Editorial: SOPA harmful to web users, social media

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

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Imagine a world without Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit or Twitter. This world could quickly become a reality if one of two bills that are making their way through Congress right now passes.

The bills we are referring to are the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (S. 968), colloquially known as SOPA and PIPA.

What is the goal of the Stop Online Piracy Act? Its goal is precisely what the name of the bill suggests — stopping Internet piracy. Yet at the same time, SOPA is capable of censoring some of your favorite websites, including Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube. It is no secret that these sites inadvertently contain some form of copyright infringement, whether it be in the form of a screencap from a movie or a parody of a music video.

Currently, a website can claim that it is unaware of copyright content on their site and it is only required to remove the content by request of the content creator. What SOPA will do is extend the power of the content creator who doesn’t want their content on a certain website. By request of the content creator, the government will now be able to take down the website, blocking it to all U.S. Internet users. The owners of the website would have to go to the government to appeal the block in order to get their website back.

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Here’s an example: Say Voice uploads a parody video of Ke$ha. Ke$ha’s manager can then say “I don’t like this video on this website, I own the copyright,” and ask to have Voice taken down. Voice would then be blocked to Internet users by means of DNS blocking. The only way to get Voice back would be to send an appeal in to the government.

PIPA, or Protect IP Act, is similar to SOPA, with some minor differences. It allows the copyright owner to request a the website to be blocked from all other sites that would normally link it — meaning that the site wouldn’t come up on Google and you couldn’t access it through a link on another website. In some cases PIPA would allow a website to be taken down without the option for the website to defend themselves in court.

The staff of The Paly Voice believes that passing SOPA and PIPA would be an enormous mistake. The pirates would live on, yet the true victims of the law would be everyday web users. While we realize that California is home to industries that claim they will benefit from the legislation, such as Hollywood and many record labels, the bills will destroy entrepreneurship and existing companies in Silicon Valley. We urge our community, as well as California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, to join Representative Anna Eshoo of California’s District 14 in opposing these two bills. While it could be seen as a commendable step to stopping piracy, The Paly Voice believes that neither SOPA nor PIPA will achieve the goal of stopping piracy but rather open large portions of online content to arbitrary removal.

If you are interested in actively opposing SOPA, The Paly Voice urges you to head over to stopcensorship.org to further educate yourself and take action. Furthermore, if you would like to be even more effective in protesting this legislation, email senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein expressing your concerns over SOPA, and encourage them to vote the bill down.

Recently, the White House addressed a petition asking for their stance on SOPA and PIPA. In their response, the White House came out against SOPA and PIPA, stating: “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative, global Internet”. The Paly Voice urges you to take action against these two pieces of legislation and let our Congress know your disaproval nevertheless.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that SOPA authorized the government to censor a website by means of DDoS. However, a previous version of the bill did authorize the government to use DNS blocking to take down a website; the bill was later revised so that this would not be possible.