition of a new bill, SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act). The head of the push to approve the bill comes from Lamar Smith, who introduced the bill. This effort, having been heavily lobbied by proponents such as the MPAA and RIAA, pitted tech-era silicon valley giants such as Wikipedia and Twitter against Hollywood content owners who want to create a draconian system of censorship, in an attempt to stop piracy. The bill was not introduced alone however, SOPA’s mate, if you will, is PIPA(Protect Intellectual Property Act).
Both are intended to help manage the use and proliferation of online content when it isn’t used or distributed in accordance with the terms given by its owners. However, foreign nations, which frequently have different laws regarding copyright(such as Sweden) cannot be held to United States laws regarding internet piracy. SOPA and PIPA both aim to target foreign nations and third party content hosting sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, by creating a way to punish websites which have presumably illegal content on them.
Upon the claim being made on a third party website, the site in question is immediately shut down, whereupon they have to appeal to the Justice Department to have the claim revoked. This presumption of guilt not only flies in the face of the inherent presumption of innocence in the American legal system, but would also slow down the dynamic creativity that is arguably the most important byproduct of the internet. Ergo, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Online Intellectual Property Act both aim to criminalize technology companies, rather than the people who have committed infringement on intellectual property.
This proposed network of blocking Internet Protocol addresses is a dramatic step towards state sponsored censorship. It is reminiscent of the systems in place in Iran and China, where the government blocks websites involving political ideas and news agencies that aren’t approved by government censors. The internet has been one of the most powerful tools in human history for spurring literacy, intellectual debate, and independent knowledge. Almost any person in the developed world can access the whole human cannon of knowledge, and legislators are oblivious to the need to keep this medium unregulated and free.
Not too long ago, the same media lobbying firms were railing against the ability to record a TV show, or the ability to record a song on a Walkman. These irrational phobias of change are equally irrational as they are overblown. Neither ended their near monopoly on musical and visual media content: both are extant today. Rather than seek to end content on the internet, they should work to expand the viewing of their work