Guest Column: SOPA infringes on free speech

Nat Larsen

He’s twenty-eight years late, but the fear of “Big Brother” isn’t over yet. “Big Brother” is the dictator of George Orwell’s “1984“, but I’m not talking about a generic totalitarian figurehead. I’m talking about a much worse evil that could cripple the Internet.

SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is an Internet censorship bill that would prohibit websites from displaying copyrighted intellectual properties, or IPs. In theory this sounds like a good idea, but in action it is more detrimental to our country’s freedom of speech than piracy is to the music and film industry.

SOPA states that any website that might “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement is subject to penalty under this law. What exactly does “engage in, enable, or facilitate” mean? Simply stated, this means that an IP holder can seek a court order against a website and shut it down due to copyright infringement.

This can be anything from a YouTube tribute video, to movie and music download links. What this means for the Internet is that anything the RIAA and the MPAA sees as unfit can be subjected to having their URL blacklisted and made inaccessible to the public.

This doesn’t stop piracy though; the same websites can still be visited and used if a person has the IP address. What this does is create a censored Internet based on what an organization thinks is acceptable. This is way too much power for these organizations, with known agendas, to have.

SOPA feels so much more restrictive and fascist, than a country based on free speech and basic human rights should even consider.

If we pass this law, our media is no better than the censorship in China. In 1996, China started to ban websites and censor the Internet in fear that information could be subversive to the government. In fact, China employs Internet Police strikingly similar to Big Brother’s Thought Police.

This not only violates free speech, it also has a negative impact on the economy. Websites that have user submitted content such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr could all be affected by this act, not to mention all the future websites that could be affected, or even cease to exist. There’s a good chance that every site you frequent could be affected by this act.

What SOPA is, and what it says it is, are two completely different things. We must act on the rights we have before they are taken away. This is going down a one-way road we won’t be able to return. It’s our duty as United States citizens to act against an atrocity that could damage the freedom that we pride ourselves on so much.

There are various foundations that are raising awareness to this bill, the foremost being the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The site,, was founded to inform the public about threats to Internet neutrality, which in our technological day and age, is one of our most important assets.

The threat of a censored life has finally come upon us. This doesn’t just affect IP owners, the economy, or some political agenda. This act will directly affect you and your daily life. If you don’t want the possibility of seeing only what a bent organization wants you to see, it’s time for action.

Originally published Jan. 17 in The Griffin News, Missouri Western State U.