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Don't worry. We're from the Internet

If SOPA/PIPA has its way, students everywhere will actually have to do their own homework. Scary!

Our generation doesn't usually care for current affairs. They don't much care what happens in the world. It doesn't concern them. But the minute somebody threatens their internet, everyone goes stark raving mad. In 2011 the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) were introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate respectively. The hype around it is recent, because only now it actually looked to become a reality. This prompted SOPA writer Lamar Smith to be termed the most hated person on the internet.

These bills aimed to put a stop to, or at least make it more difficult to, successfully steal copyright media. In simpler terms, they were going to stop internet piracy. Imagine this. A world with no pirated music, no pirated games, no pirated software, no pirated movies, nothing left. Who the hell actually buys music anymore? How do you buy music anymore? Games cost a fortune. And if we closed the piracy of movies, just think of the adverse economic effects in Bangladesh. All those DVD stores would die.

But back to the point, the bills would give more tools to fight Internet theft. Despite the loss of illegal benefits to regular people like me, it seems like the bill had good intentions. It would mean that musicians (or whatever those things coming out with albums now are), the video game industry and the movie industry would stop losing money and many jobs will be guarded and whatnot. Why then was there such a massive outcry against it? Multiple reasons.

Barack Obama, before dropping support for this bill, said it was “legislation that reduces freedom of speech”. It would undermine the openness of the internet. It would definitely affect all sites with user input content and the whole thing could be termed as censorship. That's irony. Scumbag USA, hates on China for internet censorship, introduces SOPA. Even more backwards is that this law would effectively outlaw many censorship circumvention tools, mainly used by activists and dissidents in autocratic countries. And funnily enough, the US is the largest funder of such tools. So, you can imagine the genius behind both funding and outlawing the same tools.

If the bill passed, it could have a chilling effect on any site where you could upload stuff. YouTube, Wordpress, Flickr, whatever. You upload something, even without knowledge that it's copyrighted, and the site goes into deep trouble. The bill would ban these sites, or at least links to these sites. Entire domains could be shut down for one blog. A huge internet population could be punished for a small minority. Websites which currently share copyright media promise that they will take them down within a certain time frame if discovered and if complained about. This bill dismisses that time period. One complaint and the entire site could shut down. Users submitting copyright infringed media also have punishments equivalent to Feds coming down on their rears and dragging them to jail for a sentence of up to 5 years. On the flipside, this could mean Justin Bieber could be sent to jail. Hear me out, Bieber was discovered after uploading covers of popular songs on YouTube. Popular copyrighted songs. This situation just got much more difficult.

But nonetheless, the internet community came out with huge protests, the online equivalent of Occupy Wall Street... which was actually just fat nerds in front of their glowing computer screens spreading the word of the evils of SOPA. On January 19th, the protests got serious. Over 10,000 websites including Wikipedia, Google, Wordpress, Craigslist and others blacked out in protest to SOPA. All of these sites mentioned can face closure if just one link to copyright infringed media is found. Just one. And then no Wiki, no Google. The horror. The sheer horror of it all.

The day after the blackouts, just to retaliate perhaps, one of the downloader's staples, Megaupload was shut down. Megaupload was a file-sharing website based in Hong Kong and the founder was arrested in Auckland, New Zealand. Two questions about this. How does the US have jurisdiction to shut off companies in Hong Kong? Secondly, if they can do this without SOPA/PIPA, why do they need SOPA/PIPA in the first place?

The end of Megaupload was not met warmly by the internet populace. It pissed people off. Especially Anonymous; the spawn of the infamous garbage-can corner of the internet, 4chan. The hacker group Anonymous hit back by shutting down the US justice department's website and the website of Universal Music group, one of the main corporate supporters of SOPA/PIPA. The next day, they went one better and turned off the FBI website. Their anger was plain to see.

Amid such escalating protests and deteriorating support, the Senate and Lamar douchebag Smith gained some sense and decided to postpone the bills. Both have been sent back to the drawing board. For now, the internet is safe again.

Internet 1, US Government - 0

By That Guy



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