If you take part in any sort of social networking, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, you’re bound to have noticed these two mysterious acronyms followed by several angry comments, exclamation marks and sad faces.
Have you made any effort to understand what everyone is about? If not, you should. Why? Because you’re probably involved.
Let’s start with what exactly each stands for. PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, and SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, are two bills established to resolve the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies and music, something most Americans are quite familiar with.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, an estimated 13 percent of American adults have watched illegal copies of movies or TV shows online. Furthermore, the association states that the use has cost media companies billions of dollars.
What exactly do these bills do? Simply put, they’re trying to stop U.S. companies from providing funding, advertising foreign sites. The bills would give the Justice Department the powers to prevent pirate sites from getting U.S. visitors and funding, causing the inevitable.
So what’s all the rampage about? Many Americans have come to believe that such limitations infringe their right to freedom of speech. There is chance of a less free and open Internet, says Fox News, “as websites suspected of copyright infringement and piracy could encounter consequences, including blocked access from service providers and search engines”, i.e. extinction. This form of censorship threatens the Internet that we know and love.
Censoring the internet limits our ability to obtain information, share opinions, and/or simply exercise our rights as American citizens. Yes, there are a handful of sites that are indeed provide ‘pirated’ material, but to administer a bill that allows prosecutors the freedom to indirectly demolish a site for no clear reason challenges the first amendment.
Do your research. Check out more information on PIPA and SOPA yourself because knowledge is power. After doing this, talk to others. Spread what you have learned and reach out to your Congressman. Perseverance will pay off; they will listen to feedback. The United States is a democracy, but we have to be engaged citizens to ensure our voices are heard.