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February 1, 2012

SOPA Makes Big Waves

by The Centinal

By Hannah Ritchey – Editor-In-Chief

If you tried to access this site January 18, 2012 then you know that all you could see were a lot of black lines. This was due to the “blackout” that WordPress and other sites such as TwitPic (a portal used to upload pictures to Twitter) and Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia) participated in. This blackout was an online strike protesting the proposed bills SOPA and PIPA.

SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill entails a lot of good policies, but it also grants the government a lot of power that could be used for negative purposes. Since the internet is such a massive system, it poses a lot of problems when trying to govern it; especially because as long as its been around no one has tried to do so. However, the attempt that SOPA is making to govern it seems to be stepping on a lot of people’s toes and even some of their rights.

SOPA allows the government to blacklist virtually any site they want. While the bill states this law would be passed to stop online piracy there is no way to pinpoint exactly what sites should be allowed to be blacklisted or not. The only way for the government to have this power over these sites is for them to have power over every single site. This is where most people’s problem start with the bill along with the fact that it is a violation of the first amendment.

In all honestly, it is human nature for people to want things for free. When asked, “Would you rather pay for this movie or watch it for free?”, most Americans would rather watch it for free; and a lot of them do – through illegal movie-pirating sites. SOPA’s main purpose would be to stop this from happening so often and the main people in favor of SOPA are the people that are largely affected by these actions -movie studios and record labels.

While understandable that these companies do not want people stealing what they put a lot of time and money into, SOPA may be too big of a step in the right direction. In order for a law like this to make sense in America, where people take pride in their freedom of speech and expression, there will mostly likely need to be many modifications made. It is simply unconstitutional to grant the government so much control on something like the Internet.

An article by Brian Barrett points out that the scariest part about SOPA is that major companies such as Discover or YouTube don’t even need a letter from the government to shut off a sites resources. Once they suspect someone of violating copyrights, and notify the MPAA, the site is blacklisted without a single check or appearance in court. While its best to look at the good side of everyone, who’s to say YouTube won’t “suspect” someone of violating copyrights who really isn’t violating copyrights at all. Under SOPA YouTube could list a site they feel threatened by as a “potential offender” and they would be blacklisted. All without any government notification, “This hardly seems fair, the internet has always been a place of freedom and this allows for potential monopoly by big corporations” Centennial alumna Arjun Yelamanchili points out.

Because of the massive uproar SOPA has caused they are currently looking to revise it in hopes of making voting go a little smoother.

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