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Fight against censorship

by HUMZA ALVI Staff Writer

Protestors against the Stop Online Privacy Act and Protect IP Act blacked out their websites on January 24. Due to public pressure, both bills have been postponed until a compromise is found. Four major sites blacked out on January 17, including Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla and Reddit. Wikipedia made its intentions public to protest against the bills by shutting down the database for 24 hours on January 18. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, “While we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world.” Google did not shut down its service; however, the search engine had a black bar over the “Google” logo with a link reading “Tell Congress ‘Please don’t censor the web!’” Google Inc., along with other sites, formed a petition against SOPA. Bloomberg reports, “Google Inc. collected more than 7 million signatures from the U.S. for its online petition to Congress during an Internet protest against anti- piracy legislation backed by Hollywood.” In an attempt to stop online piracy, Congress authored the PIPA and SOPA bills. PIPA was introduced on May 12, 2011 by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley. The latter was presented in the House of Representatives by Lamar S. Smith on October 26, 2011. If passed, the PIPA and SOPA bills will allow U.S corporations and the government to take legal action against any website they believe is letting copyright infringement occur. The power to sue any search engine, blog site, directory, or generally any site would be at the discretion of the company being infringed upon. The court does not have to hear a defense from the site before issuing a ruling, suspending the site without a trial or hearing. Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter could be sued and shutdown for its numerous users posting materials that fall under the heading of a copyrighted item. “The bills violate our rights as citizens,” said junior Paul Martin. PIPA primarily targets foreign sites, but SOPA applies to both domestic and foreign sites. SOPA also makes it a felony to stream copyrighted videos without permission, and doing so would be punishable by jail time. “The bills are bad because they allow censorship in a free space like the internet where people can get knowledge and acquire information without paying a hefty price,” says junior Trevor Santa Lucia. At this moment, all of the original sponsors of the PIPA bill are now against the legislation. Originally on the SOPA side, Ben Quayle and Lee Terry now both oppose it, and Earl Blumenauer blacked out his own website as means of protest. Currently, both bills have been pulled, at least for now, after Smith acknowledged that the house delayed voting for SOPA until more people agree on it. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” says Smith.

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