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Piracy: Innovation versus Ethics. (Part I)

What is SOPA?

This Image Has been Blocked by SOPA, probably because it is stolen.There has been a lot of internet chatter recently about two proposed bills; the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. (Gardner, 2012) According to supporters of the proposed legislation “the purpose of the bill is to give more power to U.S. law enforcement to fight the online selling of copyrighted materials (movies, music) and counterfeit goods (high end purses and drugs).”  (Crabtree, 2011)

The biggest supporters of these bills are major music and movie labels, brand name manufacturers, drug companies, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who all claim “it protects their intellectual property.” (Crabtree, 2011)  These supporters believe the number of jobs and commerce that depends on the protection of copyrights and trademarks. (Crabtree, 2011)

Of Course there are several opponents to the proposed legislation, ironic or not, the biggest opponents of the bills happen to be the most innovative internet companies to date. Opponents include Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla Corporation, the Wikimedia Foundation, and human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch. (Wikipedia, 2012; Crabtree, 2011; AmericanCensorship.org, 2012) On January 18th thousands of websites will “go dark” (AmericanCensorship.org; 2012) to participate in an online protest dubbed “American Censorship Day”. Those protests are set to begin at midnight on and will involve many of the participating homepages, such as Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit, will direct U.S. users to call their representatives and voice complaints. (Franzen, 2012; Gardner, 2012)

Supporters of this bill believe that they are helping to stop theft, however, many opponents believe that these bills are the most “most dangerous pieces of legislature ever to be written up for passage by the United States government in regards to innovation and the free market on a global scale” (Burns, 2012) Basically, the bill will give the US Government the right to block a website that they feel has material that is in violation of copyright infringement. This is aimed to “censor” (Burns, 2012; Dachis, 2012) content such as website that are considered to have links to pirated material. (Burns, 2012; Dachis, 2012)

However, one could still access the website that contains illegal material assuming they knew the IP address, or the string of numbers assigned to an individual website. Many opponents feel that this will only encourage government controlled censorship and limit free speech. (Burns, 2012; Dachis, 2012; AmericanCensorship.org; 2012) Mashable.com (2012) explains it this way;

Since copyright violation is ridiculously easy, any site with a comment box or picture upload form is potentially infringing. Furthermore, DMCA Safe Harbor provisions are no defense. You, as a site operator, become liable for copyright infringement committed by your users, even if you comply with DMCA takedown requests.

Read More:

Piracy: Innovation versus Ethics. (Part II) : So What is Piracy Anyway?

Piracy: Innovation versus Ethics (Part III): Does Piracy Hinder Innovation?

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