Many regular readers of this fine publication may notice that I am not, in fact, the indomitable Spencer Caddenpresenting opinions on the great issues of the day. So, for readers new and old, allow me a few lines to introduce myself. As the byline above reads, my name is Dan Gladis. I am a freshman here at SRU majoring in history. I would eventually like to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a professor myself. Politically, I have fairly independent, oft-conflicting opinions that lead to frustration with both major political parties. I am an unabashed Europhile and advocate for constitutional monarchism, which normally leads to odd looks from people wondering what that even means. Have no fear; I hope in future articles to get to those opinions. For now, I wish to focus on something a little closer to home than Europe: the SOPA and PIPA acts.
For those readers who don’t use the Internet (are there any?), look away now, as this does not apply to you. For everyone else who has joined the post-80s world, please listen up. Internet censorship has long been fairly far down the list of important issues Americans need to be aware of. That is, until recently, when congresspersons completely unqualified and unknowing of what the Internet actually is (and lovingly greased with motivation by music industry executives, corporate intellectual property lawyers, et. al.) began to think regulating the Internet was a good idea. In this ill-conceived ignorant stupor, the Senate and House wretched forth the PIPA and SOPA bills to do just that, and more. Though intended to stop online piracy and the like, they actually give almost unimaginable power to the government to shut down any website for a broad range of reasons without prior notice and criminally punish those who aren’t even aware that they have broken copyright law.
To distance myself from the radical position, I will say that yes, piracy is a problem, but the solution is not to kill a fly with an atomic bomb. There are other, better ways of dealing with online piracy and it starts with record executives realizing that no one in the general public has any sympathy for them. Oh, I’m sorry, you want another billion for your multi-billion dollar monopoly? Yeah, that seems totally reasonable. Until those folks realize that a certain amount of free, high-quality music actually leads to higher sales and not the reverse, then nothing will change (Journal of Internet and Marketing study, 2009). Since those people in charge of the music industry still call themselves, “record executives,” I think we know how malleable they will be to change the business model. Seriously, when was the last time someone bought a new 45?
The truly scary part about these acts for students is the effect they would have on Wikipedia (full disclosure, I am an editor there and have been for five years). While it’s certain that no student ever uses Wikipedia, or the links contained on articles therein, for papers, I am sure at least a few will feel the pain of a shutdown Wikipedia. Why would Wikipedia be shut down? In one of the provisions of the bills, any website that even links to questionable copyright-related material can be shutdown without warning for violating the SOPA/PIPA acts. As Wikipedia is a totally user-generated encyclopedia, if one bad link slips by an editor’s notice, the basis of the internet’s free knowledge sector and the third most-visited website in the world will be shut down without question. For recourse, Wikipedia could be returned to service, but that could easily take many years of legal action.
There are dozens of other reasons to be violently reacting against these bills, but my time and space is short so I will simply ask the reader to become more educated by doing some research of their own. Also, call Congress and keep protesting these truly intolerable acts. While SOPA/PIPA are slowly being killed, the fight is far from over. Studio and record execs have lots of money to buy another bill, and the voice of the people is the only thing that can match it.