Censorship: Why SOPA and PIPA is A Bad Idea

By Aaron Rosenthal

As of recently, the talk of the nation has been the new laws that have been discussed in Congress, called the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).  These acts are designed to protect the entertainment industry through copyright laws.  SOPA will allow courts to take out online piracy sites and peer-to-peer sharing websites by ordering American internet providers to block access to those URL’s.  Search engines such as Google and Bing can also be ordered to remove links to the infringing sites from their databases. 

In theory, SOPA seemed like a good idea.  It would be able to protect the intellectual property of artists, musicians, writers, journalists, and directors that share their work over the internet.  Unfortunately, this bill is like chemotherapy.  It not only targets the pirate sites, but endangers law abiding websites where people share their opinions, products and their work such as YouTube, Craigslist, Ebay, and even social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  These sites have policies against copyrighted material, but cannot be in “a million places at once” so to speak, meaning that it may be a while before they are able to discover the infringing material.  As a result, the courts or companies such as Universal Studios would be able to take court action against these law-abiding sites to potentially cripple them due to one case of copyright infringement that the website could not control.  The only way for the government to solve the copyright infringement problem would be to remove all websites that allow users to upload material that they created.

            Not only would SOPA and PIPA limit people’s ability to spread their opinions and ideas through sharing websites, but could endanger the security of the internet as well.  PIPA outlines a type of DNS filtering that is meant to reduce piracy.  But what exactly is DNS, and why is it important?  DNS stands for Domain Name System.  A domain name is what a website’s address is, such as www.google.com or www.facebook.com.  Filtering the Domain Name Service will prevent American users from accessing the website by typing it its URL.  However, what Congress doesn’t realize is that this will not prevent pirate sites from continuing their criminal ways.  People looking to illegally download movies, TV shows, and music can still type in the site’s IP address (ex. 192.168.4.5) and access the website.  The DNS filter will also have more serious repercussions.  In a recent “white paper”, or report, internet security experts Steve Crocker, David Dagon, Dan Kaminsky, Danny McPherson, and Paul Vixie express their concern that the DNS filter will endanger the security of the internet.  According to this paper, “The DNS provisions would undermine the universality of domain names, which has been one of the key enablers of the innovation, economic growth, and improvements in communications and information access unleashed by the global Internet.”  The article also states that the filters could prevent users from accessing non-pirated content, along with the fact that widespread circumvention could threaten the security of the internet. In a nutshell, these two statements mean that SOPA and PIPA will ruin the innovation and ingenuity that has been introduced to the economy by the internet while also threatening the security of the internet.

            Another thing to keep in mind is that this law could be easily abused by future administrations.  The Obama administration proposed and can carry out this law.  However, in the event that a “corrupt” administration is brought into our country, this law could be easily abused.  Many websites like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter are used to protest bad laws, unfair policy, and other grievances.  A corrupt president could easily use SOPA and PIPA to impede our freedom of speech and press.  These laws are undermining the very principles that our country was founded upon.

                Whoever decided to propose the Stop Internet Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act was out of their mind.  These bills would not stop piracy, but actually hurt innocent websites.  It would make the thing that Americans spend hours using each and every day less safe and much less usable.  The government could also use these bills to impede our freedom of speech.  At the moment, Congress has suspended these bills.  We need to take this opportunity to make sure these bills never get resurrected to try and harm our freedom again.

  

Just a small item:  Calling SOPA creators “out of their mind” seems to interfere with your strong authorative voice.  Perhaps you should say that they are misinformed, misguided, etc.   Throwing a colloquial phrase into an otherwise mature and formal editorial is unsettling.