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Stop Online Piracy Act

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Jacob Andrews

News editor

The internet black-out may have gotten the attention needed to educate those about SOPA.

On Wednesday, several popular internet sites “went dark” as a form of protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Acts. One of the leading search engines, Google did not participate in a site shutdown but instead created a link to an online petition as part of the protest.

Approximately 6.3 million U.S. citizens have signed a petition of some form that protest the passing of the bills, 4.5 million have written their congressman through Google’s online petition. This shocking amount of resistance to SOPA and PIPA has gained the attention of Congress. 18 representatives have already changed their stance on the bill.

Seven of the 18 Congressional members who renounced their opinions were co-sponsors of the SOPA legislation. Advocates of the bill are large Hollywood production companies like Time Warner, which have lost money because of bootlegged material.

The legislation is an attempt to prevent websites that harbor copyrighted material. Unfortunately most of these websites are based outside the U.S., such as PirateBay.org, a popular torrent engine which is located in Sweden. An issue with the bill that affects search engines like Google and Wikipedia is that these websites will be held accountable for filtering out the sites known for ‘bootlegged’ material.

The bill has been a hot topic on RC’s campus, and has not seen hardly any support from students.

“I think that [the bill] goes against the first amendment and could add to the slippery slope of taking away more of citizens’ freedoms,” said Andrew Soares ’12.

“I think it’s a poorly planned attempt to try to protect the American public.  I say poorly planned because the consequencesw were not fully thought out, rendering the government susceptible to counter attacks from anyone wishing to label the government as communist or socialist.  No matter what the reasons really are or were, they have created a situation of danger for themselves, by trying to deny constitutional rights to the public.  That is how I see it based on the facts I know,” Nikolas Kuzmanoff ’14.

Many websites have encountered problems with copyright infringements. YouTube has created an ideal process that allows all videos to be uploaded. If a video seems to infringe copyrights then it is flagged and the staff can then investigate whether the rights have been violated. If the video is in violation then YouTube is legally obligated to remove the video within a designated period of time.

“I think the idea of [SOPA] is great. Copyright laws do need to be better enforced and intellectual property does need to be protected,” said Meagan Thompson ’12.  “But the way SOPA and PIPA would do this would be to, essentially, censor a lot of information and material that does not infringe on any laws.”

If SOPA or PIPA is passed, the inverse process will occur, each link will have to undergo a process to clear that the material contained is not in violation of any copy-rights before it can be published on a website.

“I think they have a good basis, but they need to go through a major revision. Right now they stand to fundamentally change what the web is used for,” said Elyse Teeney ’13.

This will it cause a major restructure in these web-based companies and put strain on traditionally open source sites.

The bill goes to the senate and will be voted on January 24.