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How would SOPA and PIPA have affected students?

| February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

You may have recently heard about the controversy surrounding the new SOPA and PIPA bills. These are acts were formed by the U.S. government because of the intense amount of pressure coming from entertainment and software companies to find a solution to combat their products (music, films, games etc.) being distributed on the internet through online piracy.

While these “circumvention” tools sound reasonable, these two reforms have faced a lot of opposition – notably from internet giants Wikipedia and Google, who on January 18th both displayed a prominent blacked out logo on their home page in defiance to the bills – because these bills could potentially limit online freedoms and change the way that we use the internet.

PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act”, and, if passed, will give the U.S. government the right to seek affirmative legal action with any website that they see as enabling copyright infringement, whether of U.S. origin or not.

SOPA is an acronym “for the Stop Online Piracy Act”, and will work in conjunction with PIPA. SOPA has been identified as a “black list” of sites that theU.S.government will prosecute for “knowingly and willfully providing” illegal content. Some people believe that this kind of language could result in the blacklisting of the next YouTube, Wikipedia, or WikiLeaks.

Already dubbed as the “Great Firewalls of America”, many people become worried that these bills would begin to limit the free speech powers of the internet – which could mean the end of uncensored knowledge and for students this is bad news!

It is no surprise that the internet has become the number one research tool for students in a whole range of subjects. Using Google to get access to wider reading material, Wikipedia to get background research on a writer or a text, discussing ideas on forums or chat rooms, or even just purchasing your course texts online; students who use these websites for both educational and entertainment purposes would have felt the effects of SOPA and PIPA. All of the rights to free knowledge could have been threatened with the passing of these bills.

These acts would have affected students who used websites that link to external content. In the past, Students and even Teachers have found copyrighted materials online, and used them in their essays, presentations or assignments. This might include any copyrighted names, images or even music and restrict the use of software such as Microsoft Powerpoint in learning.

Additionally, a lot of students post their work online for other students to access. SOPA/PIPA could affect both the availability of these materials, and the ability to share them with other students.

SOPA and PIPA would therefore have had adverse effects on those who use and contribute to information resources, even libraries – whose mission it is to provide information resources and services in support of teaching, learning and research.

It is for this reason that businesses like Wikipedia have taken such an aggressive stand against the bills; reporting that over 8 million of their users made an effort to contact their senator or representative and tell them their concerns with SOPA and PIPA. Additionally, Google, also reported collecting over 7 million signatures in a petition against the bills.

If these bills were to pass then a lot of things will change. The Internet is about the free flow of information, and with these acts online freedoms will be restricted and this will directly affect how you study, and how you use the internet.

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