SOPA and PIPA matter

by Dustin Peters

Last month, the Internet was more overrun with warnings, petitions and commentary about the Congress than it has ever been in recent memory.

Many of us saw these warnings when many popular websites went dark, proclaiming that going dark permanently would be the result of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT Internet Protocol Act (PIPA) passing.

SOPA and PIPA were being debated in Congress because of a growing concern surrounding illegal downloading, however, the bills were poorly constructed. When Representative Lamar Smith introduced the acts, he tried to frame the debate as if the entertainment industry was crumbling and there was no stopping its downfall unless SOPA and PIPA were passed.

Debate quickly turned to protecting intellectual property and finding ways to stop the theft through punishments and lawsuits.

There were three major flaws with SOPA and PIPA that Congress apparently didn’t realize.

The first is that, while the idea of protecting intellectual property is great in theory, it’s nearly impossible to do on the Internet.

In order for the U.S. to truly protect intellectual property, there would need to be entire divisions of the government searching IP addresses all across the nation to see if those addresses are downloading information illegally.

The second flaw that Congress apparently didn’t realize is that by protecting all intellectual property on the Internet, average, law-abiding citizens would be able to be sued by corporations for simply using an image owned by that company as their avatar.

For example, if someone decided to use an image of Captain America as their avatar picture on YouTube, then that person could be sued by Disney for using a Disney image without the permission of the corporation.

While this seems unlikely, it is a realistic threat, and if a company’s image is being used often enough without their permission, it could very well happen.

The third and final flaw that Congress didn’t realize is that they are attempting to censor the Internet. The reason this is a flaw is because it’s, quite frankly, impossible.

The Internet is basically all the worlds’ computers connected together in order to exchange information. This was started by the U.S. military to send top-secret information, but is now open to the public.

The reason censoring this is impossible is because in order to properly censor the Internet, Congress would have to censor every personal and public computer in the U.S. because of the access the Internet has.

Clearly, this is highly improbable, if not impossible. Luckily, Congress realized these flaws when the Internet went dark and when public outrage grew and struck down the bill. We should all take this as a lesson, though.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to pay attention to what our government is doing, because sometimes they do some really stupid things.

Dustin is a sophomore at Simpson majoring in political science. He is a member of Kappa Theta Psi fraternity and the president of Alpha Phi Omega. He is a Carver Fellow and periodically writes columns for the Simpsonian on politics.