When justified protest turns to excessive whining

Alan Duff

In case you’ve been avoiding the Internet like a plague for the last few months, you’ve probably heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act bill, better known as SOPA. Maybe you have seen one of the many online petitions flying around to oppose it.

You might have even signed one, adding your voice to the thousands who protested against the bill. You might have only learned about it when Wikipedia turned out the lights.

In case you’re not familiar, though, part of the conflict is over the unclear language in the bill detailing what companies must do to avoid having content on their websites that spreads information about getting around preventative piracy measures in order to avoid lawsuits.

SOPA would also enable certain groups to legally blacklist websites for vague reasons included within the bill, which would be easily abused and encourage favoritism.

The good news is that at last, after more than two months of protesting and arguing against the bill, internet users and websites finally elicited a response from the White House, which stated that “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation,” and that it would not support any bill that did such.

Despite the Obama Administration’s statement and Congress tabling the bill, many websites like Wikipedia announced they were still going through with their 24-hour blackout protest on Jan. 18.

The websites hosting the blackout insist that the problem with SOPA and another piece of legislation known as PIPA aren’t gone, and could easily come back.

While I understand their caution and desire to protest, the petitions and debate surrounding the bill have already created the desired effect. The Obama Administration isn’t interested in signing the current bill into law, but on top of that, the bill has been tabled

The protests have been heard and they’ve been answered. The pwrotesting now is just for the sake of protesting and is merely an inconvenience. It no longer sends a message and instead wastes time and energy that could be directed more effectively.

In the president’s response to the petitions, he asked for ways to move forward in the dialogue that would please both those trying to stop online piracy and those trying to ensure that the Internet remains a safe haven for free speech and expression. A conversation can’t occur if one side decides they need to keep protesting.

Now is the time for dialogue and discussion between these two parts of our country, between our lawmakers and the Internet, between websites and Hollywood. If both sides can really sit down and talk about the issue of piracy and freedom of expression, I’m sure a solution could be found.

American citizens can complain all they want about how their lawmakers don’t listen to them, but for SOPA they have, and I can only hope we can now participate in a discussion. Protesting a problem without providing any solutions isn’t any better than whining — and I think as Americans, we can be more creative.

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