If you happened to be browsing the web on January 28th you may have noticed that some popular websites like Wikipedia and Reddit were missing in action, protesting two bills currently in the United States House and Senate. The bills are SOPA "Stop Online Piracy Act" and PIPA "Protect IP Act."
At first glance these bills seem like they would be positive for the Internet, certainly most people would agree that piracy is wrong. The devil is in the details of how this bill would be enforced. They wouldn't just step up the penalty for online piracy, they would actually shut down any website suspected of linking to any other website that contains pirated materials or content that is in violation of a copyright infringement. It would be up to website owners and developers to constantly monitor the links and user generated content on the site, which would be very costly from a time and monetary standpoint. If accused of being in violation, small businesses and individuals would likely be unable to defend themselves. It would just cost too much. This would yet again play into the hands of large corporations with unlimited resources.
Consider The Following Scenario:
Someone posts a comment to this article on PriorityLearningResearch.com with a link to a site that somewhere deep in it's pages has pirated materials or content that in violation of a copyright infringement which would be very hard to prevent as most websites make changes on a daily basis. If SOPA or PIPA were passed, Priority Learning could be found to be breaking the law and their website could be shut down indefinitely. From what I can gather there would not be a "please remove this from your website warning", the website would simply be pulled regardless of whether or not the law was actually broken or the irreparable damage it would cause the business.
Another thing I'm concerned about is the fact that there are often many different websites located on a single IP. If one website is found to be in violation, all the others located on the same IP could become collateral damage.
Certainly more could be done to prevent online piracy, but turning the Internet in America to more closely resemble that of the strictly monitored networks of Iran and China is not the answer. These bills not only violate our first Amendment rights they could take the Internet we all know and love and change it to a place that is much less expressive and informative.
What do I Do If I Want To Help Stop SOPA and PIPA:
Sometimes we forget that we as consumers actually have a lot of power. There is definitely a lot of money being passed around trying to get this legislation passed, however, legislators will not pass a bill that makes them or their party unpopular in the eyes of millions of American voters. Public outcry does work! A great example is this past year when banks tried to raise debit card fees.
Contact Your Senators:
Olympia Snowe: http://snowe.senate.gov
Susan Colins: http://collins.senate.gov
Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions