Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Ever downloaded a free song? Streamed a movie without paying? Listened to a song off of youtube? Probably should read this.

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?


  1. good point when you said,"Stealing is a physical law as well as an ethical law. There is no way to argue that". I agree with you, but its funny because many people out there would disagree and say downloading stuff inst illegal because its being shared. However, that is not correct because it is in fact stealing. The SOPA act was trending on twitrer very heavily last week because so many people were outraged with it, when in reality all the people that are "torrenting" and downloading these songs, videos, or whatever else are in fact stealing and breaking the law. When there are so many sites and programs available now to download it makes it so hard to spend the time to shut them all down. Not to mention all the time and resources it would take to prosecute the thousands of websites and programs that allow illegal downloads. In the future i think this bill will have trouble being passed even with a new draft. It will cost way to many resources and peoples time in order to carry out a SOPA type bill. WHo knows though, it would cause great controversy and if it was passed, millions of people will be subject to a fine or even worse consequences.

  2. If this bill is passed could you imagine how things would go back to ancient times? For example youtube would probably lose sponsors, business deals and viewers. Students use the web very often some of us may not realize it, but we do and putting an end to certain things over the internet would drive us back to using actual books in the library and reading actual newspaper articles. The SOPA would have to reduce the vagueness on the bill, but I could honestly see it passing after a few times. Just because there are lawmakers who believe the internet in general is getting out of hand and dangerous.

  3. The SOPA act has enraged so many people. Before I even knew what it was, people were trying to sign petitions on Facebook and twitter and saying how the government is trying to control the world. It is crazy how things can get out of hand. I feel like the government needs to focus on more important things instead of trying to control the web. Taking away certain websites that we become so familiar with is like taking away a babies pacifier. It is like taking away all the technology we have developed for years going down the drain.

  4. I don’t condone stealing copyrighted material but this was a bad bill. Copyright owners certainly have the right to expect not to have their work pirated but I don’t trust for a second that the large media companies would use SOPA in an ethical fashion. I know of a music blog that was siezed by the Department of Homeland Security for over a year because the RIAA simply claimed that it was infringing on copyrights even though it was not. The owner and his lawyer were kept in the dark as to the status of their case the entire time then, one day out of the blue, the government gave the site back. No explanation. No apology. That is what I fear most in regards to SOPA. A legitimate site being taken off the internet just because one of the big companies claims that their copyright is being violated. The other big issue with SOPA, and the reason I think so many websites were leading a protest, is that the way that the bill was written was that a legitimate site could be taken down (or have its source of advertising income taken away) because a random person decided to post a comment with a link to copyrighted material. That’s not fair at all!

    I think something should be done about those sites whose only purpose is to act as a haven for stolen media. However, I do not have the confidence that our lawmakers even understand the internet well enough to pass a decent law. Did anyone see the reports that SOPA’s author violated copyright on his own official website?

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I think it is something close to hand, that would effect all of us. Do I believe that pirated materials are illegal? Yes, for the simple fact that it's the law and they are. I think there is something bigger to be thought of here, and that is our personal freedoms. The internet does need to be governed and policed to a certain point, obviously child pornography is wrong, and illegal drug trade is wrong, etc. However, I don't think it is wrong to jump on to watch a music video of my favorite song! How is that ANY different that listening to that song on the radio? Or is it wrong to watch an episode of a tv show online for free? How is that any different than getting a cable box from the store and picking up "free channels" that you don't get charged for? I may be making too broad of an arguement here, but my point is, that you can argue other things are just as illegal. If we allow something like SOPA to pass, there goes our personal freedoms. I say this because things such as listening to the radio, and watching tv with a cable box for free, or what about my free facebook application that allows me to download songs for free? All of these types of things will cease to be as well.

  6. I do agree it is technically stealing. However, the internet is in its own entity. It cant be treated as the same as a physical act. Distributors saw it as a way to further profit (genius), but if it is as big of a problem as they portray, there is nothing stopping them from making it unavailable on the internet. But it wouldnt matter, because someone, some where, would find a way to get it out there. We take pride in being different from the world, in this case, China has very strict regulations on the internet, and its disgusting. The government being involved and telling its citizens what they can and cannot view, goes against what it is to be an American.