From Prohibition to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” regulation of any kind in our country has typically led to long term legal battles. What’s on the government regulation agenda for this year? Pirated online materials — and they’re quickly turning into the subject of one of the most heated regulatory arguments of our time.
The debate at hand stems from a bill called SOPA, or America’s Stop Online Piracy Act, which was first introduced in the House of Representatives October 26th of last year. If passed, SOPA would make it a felony to do things such as stream unauthorized copyrighted content. The bill aims to achieve to diminish the availability of pirated content online by mandating the Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek a court order against any website who is accused of copyright infringement.
What’s the issue, you might ask? With most of the biggest names in the music, movie, and internet industries supporting the basic idea of SOPA, it can be confusing to point out what the issue really boils down to. However, most opponents of the bill find that its major problem is a belief that it was created as a move to allow big businesses to censor the internet. SOPA opponents also claim that the bill would end the vast pool of knowledge that is the internet today. In fact, several internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo! came together to write an open letter to Washington in direct opposition to the bill.
Many of the bill’s opponents such as Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, argue that the passing of this law would “put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world” without actually accomplishing the goal of the bill: to reduce copyright infringement. In fact, many SOPA opponents such as Brin agree with its supporters that piracy is an issue in need of a solution but would like a less regulatory one.
As previously mentioned, regulatory actions in our country hardly find a quick solution and this is one of them. After a meeting in late December, legislators merely touched SOPA’s surface by looking into proposed amendments to the act. Last week as many as 7,000 websites “dark” in protest of the act including big names such as Google, Mozilla, Wikipedia and WordPress. The mass uprising seems to have had some effect when last Friday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the vote would be postponed until a solution is found that is more widely acceptable.