Faculty and students join SOPA opposition
Students at Washington University use Wikipedia to research topics ranging from television shows to drinking games, but Wednesday, Jan. 18, they could not use the site to do anything.
Popular Internet destinations, including Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out their websites yesterday to show their opposition to the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Although Google did not blackout, it blacked out its logo on its homepage.
Many students say the acts, which aim to prohibit piracy on the Internet, are too restrictive.
“I’m a proponent of civil liberties and [oppose] any action where big government is imposing on the civil liberty of its citizens, which is exactly what this act is doing. It’s an insult,” senior Becca Craig said.
Still, some see why the entertainment industry is aiming to stop piracy.
“I see both sides of the argument…I think that it makes sense that the entertainment industry should have the rights over what they are creating and stopping piracy, but I don’t think the bill is perfect, and I value the free flow of information on the Internet,” sophomore Jane Luer said.
Some say the opinions of these popular websites affect their own views on the bills
“The fact that Wikipedia and Google are both openly opposed to it makes you think it’s a bad thing,” sophomore Zachary Hernandez said.
Three University law professors—Gregory P. Magarian, Kevin Collins and Neil Richards—signed a petition that was sent to Congress from prominent law professors in protest of the SOPA and PIPA.
“I signed the petition because the SOPA and PIPA Acts impose liability on information providers and search engines,” Magarian said. “There are two main problems I see with the acts. First, the laws can intimidate the search engines to alter the search results. Second, [the acts] are trying to solve an offshore problem of infringement, but the way I see it, there is no way to do so on the Internet without infringing on free speech rights.”
Magarian is a constitutional law and free speech expert in the Washington University Law School.
“Search engines are legally allowed to show you results that [condone] illegal activity. This is protected in free speech rights,” he said.
Magarian suggested other options of ending Internet piracy.
“The illegal copyright infringement activities can be stopped through signing of treaties with other nations, but to try to stop the information flow on the user end is a violation of the First Amendment,” he said.
With additional reporting by Allison Neuwrith.