No, that’s not true at all. However, many of our favorite websites may soon fall prey to government censorship if Congress passes two anti-piracy bills known as “SOPA” and “PIPA.” If this is first time you’ve laid eyes on these acronyms, then welcome to the Internet.
What are SOPA and PIPA, you ask? Unfortunately, they are not Spanish soap opera characters, but rather the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act.” In the simplest terms, these two bills would essentially give the government and all original copyright owners the power to limit our access to any website that may contain counterfeit, pirated or stolen material.
On Wednesday, Wikipedia (among several other sites) was blacked out for 24 hours in protest of SOPA and PIPA. The beloved, free encyclopedia has only been around for 11 years, yet a majority of the public had more than a few choice words immediately following this temporary shutdown. Angry and uninformed rants surfaced over Twitter, Facebook and other popular social networking sites. In acknowledgement, The LA Times stated, “The shutdown … and ensuing anxiety underscored the breadth and influence of the world’s Internet companies, as well as Americans’ dependence on them.” Somewhat sad, but absolutely true.
You most likely devote some portion of time to the Internet these days — whether it be researching a topic for the all-important history essay, streaming Netflix or mindlessly perusing Barstool Sports while on the clock. What’s that? Still refusing to own up to your passion for browsing? Well, to those who make more efficient use of their time — perhaps you operate an Internet startup, much like the hundreds and thousands of other small business owners across the globe? Either way, the proposed legislation has the potential to greatly affect our daily lives.
Here’s what could happen:
Companies Shut Down
Similar to China, any website that hosts links to other pages or runs on user-submitted content would potentially be shut down.
Many Internet companies would go bankrupt, since it will be easier to sue a new start-up that may not be properly monitoring user-generated content for copyright infringement. (I thought UK lawyer John Bain provided the perfect analogy for this situation: “An analogy is suing Toyota for the fact that some guy ran into your car with his Toyota car.”)
The new laws will bring messy court cases and litigation for MANY companies, in turn causing JOB LOSS in huge numbers.
Lack of Web Innovation
The entrepreneurs behind the next YouTube, Facebook or Twitter will find launching their site nearly impossible with SOPA in effect, stifling innovation and new ideas. As I write this, a webpage I have up recommends- “6 Startups to Watch in 2012” at the bottom. SOPA and PIPA would effectively prevent these new projects and creative endeavors from developing.
Investors Back Out
Investors would think twice about investing in a web company that is bound by so many laws and regulations, thus making it vulnerable. This, again prevents competition and the flourishing of new businesses.
Foreign websites pirating film, music and television shows will be shut down. However, there are ways of creating new URLs and maintaining the site, which would render this action ineffective.
These two anti-piracy bills would affect not only the individual, but also business, education and some believe the ability to expand our knowledge and creativity.
Let’s face it: Most of us do not want the liberties we currently enjoy to be taken from us. If you would like to sign Google’s petition against SOPA and PIPA, click here. 4.5 million signed on Wednesday, January 18th alone.
Congress will begin voting on SOPA and PIPA January 24th, 2012.
UPDATE (1/24/12): Both the Senate and House have postponed their votes for PIPA and SOPA, respectively, until further notice. The votes were initially schedule for today, January 24th, 2012.