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The SOPApocalypse of 2012

By Anna Boratyn
 
Features Editor
 
On Wednesday Jan. 18, I was attempting to procrastinate studying for finals.  Yet I was foiled repeatedly. 

Wired, the source for all of my technological needs?  Temporarily down.
I Can Has Cheezburger, a site housing cat memes, and Tumblr, a community of blogs, both had messages pertaining to bills called SOPA and PIPA. 
Even once I decided to look up kinematics formulas for physics, I found Wikipedia blacked out.  It was like reaching for my pencil and finding my right hand was gone. 

The logo on Wikipedia’s blackout page said 

Yet if SOPA, PIPA,  or some other concoction of corporation-empowering law had passed, we may not have had to imagine a world with out free knowledge.  We might be living in one. 

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the PIPA (Protect IP Act) bills were proposed in the House and Senate with the purpose of reducing piracy.

After an enormous internet outcry Wednesday the 18th, representatives and senate members have reconsidered their pro-SOPA and PIPA stances.

According to the BBC, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement, “In light of recent event, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act.” 
An incredible 13 million people petitioned Congress online, and an innumerable number of sites blacked out for the occasion.
The MPAA, one of the largest lobbies in support of the bills, had previously considered the bills a “slam dunk.” The MPAA didn’t expect that there would be much protest from the internet community, and certainly didn’t expect the internet community uniting to fight the bills.  
MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd told the New York Times, “this was a whole new different game all of a sudden,”  and proceeded to liken the movement to the Arab Spring, a violent and enthusiastic wave or protest from the Middle East that started in 2010. Currently, Congress has halted debate on the bills   . 
While some protestors consider this a success, it’s actually a roadblock to eradicating the bills. These protesters think that the time received from halted debate gives major corporations and backers time to pull out from backing the bills.  However by halting debate, Congress has given the controversy time to fizzle out, so when the bills are debated upon, the internet resistance has faded .

In general, the passage of SOPA or PIPA would do the internet far more harm than good.
The Internet is the Wild West.  It’s law-free country.  It’s exposed the world to new ideas, and, unfortunately, new crimes, for which we have no system of justice.  Take illegal downloading: is something really stolen if it isn’t gone after it’s taken?  According to the judicial branch, it is.  

Yet the internet has its glories too.  It’s allowed talents like nigahiga, JennaMarbles and charlieissocoollike to rise to fame without corporate influence. On the cold, hard reality of Earth, rising talk show hosts must join up with corporations like NBC or Fox and the most popular of singers have signed with record companies or have been Disney born and bred.
The internet has given rise to a proud nerd culture, creating more well-connected fan bases   from Star Trek to Doctor Who to Firefly not to mention Harry Potter.
SOPA and PIPA, or bills like them, might take away the internet’s entrepreneurial spirit , its nerdiness and its spontaneity. SOPA and PIPA broadly define piracy. Crimes like illegally downloading hundreds of movies and selling them, or plagiarizing someone’s hard work could fall under the same category as creating a gif about one’s favorite show.
Corporations could easily shut down sites like Tumblr, Cheezburger, YouTube, delicious, stumbleupon and Reddit, among hundreds of others because they all either use or refer to corporate material. Worse still, any corporation who’s material is used could keep the sites mentioned above up and pressure them to serve pro-corporate propaganda.
While quashing piracy is a noble pursuit, using SOPA and PIPA against piracy is like using a sledgehammer to kill a cockroach.  Overkill. 
Wednesday’s blackout has proved the Internet is an effective voice for change; however, we’re not out of the woods yet.  Allowing SOPA and PIPA would stifle that voice.

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