What is SOPA?

Alberto Garcia, A & E Editor

What is SOPA? The Stop Online Piracy Act which was proposed in the House of Representatives as H.R. 3261, this past October and was postponed on January 20th of this year. It was postponed until further notice, but only after mass action against the proposed bill on the 18th of January, with websites such as Reddit, Wikipedia and an estimated 7,ooo more small websites coordinated a 24 hour service blackout. Most people have the main idea of what SOPA is, but there is more to it than just stopping piracy. The proposed bill would censor, or at the bill called it “would be subject of seizure”. The result of a seizure would be that the websites server and domain name will be removed and the owner of the website may be arrested. The reasons for said seizures are many, ranging from hosting pirated material, accessing websites that have pirated material, or going to a page that has a link to pirated material. This was seen as evident when on the 19th of January of 2012, when the FBI seized the Hong Kong based website, Megaupload.com. The FBI seized all of Dotcoms cars and famous art from his private collection. Dotcom now faces a sentence of up to 50 years in a federal prison. This prime example of what life would be like if SOPA were to go into effect.

You may think that there are more pressing matters at the moment than SOPA, but think about it for a minute, if a legislation  like this were to pass, websites many people love so dearly would not be accessible. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia, would all be seized. Now I know that there are people out there that are saying “There is so much more that you can do on the internet.” That may be true for now, but under the effect of this law, websites like Google and other search engines because users would be able to get links for pirated material. As stated earlier, any website with links to pirated material would be “subject to seizure” due to that. There are ways- to get into websites that have been censored. All a user would have to do would be put in the websites IP address into the search bar, and then it will take you to a cached website. There would be so many loopholes to this law, mainly due to the wording and the fact the definitions for what would constitute a reason for a “seizure” of your website.

One of the biggest arguments against the wording of SOPA is that the purpose of it is to protect and defend artists “intellectual property”. The only thing is that even though it states that this is the purpose of the bill, it never defines what they refer to as “intellectual property.” The main defense for SOPA is against piracy, although it is only going after the end users, not the people that are putting this material online available for people to use. In my personal opinion, I think this is one more step the U.S. is taking towards become more and more of a totalitarian state. This bill would violate the main principle and fundamental basics that this country was founded on.  If SOPA were go into people would not be able to express themselves freely on the internet, because all means of mass communications will be cut off whenever the government deems appropriate.

These bills have been postponed at this moment. But the war against censorship is far from done. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which is an international treaty that might be signed at any moment  that  is being discussed between the U.S., European Union and  of its member states, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and more countries. This treaty is pretty much the same as SOPA but the wording is clearer and easier to understand. This treaty is still in the negotiation stage and may go into effect people all over the world. With ACTA, the loophole of using the IP to get into a website through a cached site like you could with SOPA. The anti-censorship fight is not only an international fight. The fight has now started again here in the states. This treaty has caused outrage in the international community because it would limit people’s ability to communicate  with each other.