In college, one of the first things we learn is how to properly cite sources. Plagiarism (copying someone else’s work and claiming it as your own) can result in expulsion, not just embarrassment.
However, the expansion and pervasiveness of the internet has made sharing information easier than ever before. The instant ability to copy and paste has made simple the act of separating a work from it’s author. It can be hard if not impossible to find the true source of a picture, movie, quote etc. In an effort to stop piracy, two bills – SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectial Property Act) – were created.
SOPA, a bill currently in the House of Representatives, builds on PIPA, a similar bill in the Senate. If each bill is passed, then they will be combined into one law.The idea behind these bills is to stop foreign-based sites from selling pirated music and movies. US federal law has the authority to shut down sites that do this, but they don’t directly have the authority to shut down foreign sites. While many may support putting a stop to pirated content, this bill is causing an uproar since the broad language in the bill is causing an uproar. Opponents of the legislation worry that sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Wikipedia can be shut down since they rely heavily on user uploaded content, which is sometimes unknowingly pirated. You can read more at this Q&A about what SOPA is and why it matters.
As seen in this article by Julianne Pepitone, supporters of the bill include Time Warner and the Motion Picture Association of America. They argue that piracy leads to job loss in the United States because content creators are deprived of income. You can read even more about the argument here.
In November, popular sites such as Google, Twitter and eBay took out a full page ad in the New York Times protesting SOPA. You may be asking, “Isn’t pirated material illegal already?” and the answer is yes. I’m sure we have all searched for a song or video clip on YouTube only to find a “takedown notice”, but currently this DMCA warning doesn’t apply to foreign sites.
The main problem with SOPA is that it can potentially hold website operators responsible for user uploaded content. If these bills are passed, YouTube would go dark immediately. Who wants to live in a world without an auto-tuned version of Charlie Bit My Finger?
Blacking out Wikipedia for the day won’t stop the bill immediately but it has drawn attention to the issue, so while nothing has happened yet, it is likely that these bills will continue to be amended.
So readers, where do you stand with SOPA and PIPA? Are you for or against this bill? Share in the comments below!
Image from Amazon