Alternative viewpoint: Anti-piracy legislation

Daniel Perret-Goluboff

It’s almost as though I’m preaching to the choir on the potential negative effects of the current anti-piracy legislation in front of the House of Representatives and the Senate. As the youth of the digital age, who among us can truly say that they have never downloaded or streamed media for personal enjoyment without paying for it?

That said, I still feel that it holds some merit to at least present the facts regarding the current state of the situation here — if for no other reason than it’s currently on my mind.

The first of the two bills, known as SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is currently in front of the House of Representatives. It is paralleled by a sister bill currently in front of the Senate titled the Protect IP Act.

The goal of the two bills would be essentially to allow the Justice Department to order search engines — Yahoo, Google, etc. — to delete links to foreign websites hosting pirated media content available for free user download. In short, the bill would make it impossible for American members of the global Internet community to access media hosting sites such as MediaFire or 1Channel.

Faced with a petition against the anti-piracy legislation toting over 50,000 signatures this past week, the White House issued a statement. Three advisors to the Obama administration wrote that their administration “opposes any effort to censor the Internet or compromise cyber-security.”

As is the nature of politics, the statements issued from the White House were careful to clarify that they did not oppose the bills directly. Rather, their statements gave the impression that the administration felt they needed more time to adequately review and understand the proposed acts prior to genuinely developing a position regarding the issue.

As you will have noticed by the time this article is published, several social media sites were blacked out entirely last Wednesday, Jan. 18 in order to stand in solidarity against the proposed legislation. Most notably among these sites are Wikipedia, Reddit and WordPress. Google did not shut down, but had a link on their search engine’s homepage speaking out against the bills and leading users to the petition against the legislation.

The issue now is not one of anger stemming from piracy, but rather of the emotional response of much of the American public, with resentment of what strikes many of our nation’s citizens — this writer included — as a potential degree of censorship.

It is not the place of the American government to serve as a sort of world-police for the Internet, deleting content that they feel is aunfit for viewing. The entire premise of the Internet is that of an eclectic community.

Perhaps if the development of the World Wide Web has led us to a point in history where media is available for free download, we need to consider what may come next.

We as a people have the ability to allow the Internet to continue to expand and bring innovation rather than curtailing the efforts made by those who create it with petty legislation. We should be working to encourage continued growth of expression through Internet-based media and not making efforts to discourage ongoing technological networking growth.