Anti-piracy legislation failure a positive

Staff Editorial

In the past few weeks, two federal legislative bills named SOPA and PIPA have made headlines.

The bills, if passed, would attempt to prevent Internet users from accessing websites that were known to be housing pirated content.

They would do this, first of all, by blocking the website’s address in a number of places. For instance, typing into your browser’s address bar the name of a content-pirating site like “” would likely result in a screen on your computer that said, “Site blocked due to illegal content.”

But it won’t stop there, according to a talk by Clay Shirky, a well-known social media theorist. Another part of the bill could involve shutting down websites that merely point to the culprit.

Take Facebook for example—a social media giant that has over 800 million active users. Shirky said SOPA and PIPA would have required the government to police all 800 million users to make sure they didn’t post any links to pirated content. Since Facebook would have had no feasible way to do this, it would have been forced to shut down.

The bills were both postponed after protests, which is a good thing.

If the bills had been passed, it is possible that eventually one of the Internet’s key functions—allowing people to communicate freely with one another through social media—would have been lost.

And since its start, social media has been a force for good. It has led to more easily accessible education, allowed democracies to replace dictatorships, and bolstered innovation.

As college students, we can all applaud the defense of intellectual property. But until a bill is written that also defends social media, intellectual property will have to wait.

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