Recently, many US citizens became aware of the controversial bills SOPA and PIPA through online protests by sites like Wikipedia and Reddit. In response an internet-wide uproar, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have given the government more tools to combat intellectual piracy but to also stifle freedom of expression, has been removed from the floor.
Although lawmakers have abandoned the controversial SOPA and PIPA bills, that doesn’t mean the fight is over. We must not forget that the majority of the protests to the SOPA and PIPA bills were conducted online, which is the very forum that would have been muffled if these bills had passed.
Without the internet, how many of us would have known about these society-altering bills? My guess is not many.
Now that we know that bills like SOPA and PIPA are in existence and that lawmakers have these liberty-crushing ideas in mind, we must keep an ever-vigilant eye out for legislation that would cripple not only our individual rights but our country’s sovereignty as well.
What are SOPA and PIPA, and where did they come from?
The Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. US Representative Lamar Smith (R) of Texas’ 21st congressional district, which includes the majority of Austin and San Antonio, penned the SOPA act in an attempt to continue his fight against the misuses of the internet. Smith also penned the Protecting Children from Internet Predators (PCIP) Act, which passed in the summer of 2011.
The Protect IP Act is a proposed law that gives the US government all but free reign to decrease the presence of sites that promote copyright infringement as well as the sale of counterfeit goods. File sharing sites like MegaUpload.com have already been ceased by the government on suspicion of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, among other things.
Opponents of SOPA, which include Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Mozilla and eBay, point out that “deep packet inspection” would have involved privacy-invading analysis of user information. It would also affect the location of IP servers and may cause a large shift of US internet domain service providers to move their operations offshore. These are just a couple of flaws in the long list of kinks in the SOPA and PIPA bills.
It’s also ironic to note that the majority of the content that SOPA and PIPA intended to target was largely entertainment in value and purpose, while leaving underground online cyber systems like BitCoin and Silk Road off its radar.
Fightin’ the Man
There are many different things you can do to protest the SOPA and PIPA initiatives and any other censorship bills that the government proposes. As of now, there are many websites that offer free banners that you can put on your website, if you have one, that directly protest these proposals.
You can also use old-fashioned paper by writing your congressmen as well as state senators. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and give them a piece of your mind, either. For those of you who don’t know (but should), your congressman is Lloyd Dogget and your US Sentaor is Kirk Watson.