SOPA and PIPA not popular, but needed

“It’s no longer OK to NOT know how the internet works,” reads an anti– Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act banner, held proudly in a New York City protest on Jan. 18 against the controversial bills presented to the Senate and House in 2011.

The introduction of this legislation in Congress has not only sparked outrage amongst freedom of speech advocates, but also from the internet media gang, namely Wikipedia, Twitter and Google.

Who would have thought that a well-intentioned bill dedicated to combating foreign piracy sites would have led to an exploration of domestic First Amendment rights, Internet censorship and democracy?

The legislation and ideals of SOPA and PIPA are a sensitive topic. As with any typical debate, there are pros and cons.

“The potential (to restrict the First Amendment right) is there,” said Robert Whitnell, former chair of computing and information technology and current professor and chair of the chemistry department. “It becomes a matter where, even without the explicit violation of the First Amendment by the government, the chilling effect can lead to people choosing not to exercise their right for fear of what may happen.”

A group of anti-SOPA organizers in Manhattan shouted to the crowd, “What does democracy look like?”

“This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd zealously responded, reported TechCentral.

While I do agree that the bills may cause unintended consequences in limiting an individual’s freedom to knowledge and unlimited access to the cyber world, I strongly believe that the main messages and intentions of SOPA and PIPA are undoubtedly vital in our society, more so now than ever.

It’s no secret that we, and many of our peers, download songs, movies or episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” through illegal means. At a time when the Internet continues to grow and piracy sites are easily accessible, why should we bother to give our hard-earned penny to the Hollywood moguls when their works are up for grabs on the World Wide Web?

Unfortunately, that’s the mindset that many of us have. We live in the modern world where expedience and convenience outweigh the morality of our actions.

“Illegal conduct is not free speech,” said Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, to CNN. “Illegal conduct is what it is. It’s stealing.”

Although the proponents of SOPA and PIPA continually voice their positive views of the legislation, over the months, the popularity of the acts has plummeted with the help of powerful adversaries.

Google featured a special doodle of SOPA and PIPA by drawing a black censorship bar on their “Google” logo.

Wikipedia joined the opposition, blacking out the English-language Wikipedia site for a day.

A group known as “Anonymous” hacked into personal accounts of several advocates of the bills. A tweet from Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s twitter account said, “Dear Iowans, vote against ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA, because this man, Chuck Grassley, wants YOUR internet censored and all of that BS,” according to ABC News.

Additionally, the twitter account of Dana White, Ultimate Fighting Championship President, was hacked when he continued to defend his company’s support of SOPA, according to CNN News.

Sure, it’s completely normal for anyone to be apprehensive of the Internet’s future if SOPA and PIPA are passed, but it’s not normal for protestors to oppose these bills through extremist means of hacking and even self-censorship, as in the case of Wikipedia’s blackout.

While the Anonymous group tries to portray their actions in a positive and heroic light in favor of protecting the public, their self-described efforts suggest a rather threatening demeanor towards anyone who dare to oppose them: “We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!”

The opponents of SOPA and PIPA are damaging their own cause through their actions. If you disagree with these bills, voice your opinions loud and clear without forcibly shutting out others.

If I were you, I wouldn’t be afraid of these bills. I’d be afraid of SOPA’s hypocritical opponents.