Online SOPA protest sparks student reaction

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act in October, which, along with the Protect Intellectual Property Act, has garnered adverse reactions from commonly visited websites and students at Youngstown State University.

SOPA and PIPA aim to stop piracy and protect against copyright infringement. They’re essentially targeted toward foreign sites that thrive on stolen digital goods. However, Internet companies argue that the legislation creates censorship that threatens freedom of speech.

“I think it’s ridiculous. If you’re just listening to music, it should be fine as long as you’re not selling it,” said Samantha Yannucci, a sophomore at Youngstown State University.

Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, TwitPic and other websites protested the bill on Wednesday by blacking out their title bars and, in some cases, their content.

Junior Noah Weiser said that, even though the website blackouts were inconvenient, he supports the effort.

“I understand that they need to do something because if they don’t, then we’re going to become like China, who only get to see what China wants them to see,” Weiser said.  

Weiser plans on signing one of the online petitions against SOPA, which Google and other websites have linked.

According to a news release from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of those who proposed SOPA, intellectual property theft costs $100 billion annually and thousands of jobs.

“Because the U.S. produces the most intellectual property, our nation has the most to lose if we fail to address the problem of rogue sites. The Stop Online Piracy Act stops foreign rogue websites from taking jobs and profits away from America’s innovators,” Smith said in the news release.

The Internet uproar has influenced U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who sponsored PIPA, to reconsider. He said on his Facebook page Wednesday morning that he recognizes legitimate concerns about how the bill could impact the Internet.

“Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences,” Smith said on his Facebook page.

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, told the Los Angeles Times that the decision to blackout Wikipedia on Wednesday didn’t come lightly.

“It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open Web,” Gardner said.

She said that more than 1,800 “Wikipedians” joined together within 72 hours to discuss proposed actions against the two bills.  

At YSU, sophomore Jeremey Kollar said he would need more information before forming an opinion on the bills but was shocked by the number of websites that joined and the amount of people talking about it on Facebook.

“The respective artists deserve credit for their work, but some fees aren’t nominal for students,” Kollar said, referring to websites that would have to take down content.

The U.S. House of Representatives will continue discussion of SOPA in February.

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