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SOPA, PIPA and the Freedom of Speech
SOPA, PIPA and the Freedom of Speech
By: Bikram K Singh

There has been a lot of debate and activism related to SOPA and PIPA in the United States. But why should we care about a law being tabled in the United States?

Well our being concerned with the issue may not push the congress and senate in the USA to prevent form making SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) in a law, but that may reinforce the cause and make many citizens of the USA aware of the issue at hand. That is the reason why everyone is talking about these two acts.

The benign sounding acts appear to check the activity of pirates and “Warez uploaders” to protect the interest of copyright holders, but that is not why everyone from Wikipedia to Google to Facebook is protesting. We must be clear that no one like pirated stuffs on the Internet, but such acts will have far deeper implication. They will break the fabric of the Internet, which is known for the freedom of its speech, innovation, and availability of “free flowing” information through websites Wikipedia, search engines like Google, social sharing sites like Reddit, and Social networking websites like Facebook.

The two acts we discussed above are of the similar nature – SOPA has been brought by the House of Representative, whereas, PIPA is in the Senate. Both aim to curb piracy by holding publishers (and also content creator) accountable for what goes on to its website. Once this law is enacted, a website may be pulled down on even a hint of copyrighted material on the website.

Let’s say somewhere among the millions of pages on Wikipedia lies a small section, which was lifted from a book and which got overlooked by Wikipedia editors, who anyway keep a close watch on what goes on Wikipedia.

This lone section, when proved in the court of law as being lifted from a copyrighted book, will give power to the government to pull that website down of the net, and put a stop on the payment as well.

The draconian law is forcing people on the Internet to take stand to protect the freedom of speech and innovation on the Internet. To make the protest effective, more than 700 websites has decided to go black. Wikipedia, Reditt, WordPress, and Greenpeace are among the ones that have gone black (See the BBC link for the full list).

According to a recent Zogby survey, the awareness level of SOPA in the United States is very high. 60 percent of the US Voters know about it, and 68% among them are against this law. The growing sentiments of people in the United States can also be gauge from the unrest politicians are feeling over SOPA in the States. Many senators who earlier supported the law have withdrawn their support. You can read about the details of the law on Wikipedia page on SOPA.

The bills will go for voting on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, but seeing the climate, it is not looking likely that this will make its way through. We all need to push hard to stop it from becoming a reality.

Yesterday, when I tried finding some information on Wikipedia, I was welcomed by a black Wikipedia page, which unnerved me. Just imagine how the web would be if Wikipedia is gone or when Google stops giving right results for the fear of getting closed down.

Doesn’t this future scare you?