Whee. Here is my research paper I did for English.
SOPA/PIPA vs. the Internet
The Internet can be a wonderful place to store and share music online. You can receive information, download music, read about your favorite celebrities, and do all kinds of various activities. It has become a literally free place to post anything you want really. But did you know that we almost had that freedom taken away from us? This is the story of two bills that would have taken us a step back in (the) growth of human civilization. The bills are SOPA and PIPA.
First of all, what are SOPA and PIPA? They seem like harmless names for bills. Well, SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PIPA stands for PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA) (Wikipedia.com). These were laws, SOPA, proposed by the House, and PIPA, originated in the Senate, that to enact legislation that would have ceased all copyrighted material and would have made all browsers monitor what websites you could go on. SOPA was introduced to Congress by our U.S. Representative Lamar Smith in October of 2011. His intent was to create and expand the U.S. law enforcement to fight off the online trafficking of copyrighted materials and counterfeit goods. (Wikipedia.com). This may have seemed like a harmless idea, maybe even a good one that would have reduce the amount of online piracy, but there is a huge downside to SOPA. One that caused sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, Mojang, and other smaller websites to issue a service blackout all at once to protest and raise awareness. Here is an excerpt from the Huffington Post: “The legislation would allow copyright holders and the Justice Department to seek court orders against websites associated with copyright infringement. SOPA, the House version, applies to both domestic and foreign websites, while PIPA targets foreign websites. If that court order is granted, the entire website would be taken down. Internet users who typed in the site's URL address would receive an error message, and for all appearances, the site would never have existed. Importantly, the court does not need to hear a defense from the actual website before issuing its ruling. The entire website can be condemned without a trial or even a traditional court hearing.” (Huffingtonpost.com).
This excerpt means that if the copyright holders found something, that was theirs or a website with copyrighted material, they could issue a court order to take the website down. Not just the copyrighted material would have to be removed, but the whole website would have to be taken down. The website owners would not even be able to speak out against this court order nor would they be given a trial to prove the charges. Even a disclaimer stating Rights Reserved would not make them exempt from the law be able to hold even a regular trial. This is one reason why the bill was flawed. Another reason was pointed out in Wikipedia: “The second section covers penalties for streaming video and for selling counterfeit drugs, military materials, or consumer goods. The bill would increase penalties and expand copyright offenses to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content and other intellectual-property offenses. The bill would criminalize unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months.” (Wikipedia.com). Basically, you would have the same charges against you for streaming “Over the Hedge” online as you would for selling narcotics on a website. It would have made no difference. If this bill was put into action, we would be sentenced to five years in prison for simply putting up a snippet of a movie on a website such as Youtube. Even though SOPA is specifically for American-made website, PIPA on the other hand was made for oversea websites to limit and remove copyright infringing website. So this would not have only affected America but the entire world.
Mentioning PIPA, this bill was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy in May of 2011, months earlier. PIPA’s intent was that of SOPA’s in that it was suppose to reinforce the law on copyright infringing websites. But as I stated above, this bill was made for oversea and foreign websites, the kind that you would see with foreign lettering and odd and usually distasteful content. This bill was also a rewrite of COICA, or Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Goods, which failed to pass in 2010 (Wikipedia.com). Though being like SOPA, the bill was also going to block DNSes, or Domain Name System which is basically the Internet’s virtual phone book. It lists all the names of every website that has been ever made, and if either SOPA or PIPA were passed into law, then “rogue” websites that published copy-righted materials would have their domain names taken off. It would have made it so that the site did not exist in the first place. The following excerpt from Wikipedia states: “Non-authoritative domain name servers would be ordered to take technically feasible and reasonable steps to prevent the domain name from resolving to the IP address of a website that had been found by the court to be "dedicated to infringing activities." The website could still be reached by its IP address, but links or users that used the website’s domain name would not reach it. Search engines, such as Google, would be ordered to "remove or disable access to the Internet site associated with the domain name set forth in the [court] order; or not serve a hypertext link to such Internet site." Basically you would not be able to directly access a website that even had the smallest amount of “copyright infringing” material if the website was ordered by the court to be removed. This is similar to the above SOPA bill, and in fact the two bills are nearly identical, except PIPA goes overseas.
Now, you wonder, “Who could support these bills?” Well, a lot of companies actually. Namely Viacom, Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Entertainment Software Association, Macmillan US, and other companies and unions in the cable, movie, and music industries. Supporters also include trademark-dependent companies such as Nike, L'Oréal, and Acushnet Company. These companies rely on copyright, so they gave the legislation huge support (Wikipedia.com). Other organizations included the website builder Go Daddy until it stopped its support, stating that “if the rest of the Internet doesn’t support the bill then neither should it”, NBCUniversal, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Revlon, NBA, Fightonlinetheft.com, a website of The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, a project of the United States Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center, cites a long list of supporters including these and the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Better Business Bureau, and the National Consumers League (Wikipedia.com). They praised the bills, saying that it could cut down on the amount of pirating websites.
