SOPA bill is ineffective, inefficient, and infringing

Nick Hillson, Staff Writer

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill running through Congress in an attempt to curb the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted information and programs. Unfortunately, due to extremely vague wording and unclear definitions, the censorship proposed could extend to websites such as Facebook, various e-mails, and any other free forum. Not only is SOPA ineffective for all but the technologically impaired, but it violates our rights and benefits only a small handful of elites.

SOPA works by requiring websites and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to search through sent information and to censor any infringing material. Not only does this ignore the privacy guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but it also violates the first amendment (Freedom of Speech), and the Freedom of Information Act. The Constitution grants the right to say anything without any government interference. The proposed oversight is not only unconstitutional, but unethical. Though amendments to the bill no longer contain a plan to censor certain foreign websites that portray non-democratic ideals, it still prevents the free sharing of information from person to person.

Lobbyists for the music industry support the SOPA bill to make punishments harsher for pirates in order to maximize their own income. While that is a valid concern, preventing piracy would not increase profits, but reduce outreach to people who cannot afford the product. No law should be passed that only benefits a fraction of a percent of the population, ignoring the good of the majority.

In addition to the violation of rights, SOPA ineffectively stops piracy because it only blocks individual domains. The pirating sites can simply change their domains, and users can continue to pass illegal information. SOPA will only stop those pirates that download casually, not anyone with any technological knowledge at all.

In order to effectively combat piracy, the government needs to initiate legislation that changes the way that pirates are dealt with, not legislation that fundamentally changes the Internet into a highly regulated police state. Under SOPA, someone convicted of illegally sharing music could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, a sentence that violates the policy that the punishment should fit the crime. While piracy should remain illegal, the main goal of the government should remain as prevention, not punishment. Proposing an unethical, unconstitutional, and ineffective bill is not the direction that our government should be going.