By: Justin Goldberg
A bill that raises questions about the future of the internet is racing through Congress; the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The bill is intended to eliminate piracy of music and movies on the internet, essentially putting a stop to copyright infringement. Since piracy, which is of course, illegal, is still so prevalent on the internet, it seems appropriate for more regulations to be put in place. The manner in which SOPA would deal with stopping piracy, however, is what is drawing concern from millions of internet users.
Websites found to be in violation of copyright laws face the possibility of being blacklisted and having any sources of revenue cut off. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Congress to avoid using the word “censorship,” seeing as according to SOPA, a violation could lead to a website disappearing from all web searches and possibly having all access for internet users blocked. At the same time, websites that obtain revenue through services like PayPal could have their funds cut off at a moment’s notice, essentially stopping businesses in their tracks. Any websites that promote user-generated content, as many currently do, are at high-risk of being punished because they are responsible for any links posted by users that violate copyright laws. Websites are also liable for links sent through e-mail. This is bad news for e-mail services because of the lack of control they have over their users.
Big-name websites recognizing the immensity of SOPA, including Google, Facebook, eBay, and others, are publically denouncing the bill, stating in a joint letter to Congress printed in the New York Times, “We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.”
SOPA is nearing a vote in Congress and seems to have a very good chance of being passed. If you would like to speak out against SOPA, you can sign a petition on the official White House website at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petition/stop-e-parasite-act/SWBYXX55 , or contact a local representative. Information on how to contact a representative can be found easily at http://www.contactingthecongress.org/.