The Internet is a huge, growing business industry, social hub, knowledge base, available to anyone free of use. But earlier this year, the U.S. government came an inch away from gaining absolute power to shut down any part of it they wanted to. The debut of the SOPA and PIPA bills proposed in Congress earlier this year impacted everyone in America, from big business website owners and simple Facebook users, YouTubers and Twitterers. SOPA and PIPA were introduced to the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.
As we watched and waited for the bills to be approved or rejected, America saw the largest online protest in history: over 4.5 million people came together to sign search engine mogul Google’s petition against the bills. Two days later, the bill was shelved. Or was it?
Here’s one thing you probably didn’t know: the battle could still be raging, right under our noses, this spring 2012. Sources like the Memphis Daily News are calling the proposal of SOPA and PIPA an ongoing, “raging battle” that really hasn’t ended. If you own a computer and have wireless access for any reason, you need to keep reading.
What Is SOPA & PIPA?
SOPA stands for The Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA stands for the Protect IP Act. SOPA was a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, while PIPA was introduced to the Senate (a double whammy). Both bills were aimed to destroy websites that infringed on copyrighted material. Media piracy was a huge target. In reality, the bills had the potential to stifle free speech on the Internet, even threatening Wikipedia, YouTube and Google. The power these bills could potentially put into the hands of government was the worst part of it all. The methods provided for “fighting” these “illegal” and “threatening” websites – insert spiel on how really “threatening” these websites were to the nation— included giving the US Department of Justice complete power to release a court order that made it mandatory for Internet ISPs to actually block (or shutdown) domain names entirely, just as they saw fit. Not only that, but the Dept of Justice could suck the last lifeblood out of these domains by requiring all advertisers on the offending site to stop doing business with the site. From sending offenders to jail for 5 years over a music video to total website shutdown, this bill simply gives too much power to the government.
Watch this Fight for the Future video that explains it all in a well-put-together video animation. It’s scary to think these bills tampered with the basic structure of the Internet—decreasing its security and stability.
Who Was Behind SOPA & PIPA?
Wikipedia, who was one of the many websites joining in on the effort to blackout their home page in opposition to the dangerous bills, has an entire page dedicated to those behind the bill. Read the SOPA history here and the PIPA history here. SOPA was introduced to the Senate by Texas Representative Lamar Smith. PIPA was a rewrite of a failed 2010 bill, and was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy. Implementation of this bill would cost the government (more likely, its taxpayers) no less than $47 million!
Guess who was behind the bill? A long host of companies you might use daily. Just yesterday, I found out one of my favorite hosting servers, Godaddy, was a sponsor. Big Internet businesses making money off of hundreds of thousands of consumers were those who sponsored it—because SOPA and PIPA could effectively shut down any new and threatening competitor. Here’s a list of every business who supported both bills, including ABC, Comcast, Coty, Inc., ESPN, Hyperion Books, L’Oreal, Nike, Scholastic, Visa, Warner Music Group and many others.
On January 18, 2012, both bills had been introduced to Congress. It was a dire moment as many business owners watched and waited, unsure if their websites could face shutdown. A public rally was held in NYC against the SOPA bill. Over 7 million signatures were collected by Google in various ways to oppose the bill. 7,000+ websites coordinated a blackout movement.
What Is the Future of SOPA & PIPA?
The very fact that Congress had members who introduced these two bills is scary. Is our government so far gone that it would have accepted a bill that gave itself the power to shutdown the Internet? Although Congress effectively shelved the bill no less than 2 days after America’s biggest online protest in history, they didn’t fully reject the bills. These bills remain “postponed” today.
America had a voice when SOPA and PIPA came out. Since the huge protest that ensued, many Congress members have considered it a possible termination of their seat if they try to pick up either bill again. But that doesn’t mean they won’t, or can’t. These bills were introduced, and failed before. Obama Care was introduced and immediately approved, without even being read by a single member of the Senate. There’s no telling what will happen. The best we can do is stay informed and speak up so it won’t happen. And don’t vote in candidates who will propose similar bills.
How far can the government go?
As far as we will let them.