The internet has become an integral part of our lives, linking people overseas, transmitting ideas, and propelling innovation. In order to continue the innovations and links, governments and service providers should not regulate, restrict, or censor the internet.
The internet, as it stands today, serves as a medium for our entertainment, communication, and commercial needs. It is something many of us have come to take for granted. The original intended purpose of the first “internet,” however, goes back to the days of the Cold War where the ever looming threat of a nuclear missile attack prompted the U.S., as well as many other countries, to build a robust, fault-tolerant, and widely distributed computer network. By 1970, ARPANET had been created from research funded by the Department of Defense. ARPANET linked research facilities in the East and West coasts in a way that was unprecedented in terms of speed and cost. The internet was not commercialized until the last decade of the 20th century, after which it gained widespread popularity and was subsequently incorporated into many aspects of our lives. How different groups approach these problems are sometimes as different as night and day. All of these approaches, however, center around regulation, which is itself composed of issues such as anti-piracy laws, net neutrality, and freedom of speech.
The most recent of these issues concerns many pieces of “anti-piracy” legislation that have appeared before the United States’ Congress and before the European Union’s Parliament. In 2010, Congress attempted to quietly pass the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the suspension of websites that have been determined to be "dedicated to infringing activities," a classification that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, the worst being ominously threatening towards free speech. Fortunately, news quickly spread and petitions were submitted, preventing its passing. Senator Wyden expressed his opposition, claiming that “the collateral damage of this statute could be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure internet." Copyrighted works make up only a small fraction of the World Wide Web. To impose such far-reaching legislation will harm irrelevant law-abiding businesses.
This year, the House tried passing the Stop Online Piracy Act, or “SOPA.” At first glance, it appears to be a reasonable bill aimed to protect the works of artists and copyright holders. The bill, however, could easily create an atmosphere in which any individual may file a complaint and have any site removed, cutting off the site’s revenue, if “pirated” content is found on the site, regardless of whether or not the site’s owners were the ones that uploaded the file. In effect, “SOPA kills the safe harbor in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” (Dignan) which protects sites as long as they act in good faith and do all in their power to actively remove illegal content under copyright.