Big Brother Is Watching?
There has been much in the news in the US – and thus bleeding in to world news – about the proposed SOPA and PIPA reforms going to Congress some say as soon as next week.
In case you haven’t heard of this – which if you are a frequent user of the internet it is highly unlikely – SOPA and PIPA are both anti-piracy laws several Congressmen and CEO’s are trying to introduce into Government. According to the BBC website, “The US bills are designed to block access to site containing unauthorised copyright material. Content owners and the US government would be given the power to request court orders to shut down sites associated with piracy. Advertisers, payment processors and internet service providers would be forbidden from doing business with infringers overseas. SOPA also requires search engines to remove foreign infringing sites from their results, a provision absent in PIPA”.
You may now be thinking, “Well that’s fine, it won’t affect me as I never illegally download”. That song you listened to on YouTube? Well that’s now banned for breaching copyright laws. Someone posts a link on facebook to a video they don’t have copyright for? Banned. Wikipedia with all of its free information sharing? Well, that’s just got to go. And don’t even get me started on tumblr. And it isn’t that they may just be banned from being viewed anywhere within the United States but due to offices being in the US itself the entire website may have a court ordered closure.
Of course, there are always ways around this. Filters only block words in addresses on the internet, much like school or college filters and if you have the IP address, you can enter this in much the same way and still gain access to the desired site. However, due to a law in SOPA, this would be made highly illegal to share this information and would have consequences.
Other propositions included in the bill are that any person found guilty streaming – not downloading, not file sharing, streaming – you know, that thing you do on YouTube when you watch a video? – ten or more times within six months should face up to five years in prison.
Several websites have protested this – Wikipedia included, who claim that 162 million people saw its blackout page and the message it had to share – claiming it is an infringement on the US constitutional rights to privacy and free speech. Several Republican candidates who originally supported the Bill have since removes their support from it – a move which The Motion Picture Association of America, a strong supporter of the bill, has called “a stunt”. The irony being I guess that if these websites were to shut down – the facebooks and twitters of the world - the film, television and music industry would likely be damaged due to loss of advertising available to the general public.
The Bills, which originally looked to pass now seems to be struggling in support as eight million US citizens contacted their Senate representative and asked them to not back the Bills in the past week. Co-founder Matt Mullenweg of Wikipedia has said, “The authors of the legislation don’t seem to understand how the internet works”.
Even after all of this President Obama still has the power to veto the Bills completely, should it come to Government. In a statement released from the White House at the weekend, they said, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber-security risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet”.3