"News is the first rough draft of history."

The Voice of the College at Florham

"News is the first rough draft of history." - The Voice of the College at Florham

Stop Online Piracy Act: Potentially everyone’s problem

Digital Editor

I’ll be honest, I only actually learned about 10 percent of the material that was covered in my AP American History class. Part of this I will blame on the Miami-Dade County Public School system, and part of this I will blame on Wikipedia.

Oh, and I guess you can blame me, and my poor work ethic.

But poor work ethic aside…seriously now, people, who needs to go to the library (or what my school called, “the media center”) when you’ve got over a million articles, all of which provide answers to Mr. VanScoy’s essay questions, on the battle at Valley Forge, the Trail of Tears, and Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal?

Hell, who needs the textbook, or the teacher even?

After all, Wikipedia knows what’s up. Wikipedia could easily be our substitute teacher, at a school where Google is the principal and Facebook teaches gym.
Well, it’s no wonder I got a score of “two” on the exam.

It’s no wonder this country is getting dumber and dumber with every tweet about “Jersey Shore.”

On Jan. 18, the English-language Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours, along with a handful of other sites, in protest of two legislations that were being pushed by Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

These two legislations, if they had passed, would have severely increased restrictions on the Internet, for the purpose of preventing piracy and copyright infringement as well as protecting intellectual property.

SOPA and PIPA would have made it so that sites like Google would not be able to link users of the world’s number one search engine, to sites that were considered “infringent.” Under SOPA and PIPA, Internet providers would legally have had to prevent customers from accessing these sites.

It would also have given the government the jurisdiction to shut down these sites, legally, even before bringing the proprietor of the site to a court hearing.

The implications of these laws are of considerable proportions: Wikipedia, a cesspool of blatant copyright infringement and intellectual property theft (albeit, often in the subtlest forms), would plainly be shut down.

Sites like Internet giants Google (who would only be able to link users to sites deemed “credible” and “lawful” by the government) and Facebook, as well as Twitter and the list could go on and on, would have been seriously threatened.

The Internet as we know it, as a useful tool for “socializing” and bullshitting term papers, would cease to exist.
So on Jan. 18, people were pissed.

If they didn’t know about SOPA before then, they sure knew now. My Facebook was flooded with confused, shocked, and angry status updates about Wikipedia’s black-out. What? No Wikipedia! What does the government expect me to do, open up a book, a book I paid $100 for?! What? No Facebook? No Twitter? What does the government expect me to do, develop actual social skills?! Socialize…in person?!

Well, the hell with that.

The ramifications were starting to sink in, and Wikipedia’s black-out actually taught me something I couldn’t have learned from any textbook.
It’s not the Internet that needs to change, it’s people.

While I utterly disagree with the dystopian nature of laws like SOPA and PIPA, and while I’m against censorship and am sympathetic to the anarchists, rebels and those who protest the government (you know, all that Rage Against the Machine stuff), I feel that American society is probably more concerned with what something like this would have meant for their lifestyles than they are about censorship and freedom of expression.

Believe it or not, I know that there was a time before the Internet. I know it probably wasn’t a fun time.

I also know copyright infringement and intellectual property theft has gotten way out of hand. But usurping the Internet, a breakthrough for America and mankind, is simply not the answer.

Point your finger at the Internet, and I’ll point you to a mirror. While SOPA and PIPA may have been suspended, I’m still concerned about future laws, which perhaps won’t be as extreme or controversial, but may carry a similar purpose.

In my humble opinion, SOPA and PIPA were just a way of finding a culprit for a problem we are all responsible for, however ignorant we may be of how culpable we are for piracy and copyinfringement.

Mr. VanScoy told my American History class that if something persists in a society, it must be addressing a sort of need.
Yes, I was actually paying attention for that.

We use Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter and the list goes on and on, because we think we need it. The convenience of today has made us forget the values of yesterday.

Trust me, I’m the first person to Wikipedia a medical term, to Google a famous writer, to Facebook chat the person living a floor below me, when I could grab a dictionary, head to the library, or WALK DOWNSTAIRS.

But is censorship the answer to my indirect support of copyright infringement? Is shutting down the Internet going to make me any less entitled, less lazy, less stupid?

The government covering my eyes and spoon-feeding me what’s credible or lawful isn’t going to make me any more responsible.
But then again, what will?