It was only a matter of time before government regulation caught up with the massive amounts of illegal content, including music, tv shows, and movies, that is streamed through the internet. When I first heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a piece of legislation that would give Congress the ability to shut down websites that the government believes to be associated with piracy, my first thought was “Oh no! Does this mean I won’t be able to stream my favorite old episodes of How I Met Your Mother on websites like Megavideo or Sidereel?” Although I was initially disappointed to hear that I would no longer be able to access free media and entertainment online, I acknowledge that the content I enjoy so much is illegal and that music artists and productions are robbed every time I stream music and watch my favorite shows online. SOPA was inevitable and sounded (admittedly) fair.
However, it was only after I did more research on SOPA that I understood the serious limitations that this legislation would put on Americans freedom of expression on the Internet. The government would have the ability to shut down blogs that site links to websites that contain illegal content and could even shut down discussion boards that include or link to websites that are suspected of piracy. This legislation would strictly limit what Americans will have access to on the internet, and what freedom they will have to express themselves via blogs, comment boards, and personal websites. As a writer, I feel strongly against this bill because I believe that it gives government too much power to restrict our right to free speech and expression. Even though I agree that there should be a way to limit access to media and entertainment that is protected through copyright and intellectual property laws, this bill has the power to restrict much, much more than illegal content.
If you are interested in learning more about SOPA, here is an article that was published in the Huffington Post that gives a good overview of the bill: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/14/sopa-protect-ip_n_1140180.html
Also, here is a link to a great op-ed that ran in the NYT last week. Unlike my oppositional stance to the bill, this op-ed presents a more critical analysis of the boycotts against SOPA. Really interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/opinion/sopa-boycotts-and-the-false-ideals-of-the-web.html
What do you all think about this bill?