How do the SOPA/PIPA bills effect Penn students?

The United States House of Representatives and Senate have been debating over two pieces of legislation regarding online piracy for the last few months.

These bills are very closely related but have one main difference between them. The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are both an effort to fix the issue of websites (foreign-based) that sell pirated music, movies, and other various products. The main difference between these two bills is that the House bill (SOPA) includes a section that makes streaming unauthorized copyrighted content illegal.

The Motion Picture Association of America is the main supporter of this bill because it would allow them to take private legal action against sites that are illegally selling or making pirated copies of movies or TV shows online. These actions would help the MPAA and other related companies to fight back against online piracy that costs them billions of dollars.

But how does this effect us college students? Well the language of the House bill (SOPA) is very broad. This broadness could lead to content owners accusing innocent websites that are unknowingly hosting “pirated” content. This provision not only effects Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia but it effects any website that allows users to upload content of any kind.

“I am not a fan of the SOPA bill that is currently up for debate in Congress,” says Katie Rielly, a Digital Communications student at William Penn University,” I believe they have the right idea but the fine print of uploading copyrighted content is not fair.”

This blog could be included in that group of innocent websites. If a video of edited movie or music clips (that have been copyrighted) was uploaded by a user of this blog, then the SOPA bill would enable the people who created that copyrighted content to sue whoever uploaded the clips or even whoever created the blog. Or the blog could even be shut down without the creator being able to defend themselves.

“I think the general idea of content ownership has been muddied by the Internet and the way that we create and share content,” says Matt Wagner, Professor of Digital Communications at William Penn University, “The problem with today’s copyright law is that we either force students who are creating content not to be creative or to become pirates. It is very difficult to make derivative works with the current copyright laws.”

Although these bills may have the right intentions when it comes to fighting online piracy, it seems that many people are not fans of the idea of making streaming unauthorized content illegal. College students and any person that uploads content on the internet may have to change the way they have been doing things if the SOPA bill gets passed.


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