As technology improves so must the laws that govern the people who use them. Stealing is a physical law as well as an ethical law. There is no way to argue that. The information that is available on the internet is growing at a rate which lawmakers have struggled to deal with. Recently congress failed to pass a law entitled “SOPA” or Stop online piracy act. The bill was an attempt to ban and eradicate websites that would leak or allow the downloading of copyrighted material. A main problem with the bill was the ability for the government to silence any website that was deemed illegal without court appearance. Although this was immediately stricken its implications of government control were outlined immediately. A frequent argument against the bill was whether or not the government had the right to shut down websites on the premise of piracy. Many websites that qualify may not necessarily have pirated material; however they may have the ability to hold that material.
How does this act deal with ethical policies in criminal justice someone may ask? Many people who oppose online information sharing equate “torrenting” or downloading music or videos on the internet to walking into the store and taking the video off the shelf without paying for it. On the other side the argument states that information sharing only duplicates the video. Since the person who shares it still owns it, nothing has been stolen. Either way it is viewed, duplicating any copywrited material without consent is breaking the law. This brings me to my next point.
Does a website have rights for free speech? According to SOPA, the Justice Department would have the right to shut down a website as if they did not have rights. According to The Huffington Post the SOPA bill before it was rejected by congress had the ability to be shut down with a court order before the website prepared or had a chance to present a defense. What rights should be given to websites? Is a website an extension of a person like a corporation can be? This is something that would have to be carefully decided. The Justice Department would not be the only one who had this power. Copy right holders have the ability to shut down websites with information they believe violates their material.
The only rights websites would have is to be able to protest their websites with a legitimate defense appealed to the courts. The main problem with this would be the amount of time and effort defending a website may takes especially when the language used to create the SOPA bill is so broad. Vague wording in this bill allows for courts to rule with wide margins of error and inconsistency. The punishment of breaking copyright laws on these websites can range as far as the blocking and disappearance of the website, to fines, to even time served in prison. The Huffington Post uses an example of a website streaming a movie. That website would be shut down and prosecuted, however the search engine used like Google would have to remove that website from searching as well. Websites that allows users to post links to pirated material may be forced to shut down too depending on the prosecution. An example would be videos, pictures, or music links posted on Facebook, twitter, or youtube.
As a normal college student I could live without these websites, but I would rather not have it come to that. Fortunately this bill did not pass, but a new draft of this has already been made, under the disguise of targeting foreign websites. Thoughts?