SOPA could cut-off copyrighted content

"Take Care" by Drake featuring Rihanna is taken down from YouTube for containing copyrighted material.

Coming home after school, a student decides to listen to some music in order to relax from a busy day. He spends quite some time on YouTube on average.

However, in those two hours he finds that some of his favorite music videos have been taken down by YouTube.

Instead he heads to Tumblr, only to find a pop-up that states the web site has been blocked.

On November 16, Tumblr and other sites participated in American Censorship Day in order to increase awareness of  the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill proposed to the House of Representatives by Texas Representative Lamar Smith.

SOPA’s purpose is to eliminate piracy by giving the government the power to shut down search engines and block websites that contain pirated contents. Any songs, movies, television shows, and programs deemed  “pirated content” would be removed.

The bill gives the government the power to force search engines and internet service providers to make web sites disappear. A website that is found with pirated material would be de-indexed from search results and an internet service provider would use a domain name system to make a roadblock, stopping internet users from accessing the site. The website would still exist, but would not be accessible from the traditional web address. That means that only those who are advanced in technology would be able to get around the roadblocks and access the site.

Some critics feel the bill could encourage more illegal activity.

“[The government] is encouraging hackers to find loopholes,” said senior Aaron G.

The bill was expected to be discussed in Congress this week. Voting could take place next week.

Many websites such as Google, Facebook, and Yahoo have already begun their campaign against the bill. These web giants published  a full-page newspaper ad urging lawmakers to vote against the bill. The vague definitions in the bill would force them to block the domain names of infringing websites and could lead to lawsuits and other problems.

But it’s not just web giants that would be affected by this bill. Ordinary internet users, including those who have never pirated material before, will feel the effects of SOPA. If SOPA is passed, people could face a sentence of spending up to five years in prison for streaming copyrighted music, making music covers, or even watching videos with copyrighted content, according to the website of American Censorship (

Conversely, the bill is being supported companies like Sony, hoping to regain money that has been lost from piracy.

Some users of online music and videos support the legislation.

“I enjoy the fact that people get to share and communicate, but at the same time, I am against illegal activities; so I am supporting [the bill],” said teacher Evguenia Volkova. “If that is what they have to do to stop piracy, then I support it.”

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has claimed substantial financial losses from piracy. In MPPA’s testimony letter to the Congress, it is stated that the entertainment industry losses $135 billion a year in pirated material.

Microsoft’s income comes from creating and selling software, but their products are being pirated all over the world.  Despite the money lost from their products being pirated, Microsoft still does not agree with the SOPA bill.

According to Business Software Alliance blog (an association that represents Microsoft), “…definitions of who can be the subject of legal actions and what remedies are imposed must be tightened and narrowed.”

Search engines that link internet users to websites containing pirated material would be in danger of being shut down.

Many people believe that if the government were given this amount of power over the internet, many web sites would be blocked due to the broad definitions provided in the bill. Others have expressed that it hinders the free expression and creativity.

“I feel like it is a violation of my constitutional rights,” said junior Dimitri K.

Ironically, December 15 — when the House of Representatives was scheduled to discuss the bill — was the 220th anniversary of the First Amendment.