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Filed under Opinion

SOPA: What It Is, and Why You Should Care

If you have been paying attention to the news recently,  you may have noticed SOPA. Although the acronym seems nice and friendly, there is something much more sinister going on. If, like most teenagers, you don’t really care about politics, this is the perfect way to get started. As it is an election year, there is no better time to get interested in the future. Some of you will be eligible to vote in this election, so listen up.

What is SOPA?

SOPA is an acronym that stands for Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA was introduced to Congress on October 26, 2011. SOPA’s intended use is to stop things like illegal downloads of music, video games, movies, and so on. Now perhaps this doesn’t seem like the end of the world. “But!” you say hastily, “I don’t download things illegally! I only use Facebook and Google! I don’t see how your nerdy ramblings will affect me at all!” If this was all the bill did, I would agree with you. Sadly, the world isn’t that easy. SOPA looks like a great bill from the outside, since it attacks people who do something illegal. Anyone who supports this bill supports justice, right? Let’s take a closer look.

Why You Should be Worried?

SOPA was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith, who is a Republican. This is worrying because Republicans in Congress have recently begun to favor corporations more than people. Because of a technicality, they are fighting for people. The supreme court case of Citizens United v. FEC, the court ruled that corporations are people. Crazy, right? Anyways, the Republicans in Congress get a healthy sum of money from certain corporations (COMPLETELY avoiding the public opinion) and influence the vote according to what that corporation wants. The media industry has always had a beef with piracy (online or otherwise), leading many bills to be introduced that made it harder to share things with people. A good example would be the shutdown of Limewire in October of 2010. The legal status of these bills was never called into question, so more direct bills are introduced, the most recent being SOPA. According to SOPA, two posts of any kind of illegal content is enough to have a site taken down. This is scary is because websites are responsible for what their users post. If two people posted links on Facebook from Rapidshare or some Russian site where you can watch movies, Facebook could be taken down forever. Oh, and the people who post the links are considered criminals and can be arrested. Is it becoming a little easier to understand why this bill is so bad?

It’s easy to dismiss this as a fringe opinion of some crazy conspiracy theorist. It is easy to look at the information presented and think, “What is this guy talking about? Clearly, he is crazy!” But the truth remains: SOPA is a scary tool that corporations can use to silence literally anyone. Perhaps the most terrifying part of SOPA is that it gives the police the power to arrest you with taxpayer dollars. Now, the part about making deals behind the consumer’s back really hurts. Why? Because the police are funded in part by taxpayer money.  The tax payers have no say in whether this is passed or not. If this hasn’t made you angry yet, that part certainly should!

What Can I Do?

At this point in the legislative process, there is really only one thing to do: write to your senator! Our current senators are Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inoue. Below, I have provided the contact info for our senators. If you feel that democracy is more important than corporations, send a letter or make a call! Send an email! Post it on their Facebook page! Do something! Prove that you care about this once-wonderful democracy we live in.


Edit (1/16): The unthinkable has happened. SOPA has been defeated! It was announced early this morning that Eric Cantor is not pursuing the bill anymore, which effectively kills it. Although this article was posted too late to have any effect, it is still a victory for internet users and content consumers everywhere. Now, the Senate’s version of the bill, called PIPA, is the main threat. It’s basically the same thing as far as most people are concerned, so this information still applies to it. Together, we can defeat this bill!

Edit (1/17): Well guys, false alarm. SOPA is back! This time, it’s being lead by Lamar Smith. It was a fine day when SOPA was defeated, even if it did only last a day.

The views expressed in the Ka Leo O Waiakea’s editorials represent the opinions of the commentator and not necessarily that of the entire staff, unless specified.  We encourage you, the reader, to continue the debate over SOPA and PIPA by posting your thoughts below.

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