SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act. Normally, neither I nor any other blogger would bother elaborating much further because it’s easier to hyperlink to a Wikipedia article that would give you the gist. That’s the beauty of the free dissemination of information made possible by the Internet. However, today, Wikipedia and a growing contingent of other sites including Google, Reddit, Mashable, Mozilla, Etsy, Wired and others are fighting back by blacking out their sites for the day in protest against SOPA.
Why would they do this? Because although SOPA and PIPA (Protect Internet Protocol Act
) may have been written initially to stop online piracy of music and films, the way that the legislation is written would allow for the government to shut down any websites that contain or even link to other sites that contain any pirated material without due process. As the Oatmeal
puts it, “This is like dealing with a lion that has escaped from the zoo by blasting some kittens with a flamethrower.” That’s not far off, either. Technically, Justin Bieber’s rise to fame on YouTube could have shut down the entire site just because he was singing his favorite songs that were the intellectual property of record companies. You may not like Justin Bieber, but you probably don’t think that YouTube should have to shut its doors because of a little kid with a great voice and a silly haircut!
In response to these bills, sites across the Internet have been shutting themselves down in an effort to make a statement that although piracy may be bad, SOPA and PIPA would be worse.
Everyone should be able to agree that stealing is wrong. However, that does not mean that this makes SOPA or PIPA worth voting for. The punishment should fit the crime and, more importantly, the solution should do less harm to society than the problem. In my opinion, any measure taken to stop a problem that invokes the circumvention of due process falls into that category of doing more harm than good. If we can “put up with” due process for murderers and rapists, I cannot understand why we wouldn’t extend it to kids who just didn’t want to pay $14.99 for Watch the Throne.
Of course, if you’re a suspected terrorist–i.e. not a terrorist, necessarily, but a suspected
terrorist–the National Defense Authorization Act
(NDAA) has already done away with your due process as of earlier this year.
The reason that the Bill of Rights was written and then later extended to the states in the 14th Amendment was because those rights (free speech, freedom of religion, due process, freedom of assembly**, etc.) were supposed to be inalienable for all people. With the NDAA, we’ve already passed one bill that would allow indefinite detention of American citizens without due process; I hope that we won’t make denying our constitutional rights the new national pastime here in the USA. Piracy is bad but Orwellian censorship and consolidated government oversight are worse, inexcusable and thoroughly un-American.
**In my opinion, the liberal use of force in quelling the “Occupy” protests showed that freedom of assembly is also severely under attack.