However, not surprising, with supporters comes opposition of these bills. Opponents include Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, eBay, Mojang, Roblox, Riot Games, Epic Games, Reddit, LinkedIn, the Mozilla Corporation, Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, in addition to human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch (Wikipedia.com). These search engines, websites, and organizations openly oppose the bills, with Wikipedia and Mojang even shutting down their sites in protest. Twenty-one artists even wrote an open letter to Congress, warning them to use extreme caution when putting out these bills. The artists include Comedian Aziz Anari, The Lonely Island music parody band, MGMT, OK Go, Jason Mraz, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The letter states that, “As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works… We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services - artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result." (Wikipedia.com). Other opponents of these bills include Michael Moore who also shut down his websites during the protest week, and other celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Alec Baldwin, and rapper B.o.B. Even Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Comedy Central stated that “if the law (SOPA) did pass then the Internet would break.” But they are not the only ones who protested against the bills.
In November 2011, Tumblr, Mozilla, Techdirt, the Center for Democracy and Technology were among many Internet companies that protested by participating in American Censorship Day. They displayed black banners over their site logos with the words "STOP CENSORSHIP". Google linked an online petition to its site, and says it collected more than 7 million signatures from the United States alone. In January 2012, Reddit announced plans to black out its site for twelve hours on January 18, as company co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced he was going to testify before Congress. "He's of the firm position that SOPA could potentially 'obliterate' the entire tech industry" as Paul Tassi wrote in Forbes. Tassi also stated that Google and Facebook would have to join the blackout to reach a sufficiently broad audience. Other prominent sites that planned to participate in the blackout were Cheezburger Sites, Mojang, Major League Gaming, and The Oatmeal. Wider protests were considered and in some cases committed to by major internet sites, with big name sites, search engines, and social sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon, Reddit, Mozilla, IAC, eBay, PayPal, Wordpress and Wikimedia being widely named as "considering" or committed to an "unprecedented" internet blackout in January of 2012. A Republican aide on Capitol Hill said that the protests were making their mark, with SOPA having already become a “dirty word beyond anything you can imagine" (Wikipedia.com).
The “hackactivist” group, known only as Anonymous, also took a stand against the bills. Anonymous originated from 4chan and have been known to give controversial, widely publicized protests, distributed denial of service, or DDoS, and website defacement attacks. During the time between SOPA/PIPA’s introductions to the protest week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice had shut down Megaupload, a file-sharing website. In the hours following the shutdown, Anonymous hackers took down the sites of the DOJ and FBI, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and Broadcast Music, Inc. using distributed denial-of-service attacks. Barret Brown, a said spokeperson for the group Anonymous, has stated that this was the single, largest attack that Anonymous has ever done in their history. With the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act protests only a day old, Brown stated that internet users were "by-and-far ready to defend an open Internet." (Wikipedia.com). Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down government websites in April 2012 in the UK in protest against government extradition and its surveillance policies. A message was left on Twitter saying it was "for your draconian surveillance proposals."
Although these actions received support, some commentators argued that the denial of service attack risked damaging the anti-SOPA case. CNET’s Molly Wood stated that "if the SOPA/PIPA protests were the Web's moment of inspiring, non-violent, hand-holding civil disobedience, #OpMegaUpload feels like the unsettling wave of car-burning hooligans that sweep in and incite the riot portion of the play.” Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle concurred, stating that "Anonymous' actions hurt the movement to kill SOPA/PIPA by highlighting online lawlessness.” The Oxford Internet Institute's Joss Wright wrote that "In one sense the actions of Anonymous are themselves, anonymously and unaccountably, censoring websites in response to positions with which they disagree." (Wikipedia.com) Continuous DDoS’ing and hacking attacks by Anonymous seems to be largely a response to proposals to strengthen intellectual property law at the expense of an open internet and to what Anonymous perceives to be overreaching of the power by various governments.
These bills violated the Constitution in that it first violates the freedom of speech. If these bills were really put into place, then these talented artists, and bloggers, and file sharers would not be able to seen or heard freely. The websites that would contain these “copyrighted materials” would be blocked and therefore could not be accessed normally. Everything is almost controlled by the Internet now-a-days and if they were going to take that freedom away, then we would have taken a huge step back from technological advancement. Thankfully both bills were taken down and had the drafting of the bills postponed in late January of 2012.
That said, I am sure the issue will rise up again. Hopefully our government has learned from its mistakes and will not introduce laws so far reaching, but find a way to ensure copyright laws without taking our online freedoms away.