On January 18th approximately 75,000 United State websites took part in a “blackout” to protest legislation before the United States Congress.  The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are bills  introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to prevent the piracy of millions of dollars worth of intellectual property being trafficked freely over the internet. The bills would broaden United States law enforcement’s power to investigate and enforce sanctions against pirating sites. While the goals of the bills are admirable, the way in which the legislation is written may have unintended consequences. Freedom of speech is one of the principal foundations that our government was founded upon; it was certainly seen as important enough to be written down in the first Amendment of our Constitution.  These bills would essentially allow the government to block everyone’s access to entire internet domains due to a sole post in one of their users’ blogs. The result would be in major sites being possibly fined and criminally prosecuted with a result of a possible five years imprisonment, if such a single post were to unknowingly stream unauthorized copyrighted material. Internet Service Providers would be require to block all access to an infringing site within five days, and search engines would be requires to remove all links to the infringing site. The simple (possible) idea that a whole corporation could be punished due to one user’s unknown response is unfortunate. Google, a leader in the protest against the legislation, didn’t black out its website. However, it did initiate a petition that collected over 4.5 million signatures of Americans against the legislation.

Since the blackout and the American public’s response, support of the bills from many Congressmen have dropped. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a co-sponsor for PIPA, stated that as he has learned of the legitimate concerns of the “many unintended consequences” that the bill could bring he has withdrawn his support.  Furthermore he asked that Senator Reid (the initial proponent of the bill) to “abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor.”  Congress should seriously consider alternatives that many of the protestors of PIPA and SOPA (such as Google) support. One of those is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act).

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