By now, you’ve most likely heard about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and how it is “the end of the Internet,” and you may have even signed a petition against it on the Internet.
But what is SOPA? And why do people think it is going to end the Internet?
SOPA’s creator is Republican Texas Congressman Lamar Smith. Its goal, as shown by the title, is to stop online piracy, which means stopping people from downloading free music and movies via the Internet. Websites like the Pirate Bay are the main target of the bill.
This motive is, of course, a good one. I feel that I am pretty eye-patch free (meaning I don’t pirate). However, the very obvious problem is the way the bill is written, probably due to the fact that the people who wrote it most likely have little knowledge of how the internet works.
First of all, under SOPA, copyright infringement would be a felony. For example, if a user posts a song on YouTube, and it’s a song that costs about a dollar, after 2,500 views, according to SOPA, that user can be charged as a felon.
Second, SOPA states if an Attorney General believes a website is offending the bill, it is liable to be shut down. Four things come from this:
One: all Internet providers will be required to deny access to the website.
Two: search engines like Google will no longer be able to provide a link to the website. So, if the attorney general targets The Pirate Bay, and you searched “The Pirate Bay” on Google, it wouldn’t show up.
Three: payment providers like PayPal would be required to cut funds to the website.
Four: advertising agencies will be required to stop providing their service.
Because of the vagueness of the bill’s writing, a lot of websites could be taken down- even those which aren’t technically stealing media. But how can the Attorney General decide what websites need to be shut down?
Aside from websites that only provide copyrighted material, any website that allows users to post copyrighted material is at risk. A website that simply has comments on it is at risk, because someone could post a video of last night’s Jersey Shore fight as a comment. That website would then be an offending website.
All of this is scary. While not everyone uses Facebook or YouTube on a day-to-day basis, many people do.
It’s no question that this is a big deal, and on Jan. 18, several websites (including Wikipedia and Reddit) “blacked out” in an attempt to show how horrible it would be if SOPA were to pass. The health and creativity of the Internet could be destroyed.
And these aren’t the only websites that have publicly opposed SOPA. AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, The Huffington Post and I Can Has Cheeseburger, among many, many others, have come out about their opposition.
Now, while I obviously oppose these side effects, I’m not one to state a problem but not give a solution. However, a solution has already been made.
Services like Netflix and Spotify fight piracy simply by offering their various streaming services. As a user of both services, I completely recommend them, and believe that the best opposition to pirating is more similar services.
The more legal solutions like Netflix that come out, the better they will be; with competition comes improvement.
So, to Lamar Smith and SOPA: I appreciate the effort. The bill has been shelved for now, but Congress will renew discussion in late February, where SOPA will be proposed as the solution to the problem of Internet piracy. But, unfortunately, the real solution is in plain sight.
And once more people realize that, we may see the end to the peg-legged bandits after all.
Without killing the Internet.
Brandon Mauriello / News Editor