By Caroline Thirkill
Let’s start off by saying this: the internet is one of the most important resources in a modern person’s life – even if someone personally uses it only for a few things, such as email, Twitter, or Facebook. The simple fact is almost every business in today’s economy lives and dies on the internet – websites, online shopping, online banking – all of this happens online. So what happens when Big Businesses are given almost unlimited control over what we can access on the internet? This is the power of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Many U.S. Citizens have not really been paying attention to this issue, thinking that it is only important for, as the Congress itself has said: “Nerds”. The truth is, SOPA and PIPA effects everyone of us. Many music fans today like to stream their music before they buy it, but if you stream more than 10 songs under these bills, you can go to jail for 5 years. If you upload a video to YouTube of yourself singing and doing the Single Ladies dance, you can go to jail. Any website that shows free videos of sports games, tv shows, music videos, or any other copyrighted material can be made inaccessible through a search engine like Yahoo! Or Google, or by typing in the website address. Here is a link to a video of John Stewart explaining the absolute stupidity of the people who support SOPA/PIPA.
Oops, under these bills, our website could get hidden from public access because I “facilitated” the streaming of illegal content. These bills mean no more YouTube, no more PirateBay, and we have already said goodbye to both Megavideo and Megaupload. IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT YOUTUBE? No more funny cat videos, no more double rainbow, and (for those of you who care) there would be no Justin Beiber –he was originally discovered on YouTube. Some of the richest and most important businesses in America today, such as Google itself, would never have been able to start up if these bills had been passed years earlier.
I cannot even express how important it is that these bills and others similar to them be stopped. While many people claim that they have been shot down, they will soon rise again under a different name. An example of this is ACTA, basically the European version of SOPA and PIPA. They affect everyone, not just people who illegally upload material. There is so much more to these bills than can be explained in layman terms, previously unimaginable acts of censorship that will spread internationally. While this is only a single part of the huge copyright debate that has spanned the last two decades, it is the most virulent threat to our personal liberties yet.
As ordinary citizens, there is not much we can do to speak out against these acts of censorship and violation, but a little bit of internet research can bring a lot of ideas. Many people have been emailing or calling their local representatives, and urging them to vote against this. Another way is by signing an anti-ACTA petition such as this one.
This is something that everyone in America should care about, should be passionate about. It is an infringement upon our most basic constitutional rights. Stand up and add your voice to the thousands of others who refuse to let our government take away our civil rights!
Caroline is a sophomore at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author
Image courtesy of knownyourmeme.com