Students debate halted legislation

Madison Dennis | Collegio Editor-in-chief

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, some Pitt State students noticed something odd about a few popular websites – they weren’t there.
An estimated 7,000 websites coordinated a service blackout to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills last week. SOPA, or Stop Internet Piracy Act, and PIPA, or Protect IP Act, were measures before Congress that were meant to protect intellectual property and cut down on internet piracy. However, the bills were met with strong opposition that led to legislators shelving the measures before they could be brought before the entire Congress.
Seth Russell says that though he understands the idea behind the bills, he doesn’t think they should be implemented as they currently exist.
“I’m a musician, myself,” said Russell, freshman in marketing. “I get that you work hard and you put something out there. When people aren’t paying for it and you’re getting screwed, yeah that’s bad.”

Opponents of the SOPA/PIPA legislation protest the bills in New York City, NY on Saturday, Jan. 18. Photo by AP

Opponents of the SOPA/PIPA legislation protest the bills in New York City, NY on Saturday, Jan. 18. Photo by AP

Russell says that he would support a bill that protected his rights as a musician and his rights as an Internet user.
“What’s out there now is that they’re trying to come into this thing late and make rules, and people have been doing it this way for a while now,” Russell said. “People are used to putting copyrighted music to their videos and putting it on YouTube or linking to movies or whatever. You can’t just say, okay now that’s illegal.”
Mckayla Ryan says she agrees with Russell, but believes that a revised bill will soon be considered.
“I honestly have been surprised that something like this hasn’t come earlier,” said Ryan, junior in English. “It seems like online piracy and file sharing has been completely out of control for a while now.”
Ryan says she knows many people who have downloaded movies or music illegally.
“It’s somehow not considered stealing, but it is stealing,” Ryan said. “You don’t think that someone is getting hurt when you do it, but there is always someone who has something riding on that movie or that song. I don’t think that SOPA or PIPA will work or should work, but I think that some kind of action needs to be taken.”
One of the causes of controversy regarding the bill was that the bill would hold websites culpable for the content on their individual webpages, requiring constant moderation of user content that many websites would be unable to support.
“They would be taken down because the bill is basically shifting responsibility for content on the website to the website, and any content on that website showing a copyrighted item would be subject to action by that law,” said Jeremy Butler, head technician at Gorilla Geeks. “It would make that illegal and then make whoever is in charge of that site responsible.”
Butler says he feels that there is a good idea at the heart of SOPA.
“I’m not for censorship, and I don’t like the idea of stopping the flow of free information,” Butler said. “But if they stripped away all the extra stuff and could shut down shareware and torrents, it would be reasonable at that point.”
Another controversial section of the bill involves the transparency in enforcement of the law. Some opponents argue that the definition of what would be illegal is vague, and that there is too much potential for misuse by law enforcement and censorship would become legal.
“It’s plausible that this law could be mishandled to shut down websites that were unpopular to the administration. Is that what I think it was meant to be? No,” Ryan said. “But I do think it’s important that citizens stop even the possibility of that from happening.”

Leave A Comment