Nothing more important than the Arab Spring has happened in the world . Students, young people, those who hunger for justice, all brought together by the 20th and 21st centuries’ miracle, the World Wide Web; our Internet. Oppressed people all over the globe were seized through that medium with an awareness of freedom. Until the protests in Egypt, freedom was an achievable concept. Now, freedom is an absolute. Every society can now view freedom as a basic goal. The internet is a great tool of the people, and few can fail to see that it must remain open,and free of undue influence.
At first glance, attempts to censor the internet, steps such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), seem harmless. These restrictions apply to illegal marketing, much of which comes from foreign nations. Those who sell medications which in the United States would require prescription, or those who sell pirated or copied software, movies, music, ebooks and games at a greatly reduced price, are the targets. The bill would also make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, including music, movies, ebooks, games and TV programs, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. If passed, SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign and domestic websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement.
If SOPA becomes law, some major websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Wikipedia would be required to examine each and every link posted by site users. In the event a pirating site were to install at some point an illegal link, the major website would be held responsible and face a possibility of being shut down, plus criminal penalties. Examination by these websites of every posted link could be a costly and difficult procedure.
It seems the blame and the blackout option should be not be aimed at the final point, on the local website, but rather at the source. An oversight agency might then develop a list of outlawed links, outlawed sites, and through some server, or system of servers, black them out. A system such as Norton Antivirus, or other virus protection engine, might have experience to develop such a capacity.
If SOPA (or the similar PROTECT IP Act [PIPA]) were to go into effect, making individual websites liable for each and every posted link, there could be a potential for corruption. What may seem right and sensible today can become a throbbing sore a just few years down the road. Individuals in power could punish websites which displease them.
The full text of the SOPA Act is available online
Does it seem there is undue concern; do these bills amount to censorship? There are views from both sides of the issue. Among tech companies who foresee and oppose this considerable interference is trade association NetCoalition. Executive director Markham Erickson told FOXNews he considers this potential censorship a result of special interest legislation. He says these bills would, “Fundamentally change the way the internet works.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS) was most outspoken:
The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.
Liberals, conservatives, and Libertarians are joining forces to address this “assault on free speech.” Red Mass Group, a conservative website, Blue Mass, a liberal website, and the Heritage Foundation, as well as Beregrond, a Libertarian stronghold, all oppose what they view as a potentially damaging move: “By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet,” a spokesman said, calling it a form of censorship.”
In an alternative view, The New York Times suggests we need to examine the motivation of “big internet guys” that oppose SOPA.
Google made huge profits by directing consumers to illegal foreign Web sites, so its opposition is self-serving. In fact, Google recently paid half a billion dollars to settle a criminal investigation because of its promotion of foreign pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to American patients, possibly endangering their health
The White House is expected to oppose the bill as it is written, should it pass Congress.