Internet industries as well as digital innovations have been affected by anti piracy bills. Among the bills that are currently being discussed by the House of Representatives, is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The United States is allowed to shut down any American website that is suspected of piracy. Consequently, they have extended this to other websites that are being run by diverse individuals in different countries. In view of this, many small businesses will be affected. The people behind this story include Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairperson of House Judiciary Committee (Lee, 2012). This means that anyone caught streaming videos from illegal sites is capable of being prosecuted by the federal laws. The US government shall have the right to seek court orders, arrest and prosecute anyone. Information available from critics reveals that this move will affect the wider net and its users due to the activities that many sites depend on. This paper seeks to discuss the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in detail, and provide a rational view on the various ways the law could be an obstacle to many online businesses. This means that the research will seek to survey whether or not the SOPA bill should be passed.
It has been a common practice for many people to get everything on the internet. Starting from simple information to the latest movies, many people today do not buy DVDs because the films are readily available at their disposal. This availability has had a serious influence on the movie industries across the globe. Small businesses have been gaining through this online streaming. Abolishing internet connectivity to those sites will mean people will be unable to access their local sites for movie downloads as well as the information they need for their reading and research purposes. A simple definition of communication comes handy with the attributes of internet interconnectivity. This means that young people have been connecting through social media such as twitter, Facebook and other instant messaging services (McCullagh, 2012).
The best place for marketing product and services is the internet. Many musicians and movie producers have been uploading clips of their works for the public to view and rate them. This then is followed by the eventual purchase of the movies and music. Stopping the online streaming of music leads to a situation where artists are very desperate to have their music known to many people (Tsukayama, 2012). The inability to publish this music news in blogs and post leads to a state of darkness and thus many people would be in the dark with little or no knowledge of the developments in relevant fields.
On November 2011 Lamar Smith introduced the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill as well as its sister bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) to the US senate. The United States is allowed to shut down any American website that is suspected of piracy, but now they want to be able to do the same to foreign websites suspected of selling pirated movies, music, and other products (Tsukayama, 2012). The bills have caused a lot of controversy on whether they should be passed or dismissed. It will affect a lot of small businesses and websites in a negative way although it will benefit others.
The bill wants to allow the US to shut down foreign websites mainly using three different ways.
- Internet providers can seek a court order against any website suspected of pirated content, by doing so search engines will be given five days to remove links to the website or else they will have to face the stated consequences.
- Credit card companies will be forced to stop processing payments for the website, also advertisement companies will be forced to remove their advertisements from the website. When the websites are shut down, it will be as if they never existed, the links to them will not open.
- Companies that produce movies will be able to take legal action against any website they suspect of piracy; it will end up harming many websites.
Many people and internet sources have been protesting against these bills because many websites depend on substances uploaded by its users, therefore many websites may be forced to shut down; even if they unknowingly have pirated content uploaded on their sites, they can be forced to shut down. For instance, Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook all depend on content uploaded by its users; they can be forced to shut down as well (McCullagh, 2012). Many people and companies are against the bills, some of them have recently protested. For example, Wikipedia blacked out the English version of the site for twenty-four hours in a protest against SOPA so that the internet can remain free. During this time, 162 million people visited the website and many of them signed a petition on Wikipedia to stop SOPA and PIPA (Williams, 2012). Google and Twitter also blacked out for 24 hours. On twitter, thousands of people were protesting against SOPA making it one of the biggest trends on the social platform. In addition, some protestors hacked the FBI after they shut down one of the most visited content sharing website - Megaupload. If the SOPA bill is passed, it will end up harming the freedom of speech on the Internet and will encourage other governments to block websites they dislike (Lee, 2012).
On the other hand, some people will benefit if the SOPA and PIPA bills are passed. Among these beneficiaries are Hollywood movie producing companies because they will have more power to remove any content they want from the Internet. In addition, since not only movies, but also music is highly pirated on the internet and video clips and songs are available free streaming on YouTube, music record labels lost billions every year because of online piracy, if the bill is passed they will be the main beneficiaries of this cause (Lee, 2012).
However, many people have demanded for a free and fair internet that allows access to everyone at any time. However, global leaders will always find a way of demonstrating and exercising their power. By regulating the content in the internet, they believe they will have tracked the globe regarding the sensitivity of information on the internet. These two legislations would have done the greatest harm to the world’s internet connectivity due to the unavailability of information (Molloy, 2012). Those opposing the deal say that the federal government only wants to take over the internet and introduce censorship, which will regulate what is posted on the net and what is not posted.
Overall, SOPA and PIPA have caused a lot of controversy; it has been put on hold and will resume in February. Many SOPA supporters have stopped supporting the bill after the protests (Molloy, 2012). If the bill is passed, it will benefit big companies like Warner Bros. in the film and music industry but they will harm small businesses or big ones too, and any website is at the risk of being forced to shut down.
The postponing of the PIPA bill was a clear move that demonstrated the importance of the internet for many people in different aspects of life. This showed that each person needs the internet for information and entertainment. Music studios and film companies should not bring forth their frustrations and claim that they are a result of piracy and other illegal websites. Blocking foreign websites would only leave the US in darkness. There is need to connect and share music, pictures and videos (Molloy, 2012). According to many protesters, this was the worst way to run a country by the leaders. Safeguarding information does not mean the information is made inaccessible to the people. Clear regulations and policies are able to bring the problem forward. SOPA and PIPA were a clear example of impunity in society and the consequences of irresponsible leadership. SOPA and PIPA were retaliation to the closure of megaupload.com (Tsukayama, 2012). The Wikipedia blackout is among the many reasons as to why SOPA and PIPA were rejected by many internet users and owners of sites. Many of these sites depend on content that the users upload and download in order to keep them moving (Williams, 2012). The origin of the content remains unknown to the website owners. It is yet to be agreed on whether or not these bills will be passed. The fate of the internet has yet to be decided.