Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published or viewed on the internet. That nation’s government is usually who controls the flow of information, but private corporations at the behest of the government can also have a say. Censorship at it’s core is a means by a government to control the information available to the public and is commonly practiced in countries with very strict regimes or dictators but is also alive in the United States as well. The kind of content that could be found on the internet could be anything from written work such as stories or news articles, to videos of popular television shows or even work from cinema. Censoring the internet would be a serious damage of not only culture, but how we communicate on a daily basis today, it would hurt creative works, and give the government too much control over our privacy with acts like SOPA.
In 2007 Stephanie Lenz posted a twenty second video of her child dancing to “Let’s go Crazy” by Prince. Prince’s record company Universal Music Corp. sent a takedown notice to YouTube saying it broke copy right laws protected by the DMCA. “Under federal copyright law a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the Internet” (EFF). YouTube wanting to steer clear of a disaster, took the video down immediately. Lenz fought back in court stating that she used the video under “fair use” exception to copyright. The fair use exception is a doctrine that allows limited use of the copy righted material without needing permission from the rights holder. That seems pretty fair. It gives a balance between when something is deemed illegal and needs to be censored, or when it is fair to use.
Acquiring music through non-legal means in today’s world means to us, using something like Spotify. Spotify allows people to listen to whatever it has on its database for free so long as you listen to a commercial every once in a while. “Listens” credit the artist with different rates of exchange that creates a cycle of artist allowing their music on Spotify, and in return, Spotify paying artist back. Instances where SOPA would actually even be needed would be like stoping sites like Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay allows users to illegally access material off of their site, but Pirate Bay steals terabytes (1000 gigabytes) worth of copyrighted material every day. In April of 2009 four men were convicted for the file serving service that is The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay is where thousands of terabytes of music, movies and television can be found. These four men were convicted as the principle administrators of the site and responsible for numerous copyright infringements. “Each man was sentenced to a year in prison and $3.6 million in damages to leading entertainment companies” (NYT). Instances like this are really the only instances when SOPA would ever need to be.
Giving the power of controlling the internet almost exclusively to the government would easily allow them to manipulate and regulate everything on the internet. That could have catastrophic blow backs because millions of Americans who actively use the internet would see that as infringing on the rights of U.S. citizens under the constitution. The Arab Spring was a massive movement of revolution and civil war in the middle east. Technology, mainly, social media became an invaluable tool in allowing protestors to secretly arrange meetings for protests. They had to do this in code because anything that went against that countries government was immediately censored out from all sources of information, not just the internet. In fact, because the government was having such a hard time controlling the people, they shut down the internet for a short duration and that really cause a bigger problem. The method in which the government took control of its people was a poor choice because instead of working on a solution, they just shut down the voice of the people.
The act known as Stop Online Piracy was an act brought to congress back in 2010. The bill proposed that government censors could follow up with calling out anyone who posted or shared copyrighted content to the domain’s administrator who would then have to take down the infringing material posted by a user or face legal consequence. If the site did not comply, the site would get a ban notice and advertisers and other sources of income for the site were forbidden to participate. The law could be taken directly to the offender for fines in damages and potential prison time. SOPA supporters say they wants to achieve the elimination of piracy but yet it has all the potential in the world for becoming a tool for a government that could reach over our rights and have a jurisdiction all its own.
Pfanner, Eric. “Four Convicted in Sweden in Internet Piracy Case”. April, 2009. “Four men convicted of Piracy In Sweden”
Pepitone, Juilanne. “SOPAexplained: What it is and why it matters”. January 20, 2012. “SOPA explained”