Behind the Stop Online Piracy Act Bill (SOPA): Copyright, Censorhip, and Free Speech
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Behind SOPA: Copyright, Censorship and Free speech
At the beginning of 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred online and offline against Stop Online Piracy Act Bill (SOPA) that expands U.S. law enforcement’s ability to combat online copyright infringement. As this protest involved many influential websites like Google and Wikipedia, it certainly draws national attention on SOPA. Whether censorship should be used online against online materials infringing property rights, as included in SOPA, is the controversial issue. Even though SOPA eventually was terminated by the Congress, things behind SOPA cause further debates. The relationship between censorship, free speech and copyrights in this bill is worth discussing. In SOPA, copyrights are enforced by censorship, but censorship at the same time violates free speech. Although SOPA’s online censorship on unauthorized online material is an effective method to protect internet copyrights, it resistants innovation and compromises freedom of speech.
SOPA aroused public attention from a wide range of protests though it originally aimed to help online business damaged by piracy. On January 18, 2012, websites like Google, Reddit, Wikipedia were all blackout and drew great public attention. According to the announcement left on Wikipedia’s website, they were in protest against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which “has the potential to significantly change the way that information can be shared through the Internet.”(Wikipedia, 1) SOPA is designed to tackle the problem of websites that provide illegal download of pirated movies, music and other products. For websites consist of user upload materials like Youtube and Facebook, they are responsible for all the materials on their web...
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...ondemned or punished. Everyone has the right to express their point of view. Free speech gave online community abundant resources that broaden viewers’ horizon and keep people update of ideas from different perspectives. A free community gives people the freedom to actively choose what they want rather than accept what authority think is good for them passively. And online governance should serve people rather than abuse human rights like free speech no matter what they are trying to protect.
Online copyrights violation is a very serious problem, but censorship is not its solution. Online censorship in SOPA can decrease the number of copyright infringement online but are not able to change the apparent ignorance of the rules of copyrights among publics. More importantly, freedom of speech is a basic human right that should not be compromised under any circumstance.