Congress Tables SOPA, For Now

In lieu of a recent bill proposed by congress, a number of major websites shut down for 24 hours on Wednesday, January 18. This blackout brought about a number of petitions, some of which were sponsored by major websites such as Google. Our voices have been heard- SOPA has been postponed.

The proposed legislation, Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, would give the U.S. Government and the Department of Justice the power to cut offending websites off from the internet- that is, it would prevent search engines, payment facilities, and internet providers from giving you access to the offending websites, and make streaming from the website, or other websites, a crime punishable with up to five years in prison for ten or more violations within six months.

The websites that shut down for a day include Reddit, Wikipedia, and other popular sites. Websites that have protested include Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay, and AOL. Many supporters advocate that the bill will help increase music and movie sales due to the lack of ability to download the materials for free. Dissenters argue that the bill gives the federal government too much power to infringe on constitutional rights.

With websites like Wikipedia protesting, the issue warrants a closer look. As of late, an increasing number of people have been turning away from services like iTunes and Amazon for music and turn to sites that offer torrents, which is basically people sharing their files so that other people can download copies of them, and so on. The bill, SOPA, would stop this altogether, making it downright dangerous to even own torrented files. Any website that would offer streaming or something like torrents would be shut down, cut off from the internet, and anyone found using the website would be subject to the penalizations brought about by this bill.

Readers may be wondering, “How does this affect me? I’ve never done anything like this.” Even if you have never used a service like BitTorrent, a torrent client, before, SOPA can still greatly impact your freedom online. Generally, infringements start with bills like SOPA. The Department of Justice and the government, if the legislation is passed, will have more power to control information like never before. It infringes on freedom of speech. I believe that eventually, letting the government run unchecked, they may start to combine the SOPA and the Patriot Act – that is, they will start, if they haven’t already, to monitor your online activity in the name of national defense. Let me make one thing clear- I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe that the government has it in for us or that they want to watch and sensor everything. I do believe, however, something like this may come to pass, if the government is allowed to continue to run unchecked.

The internet’s plea has been heard- for now, at least, Congress has tabled SOPA and PIPA.

The reason Wikipedia shut down is to bring the issue to the light. They have accomplished their goal. The legislation warrants further research – look into it for yourself.

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