As many Tech students are aware, this past Wed., many popular websites protested a pair of bills (known as SOPA and PIPA) by either posting calls-to-action (as with Google) or blacking out entire sites (as with Wikipedia and Reddit).
These protests are, unquestionably, necessary. They brought the bills to the attention of the average American and helped champion the cause for the free flow of information across the internet.The problem with SOPA and PIPA as they stand now is that they will not stop piracy. The tech-savvy will always find work-arounds, especially when this legislation only affects U.S. sites. This was visible even in today’s blackouts. For every post or comment about Wikipedia’s blackout, there was another describing two ways to get around it. It is inconceivable that this same ingenuity will not be applied to find ways around the legislation.
What this legislation will do is radically alter the shape of the Internet. In particular, social media—sites that are built around the idea of sharing ideas—will be devastated. When businesses can be financially frozen due to one of their users posting copyrighted material—which SOPA, in its current form, enables—even giants like Facebook and Twitter have little hope of survival, let alone small blogs.
Obviously, something needs to be done about piracy, but sweeping government regulation is not necessarily the answer. As mentioned above, such regulation could have devastating side-effects, and, if past efforts are at all indicative of future success, unlikely to be anything more than a speed bump to pirates. Companies and agencies should consider other options as well, including possible technological solutions. Copyright holders are obviously entitled to run their businesses however they see fit, but they should not have the right to dramatically alter the landscapes in which they operate.