SOPA warrants disagreement

By Jessica Isgro

Contributing Writer

I know that as a relatively conservative individual, I should support SOPA and PIPA. However, the prospect of this legislation passing incites within me a deep sense of revulsion. On the surface, these bills may seem at most annoying and unnecessary, but the harm they can inflict on this nation and our cherished ideals is vast. From a limited freedom of expression to an unprecedented means of censorship, these bills embody the antithesis of what we, as Americans, hold dear.

The intent of these bills is to protect the entertainment industry. I would be remiss to ignore the common knowledge that this industry has taken many a financial hit in recent years due to counterfeiting and online copyright infringement. This is something we should especially recognize as college students focused on spending our money on tuition, room and board and endless cups of coffee; not on over-priced DVD/Blu-Ray combo packs of movies that are readily available online. However, the answer to this problem is not to shut down such websites, to block them on our search engines or to penalize perpetrators with extensive jail time.

Those in favor of this bill claim it will decrease the unemployment rate by creating new jobs. However, if Internet companies fear liability or prosecution under these new laws, what is not to say they won’t take their business elsewhere? Companies may move overseas, taking not only our jobs, but also our citizens with them. Rather than solving a problem, an entirely new conflict is created.

The biggest pitfall associated with these bills is the concept that if the government can control what websites we can access, what can’t they do? More than anything, this seems like the beginning of a downward spiral that can only lead to a stronger hand in governmental control and a narrower definition of free speech.

Granted, back in the day when the founding fathers decided which freedoms we do and do not have, they were not concerned with intellectual property, economic stability bred from job opportunities in the entertainment sector and copyright infringement deep-seated in our technologically savvy nation. Yet this cannot be used an excuse. Their decisions were, conceptually, what we are entitled to as Americans, and it is up to our current generation to figure out how to accommodate these rights with our laws.

While in some ways, taking a stand against these proposed legislations is dicey (it’s undeniable that copyright violation is wrong and is illegal), the bigger picture is not a pretty one. I am not saying no to fining perpetrators of online theft. I am saying no to excessive punishment, to unfair censorship and to the ability of the government to legislate with an iron fist.

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