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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

I am writing this entry to express my opposition to SOPA and PIPA. And for the bandwagoners who, if it were not for Twitter, Facebook, and a Google search that led them to Wikipedia’s “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge” message, would not have known about what would effectively change the Internet as we know it. Heck, jump right in but be sure you understand the issue first so that you know what you’re standing for.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are two bills that on the surface, seems well-meaning enough, in its aim “to stop copyright infringement” and digital piracy. But what is it really? If passed, it would give corporations the power to shut down websites that post copyrighted content—either pictures, videos, audio, or simple text.

If you’re an active user of the Internet and you stumble upon something of interest to you and you would like to share it to others, SOPA and PIPA will not allow you to do that. I’m assuming that for one to be able to continue doing this, one would have to ask for permission from whoever owns that intellectual property or face the risk of spending time in jail.

One of the reasons why people have gone on to embrace the Internet is because it remains to be one of the very few places where freedom of expression is very much alive. But the concept itself is a double-edged sword in that some have taken this freedom to the extremes by using it for propaganda purposes whether in small or large scales.

Just 10 years ago, a person can pass off a work of fiction as factual by merely injecting it into the very young and wide world of the web. If another reads and shares it via forums or chain e-mails, then another will until that information is spread to tens of thousands of Internet users.  The more that information is spread, the higher the probability that it is accepted as fact—and it happens in very little time. So what’s wrong with that? Well, just off the top of my head, let’s say that the information is a malicious rumor. It’s no different from gossiping and there will always be at least one person involved who will surely feel the effects of it all. Now, how this person reacts to it is mere guesswork. The point is, people learned the technical way of using the Internet first before (and sometimes without) learning the ethical way.

These days, such things continue to happen but I’ve noticed that citizens of the web have become more vigilant when dealing with “new information”.  Although there remain a lot of classless netizens all over the world, there are those who are learning—or at least trying to—the proper Internet ethics. Let’s go back to the earlier example, if somebody pulls off something like that nowadays, that person is likely to experience either one of two things: if unfounded, that person goes into a virtual blacklist wherein any new information coming from him, even if true, will be considered as a non-truth; if true, however, he’ll be branded a rumor-monger who should stay out of other people’s business. But let’s say that truth is non-malicious and is actually for the good, which is to say the exposure of wrongdoings and misdealings perpetrated by people in power. Then that is the only time that I feel that breaking “new information” becomes a positive.

So what has these examples got to do with SOPA and PIPA? Nothing and everything. There is actually belief that the bills were written as a result of the war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Digital piracy has been around since Napster. First it was audio files, music and whole albums in the infinite are being shared freely by people who only spend for their Internet use. Then it became movies and even computer software. It’s no secret that these studios are losing money due to digital piracy and the issue seems to be deeper than what it appears but Rupert Murdoch’s tweet might help simplify things: “Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case.”

Wait, so Google is now a supporter of digital piracy? Another tweet by Murdoch seems to affirm his belief: “Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.”

Later, Murdoch would go on to describe Google as a great company. But in reaction to his earlier tweets, a spokesperson from Google, Samantha Smith, described the comments as nonsense. “Last year we took down 5 million infringing Web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads. Like many other tech companies, we believe that there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking U.S. companies to censor the Internet,” Smith said.
As it is, there seems to be no concrete program that will put an end to digital piracy. In all honesty, if Hollywood ever comes out with one, they will need technology to do so but then again, digital pirates also know technology and will find ways to bypass any encryption or security measures thrown their way. Clearly, curtailing the Internet’s freedom of expression isn’t the answer to this problem. Even Microsoft, a company that is adamant in its campaign against digital piracy, finds SOPA to be too much.

US President Barack Obama, prior to the start of the Internet blackout on January 18, 2012 8AM EST that saw the participation of major websites including Wikipedia, has since expressed that he will not support the bill and as a result, SOPA and PIPA are temporarily shelved. The setback, however, won’t stop its supporters because they seem to believe that it’s the only way. I’m hoping though that whoever the main proponents of the bill are would say that this is their way of showing that there is something being done against digital piracy.

Like I said, the bills are well-meaning enough but endangering Internet users’ freedom of speech is not worth the risk because it may end up causing more problems using this perverse incentive and its very singular intended solution.

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