Should the US pass the Stop Online Piracy Act?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am


Related topics

Elise Choi, 16, Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School

In this digital era, nearly everyone uses the internet to browse information, listen to songs and watch movies for free. But how does this affect the innovators? How would you feel if your masterpieces were being used without your permission?

In the US, there are laws to ban this sort of behaviour, but they are not powerful enough. Therefore, the US should pass SOPA to further protect intellectual property. One of its advantages is that the government would have more power to order internet service providers to block websites which violate intellectual property rights. This way, entertainment companies and copyright holders could claim thousands of dollars in compensation. Statistics show more than 400 organisations and businesses have already sent a letter supporting SOPA.

If there were a harsher penalty, fewer users would upload or download music and movies via the internet, and instead buy the originals.

Another feature of the bill is that it also affects overseas websites, and therefore, protects individuals outside of the US from being duped by wrong information. Since SOPA allows the US Justice Department to sue suspicious websites, it could help prevent international fraud.

Some may argue that websites like YouTube may have to shut down once the bill is passed. But this may be a blessing: if it were less easy to download entertainment, online addiction might be less of a problem.

Matthew Murchie, 18, Imperial College London

When SOPA was first thought up, its purpose was simply to protect intellectual property rights. However, the act soon became an unfortunate demonstration of how good intentions can all too often lead to undesirable consequences.

If SOPA were to be passed, not only could websites and internet users involved in piracy be shut down, even sites with links to other sites containing copyrighted material could be shut without warning. SOPA operates on a 'shoot first, ask questions later' policy: you must prove your innocence to be let off, rather than being innocent until proven guilty.

The web contains a vast pool of information. Its usefulness lies in the fact that data is easily available to people all over the world. SOPA may be designed to protect people's creativity, but if a side effect is the destruction of what the internet stands for, passing it would be detrimental.

Even if a blanket crackdown on piracy was the right direction to take, SOPA would not actually achieve its aims. SOPA works by removing sites from the Domain Name System, meaning that the contents of the website are still online, just less easily accessible. This allows people who are actually interested in piracy to still be able to evade SOPA and access copyrighted information with a little technical expertise.

In short, I stand firmly against the passing of SOPA because, first, its implications would hugely limit the usefulness of the internet and, second, the way SOPA attempts to curb online piracy is highly ineffective and would do little to solve the problem.