Students express mixed feelings concerning SOPA blackout

Nadav Gov-Ari

Photo by Daphne Yu
SOPA blackout day brought a variety of reactions from students.
Sophomore Nate Horvit depends on social networking sites for information. He is an example of how high school students have adapted to the ease and speed of instant information. Just one day without those sites was a rock blocking Horvit’s path.
“O.K. I get it. The bills are a danger to our way of life,” Horvit said jokingly, “but I had a test second hour and was planning on cramming with Wikipedia.”
For those who still do not know, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Individual Property Act (PIPA) are bills awaiting a vote in Congress originally slated for a vote Jan. 24. The bills are designed to allow the government to temporarily or permanently shut down or take over websites that hosts intellectual copyright infringement, intentional or not.
Throughout the United States, SOPA and PIPA were and continue to be aggressively criticized by the general public. Search engine Google blacked out its logo, while the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia blacked out its site for a full 24 hours.
Wikipedia, YouTube and other sites offer “free knowledge” for all, but at the cost of those who produce it. The FBI arrested the creator of Megaupload, a site centered on anonymous peer-to-peer content sharing, yesterday for what the FBI is estimating $500 million loss to the owners of the pirated content. However, Wikipedia has described PIPA and SOPA as “a real and imminent threat of free speech,” with 200 protestors hitting the streets of San Francisco, San Jose Mercury News reports.
Seniors Rick Flinn and Syed Ejaz are partners on the debate team, and both were livid in their reactions to the bills. Flinn compared SOPA and PIPA to “the Great Firewall of China” and feared what this could mean for the future of government powers over an “international space for doing what you want, how you want.”
“Look, I’ve read the [bill’s] text, and I’ve read a lot about it,  and simply put, the government is expecting to get a whole lot of power without any checks and balances, and that’s completely wrong,” Flinn said. “SOPA and PIPA give the government the power to take down completely any site in which copyright infringement is hosted, intentional or not.”
Flinn explained his dislike of the two bills stemmed from the principle that they were a “blatant denial of basic 1st amendment rights.” Agreeing with Flinn are at least seven million other Americans, who all signed Google’s online petition, according to the Washington Post.
“The thing about SOPA and PIPA, the US government is declaring itself the ruler of the world by being able to shut down sites, not just censoring them, but shutting them down,” Flinn said. “Everything you know right now- YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, anything that hosts user-based content that may infringe on copyright laws, accidentally or not, has the potential to be taken down. It’s a lot bigger than people realize.”
Horvit isn’t looking forward to a world without Facebook or Google, but he understands the motive behind SOPA and PIPA. While he disagrees with the bills specifically, he was adamant in his belief that piracy needed to end.
“Imagine this,” Horvit said. “You’re a builder, and you spend weeks and months and years building this tremendous beautiful hotel. After you sell some rooms to people, you notice some people sneak into your hotel and sleep just like all the other customers, without paying. Now isn’t that just wrong?”
By Nadav Gov-Ari