Not many people were familiar with the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, or SOPA, last year when a representative from Texas (where else?) introduced it. SOPA was designed to fight the online trafficking of copy righter intellectual property, through techniques such as blocking advertisers from working with sites that had been blacklisted and issuing court orders mandating that Internet service providers block access to such sites as well as preventing search engines from linking to them.
The problem with SOPA doesn’t lay in what it says it intends to do, but rather in the power it gives the government to patrol the web, essentially the power of censorship. Anyone who has used sites to download or watch copyrighted material (…) can attest to the fact that after getting shut down, these sites will spring up again elsewhere in a matter of minutes, rendering SOPA’s intended purpose pointless. In this sense the web is less of a wasteland than it is 1920’s Gangster Era Chicago, with sites replacing speakeasys. In SOPA’s effort to silence sites such as Rapidshare and Megaupload (one site that did manage to get shut down, so some kudos are in order), I have no gripe simply because such sites will continue to operate one way or another. However, when the government uses its power to censor speech and ideas is when problems occur. The web is essentially the last source for free speech and, although it may be a bit overcrowded, making it difficult for our voices to be heard, said voices will be heard somehow by someone; such is the power of the internet. In the mobster era of the web our government sees us in, they hope to enact a digital prohibition. Thankfully those in favor of SOPA are no Elliot Ness or even his team of Untouchables and there is no dividing Al Capone-type acting as the figurehead for a free internet, because our voices are damn sure being heard.