Online protests halt new cyber-piracy law; opponents cite possible threat to Internet freedom

by Allison Caramico
As result of large-scale protest, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act have been stalled, and Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Ron Wyden introduced The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act on Jan. 20 as a replacement. The issue became a philosophical debate between Internet freedom and copyright protection, with everyday Internet users and small start-up websites swaying Congress to abandon SOPA.
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, also referred to as SOPA and PIPA, if passed, would have allowed the government to block access to or shut down websites that have infringed on copyright laws. The main goal of these proposed laws is to minimize Internet piracy.
The bills accomplish this in two different ways. Under these acts, the government could stop funds directed to domestic piracy websites and also would have the power to sue any American search engine or website that refuses to remove the offending website’s name from its page.
In the case of foreign websites, Internet users inside the U.S. would be redirected to an incorrect IP address when they search for the site. However, it has been discovered that web users will still be able to access blacklisted sites by searching their IP address.
“[SOPA] will give the U.S. Attorney General the ability to shut down any website accused of copyright infringement without any due process of the current justice system,” said junior Jason Fortunato.
The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, also known as OPEN, functions differently from SOPA and PIPA, in that only websites that “primarily and willfully” break copyright laws will be targeted. Instead of being able to shut down any website, the United States International Trade Commission would be able to request that advertisers and payment processors end business with the offending website via a cease-and-desist order.
The music and movie industries object to OPEN because it does not regulate piracy as strictly as SOPA and PIPA planned to. In a recently released statement, the Motion Picture Association of America said that the bill “goes easy on online piracy and counterfeiting.”
However, the newly proposed law has many supporters, including Wikipedia and Google, that objected to the wording and resulting loopholes in SOPA and PIPA, calling them unconstitutional Internet censorship. After the arrest of MegaUploadʼs New Zealand operators on Jan. 19, OPEN advocates argue that our country is capable of stopping piracy without SOPA or PIPA.
In protest of SOPA and PIPA, many websites that could potentially be hurt with the passing of the bills, including Wikipedia, participated in a self-imposed blackout of their own sites on Jan. 18. This included shutting down their services to the public in order to demonstrate the impact the bill would have on everyday life.
“If SOPA passed, it could have shut down a ton of networking, media and other sites we use every day as teenagers and students,” said sophomore Hansel Romero.
The proposers of OPEN hope that it will alleviate the qualms of many who feared that SOPA and PIPA would prevent the creation of new websitess that share media, as YouTube or Tumblr do. “[The biggest impact these laws will have is] the fact that all social media will collapse on itself because there will be no way to share media links,” said senior Kaitie Kearney.
Issa and Wyden invite the public to read and comment on the OPEN Act at