Last week proved to be a big one in the world of copyright and intellectual property. The major story being SOPA, the Stop Online Pirating Act. The act was attempting to expand the powers of law enforcement to fight intellectual property infringement and counterfeited goods produced in foreign markets. Here’s a rundown of the situation in this week’s Weekend Round-Up.
SOPA: The Stop Online Pirating Act
First of all, SOPA is actually two bills, SOPA and PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act. Both are aiming to fight IP and copyright infringement taking place abroad which is accessible to Americans through the Internet. Some of the notable provisions of the act are the ability to court order a business/website from (a) conducting business and advertising with infringing sites, (b) preventing search engines from linking to infringing sites (c) and order internet providers to block the sites to their users.
Other things, such as internet streaming of unauthorized copyright material would also be considered illegal under the act, imposing penalties of up to 5 years in federal prison. Big businesses, particularly in the entertainment industry, are pushing for this bill, telling us in sponsored ads, that without it, American’s are “losing jobs” and relinquishing the products of their hard work to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.
Yeah, OK. Clearly, I’m of the mind that SOPA isn’t going to help me keep a job, but rather be the trigger of a massive censorship movement, violating my First Amendment rights.
Not-so-little People Fighting Back
Many people were alarmed by the SOPA bill, and stepped up to show lawmakers, and anyone else watching, just how they felt about the subject. On January 18-19th, many blogs and websites, visibly showed their dissent by featuring “stop SOPA” banners or completely blacking out their sites. Websites such as Tumblr, Mozilla, Tech Dirt, Google, our own site Altavoz and most notably, Wikipedia, all participated in using their sites to get the word out by altering their homepages and linking to more information about why SOPA is bad.
On January 19th, the file sharing site Megaupload, based out of New Zealand, was shut down by the Department of Justice, causing an anonymous Internet hacker group to declare the “single largest Internet attack in its history” on the Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, the RIAA, and the FBI. The hacker group forced their target’s web properties offline, with some of those sites still being down as recently as Sunday.
What’s happening now?
The protests seem to have done their job. SOPA is now on hold indefinitely, with the White House recently releasing a statement, that they were also against it. There are two sources of power in the modern world, Money and Information. There were days in the past where it was enough to have the money to do what you wanted. Thankfully, information has stepped up to become an invaluable resource to Americans and people worldwide. We take that we have information at our fingertips all the time for-granted, but this fight against SOPA is bringing things into perspective. We’re slowly realizing the power that truly informing yourself and forming opinions can do.
Learn about it, educate yourself, form an opinion, and talk about it.