Staff Editorial 1/23: SOPA threatens Internet rights

On Wednesday, Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours, Google blacked out their label and Reddit went dark, a virtual protest against the possibility of Internet censorship.

Recently, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have been making its way through Congress.

If passed, SOPA would give government the ability to take down any international website containing unauthorized copyrighted material. U.S. House Representative Lamar Smith introduced the bill last October stating that foreign websites are “stealing our profits, stealing our jobs and endangering Americans,” according to an article in the New York Times.

At the time he presented the bill, Smith had 12 co-sponsors, but no one else seems to be jumping on the SOPA bandwagon. The few proponents for this bill state that SOPA is needed to protect the intellectual property industry and enforce copyright laws. If this bill were to pass, which is a possibility, any foreign website blamed for breaking U.S. law would have 48 hours to appeal the court decision. If not, American companies like Google, Yahoo and PayPal, would have five days to act upon the court order by removing any hyperlinks, advertisements and any payments being processed for the website in question.

PIPA, which is similar to SOPA, was introduced in the House, while SOPA is in the Senate. PIPA was introduced last May by Senator Patrick Leahy and 11 co-sponsors.

Although it is understandable that the government wants to protect businesses and websites from foreign and domestic copyright infringement, debilitating Americans’ basic rights cannot be the solution. In theory, SOPA and PIPA sound efficient, but in reality, the cost of limiting citizens’ rights is not the solution.

Censoring the Internet goes against everything we, as Americans, believe in. If Congress allows this bill to be passed, it will open the door to similar legislation and we may be in North Korea and China’s communist shoes before we know it. The best way to protect businesses is to protect the Internet. The Internet was created to be uncensored, unregulated and free – a modern marketplace of ideas. It promotes communication, economic growth and democracy. And that’s how it should stay.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.