Quicktakes-Stop Online Piracy Act

Regulation of Pirating Puts Money in the Right Place

House lawmakers’ proposal of the Stop Online Piracy Act is an effort to reduce the rampant of exploitation of intellectual property and to put the money in the pockets of those who deserve it. The act allows federal law enforcement to shut down foreign websites that use counterfeit or pirated content created in the United States.

Illegal file sharing of music and film is virtually unregulated in the states, despite legislation such as the Intellectual Property Protection and Courts Amendments Act of 2004, making this bill an extremely important step in reducing copyright infringement. Web firms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are in a tizzy because they fear that the act will give the government too much power to shut down websites, and that lawsuits over content are projected to increase. Yet, these firms fail to acknowledge that the sources who create much of this material, including studios, record labels and publishing houses, lose $135 billion in revenues each year from piracy and counterfeiting, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It has become increasingly more difficult for writers to make it in the industry due to illegal copies of their work circulating the Internet — even the International Association of Firefighters has spoken out about losing money in tax dollars for emergency services when materials are pirated. In addition, the executive vice president for government affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America, Michael O’Leary, cited that over 2 million Americans earn a living in jobs connected to the making of motion pictures and television shows who will benefit from this legislation. Therefore, while Silicon Valley’s biggest industries draw insult from the bill, the act is simultaneously helping families who are dependent on the funds from creative industries.

— MADELINE MANN Associate Opinion Editor

SOPA Has Good Intentions, But at Much Too High a Price

Supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a new bill designed to fight copyright infringement, claim the measure would protect entertainment industry jobs and save billions of dollars — but for anyone vested in Internet freedom, the price is much too high.

If passed, SOPA would allow the government to use the software currently employed by countries such as China and Iran to shut down any site that posts pirated content. The idea is to create a “blacklist” of blocked sites and hope that by limiting access to, for example, free movies, users will be encouraged to see them in theatres, thus returning the money to the pockets of the material’s creators.

Too bad it’s virtually impossible to maintain this blacklist. According to Matt Peckham of TIME, users who know a site’s IP address will be able to sidestep the blacklist entirely, rendering the well-intentioned part of the legislation useless and preserving the measures that would kill Internet innovation. If SOPA had been around in 2005, YouTube would have been shut down before it reached its first birthday.

If SOPA is enacted now, the government would have the power to shut down the entire site, which hosts millions of megabytes of content, because of a single person who posted a five-minute copyrighted clip. Next up, Flickr and Twitter, and the measure would trickle down to small businesses that could potentially be closed because one supplier sells counterfeit items. In essence, the bill shifts the burden of responsibility and makes websites responsible for the actions of all the users. With the threat of government intervention hanging over web content, creators will try to sidestep legal trouble by toning down the content, ultimately leading to self-censorship on one of the world’s last free forums.

— Angela Chen Editor in Chief