Why the Internet is still protesting SOPA and PIPA

With as much support as protestors have gained it seems like anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA forces would have won by now. Over the weekend the House decided to temporarily shelve the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Senate agreed to review the most controversial parts of the Protect IP Act. Protestors of these bills are still fighting, though, for several good reasons. One of the most controversial issues of the bills is the Domain Name System. Under this measure, blocked sites would still exist; they would just be very difficult to access by U.S. browsers. Critics believe that the neutral environment of the internet would be destroyed by this measure. A big reason that protestors are still fighting is that this provision has not been abandoned, just taken off the table for more study. It is still very possible that these bills could come back with a vengeance.

Even without the DNS blocking, SOPA and PIPA would impinge on free speech because they don’t just target sites that are involved in copyright infringement, but also sites that discuss how to access said blocked sites. They could even outlaw tools activists use to get around internet censorship in Iran and China. Under SOPA and PIPA, sites that YouTube and Facebook would be required to spend time and resources policing their own sites for infringing material. Though this may be like nothing for massive companies like those, smaller startup companies could easily be pulled under from such a burden.

SOPA and PIPA also allow sites to be taken down with no legal oversight. These bills would grant internet service providers immunity if the voluntarily block users or web sites from the internet. Copyright holders would be allowed to pressure internet providers to take action against any site they didn’t like. As long as providers claim they were acting “in good faith,” sites that copyright holders don’t like could be blocked without any oversight by the courts.

I simply don’t understand what the SOPA and PIPA bills are even trying to solve. Copyright holders already have the power to take down offending material. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright holders like record and movie industries already have legal authority to force sites to remove infringing material through established notice-and-takedown procedures. I believe that this bill is giving far too much power to people who could very easily misuse it. To be able to force sites to be taken down with no input from the justice system is definitely a violation of free speech and takes away my American rights.

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  • shinnsm  On January 20, 2012 at 1:41 am

    Agreed; this proposed legislation has some good intentions but there is too much potential for major negative consequences. There’s nothing wrong with stopping piracy, but putting the responsibility on sites to police what every user posts would severely damage how the Internet currently functions. Just the fact that the government would be able to block a site so that someone in another country could view it but Americans couldn’t should make you sick to your stomach. The current process works–the copyright holders can notify a site to remove the content or pursue legal action if they choose. Our country is facing some major issues, and these are the bills which receive bipartisan support? That should tell you whose interests Congress really has in mind, and it’s not the American people’s.

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