Imagine a world in which free information does not exist. Where one cannot simply “search the web” or “Google” something to have instant information pop onto the screen. Where one has to do the unthinkable, drive to a local or school library to gain this knowledge. Where websites are censored by the government, which controls what one is allowed to see and learn. Where freedom of speech and the freedom to become informed are privileges, not rights. A world in which free information is just not quite as free anymore.
SOPA and PIPA are two pieces of legislation that have been submitted by the House of Representatives to allow the government to censor and decide what websites are “legal” and do not contain or support or “like” on social networking site any copyrighted work. But some people question if the government can decide what is “just” and “legal” to put on the internet as free information, are the government’s actions “just” and “legal.”
Do you remember the day where many websites, such as Wikipedia and WordPress, were “blacked out”, and much information could not be accessed? Many websites did this to show the country what would happen if SOPA and PIPA were passed. Currently, they are shelved or put on the side. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) have been submitted to help prevent piracy and will increase the legal consequence if one violates these piracy laws. Video piracy sites, such as Megavideo, Napster, Limeware, and Youtube Converter, have become very prevalent in the past few years, and some members of the government feel it is time to take a stand. Recently, Megavideo has been shut down.
These two piracy acts were submitted by Representative Lamar S. Smith in early October and are supported by many politicians, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, former speaker of the house, and Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and are connected to interest groups that also support the two bills. Both laws were tabled in late January after the one day “black out” led to more than 4.5 million signatures against the bill in the one day. SOPA and PIPA dictate that both the ones who stole copyright work for profit and the ones that “liked” or supported this work on their own website will be punished. The criminal penalties for piracy will be imposed upon them, and their website(s) will have their domain name taken out of the database. Many members of society feel that is unfair to punish the ones who “liked’ or supported the copyrighted work as they may not be aware that the work was pirated. Once the domain name is no longer in the database, one would have to search the URL number to access the information on their website(s).
Unfortunately, some people did not know the “black out” day’s purpose and had never even heard of SOPA or PIPA. An interview was done with Ms. Cynthia Siwulec and Mr. Andrew Deryagin, parents of Alexandra Siwulec, a 9th grader at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, to gain a parents’ view on these issues. They were aware of “black out,” but were unsure of its purpose. After being informed, they had some very strong reactions. Although the “black out” did not affect them much except for not being to access Wikipedia, they felt it would be criminal for the government to interfere with information online in the future.
Siwulec stated: “It would be a blatant violation of freedom of speech, and the government should mind its own business. If the government interfered with the internet, I would not be able to ascertain the veracity of the information on the internet and see others’ work and opinions, which is my constitutional right as an American.”
Deryagin had a similar response: “Having come from the Ukraine, I feel Americans deserve the rights they fought for. I expect more from this country.”
Ms. Okeson, an art teacher at RFH, who is extremely informed about SOPA and PIPA, was also not affected much in the one day except that many students questioned her on “why they could not access Wikipedia in the middle of quarterlies,” which was detrimental to students’ studying. However, she said that if these laws were passed, she would be heavily influenced in the future “specifically as an artist since history and inspiration could not be shared.”
Some students and teachers, such as Okeson, at RFH are more aware of SOPA and PIPA as the “black out” truly affected them in their everyday life and will in the future if the government gains control of the internet. (STUDENT INFO WITH ELSA STOFF)
What are your opinions of this current issue? Is this a violation of freedom of speech or does the government have the right to interfere? Respond in the poll below!
An acrostic poem by Sherwin Balbuena: (http://www.poetrysoup.com/poems_poets/poem_detail.aspx?ID=365587)
P – people are gonna use
I – internet just to
P – pay for the losses of some
A – authorities and suffer misery
S – speech freedom
O – open internet access and a
P – peaceful world
A – are gradually dying