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SOPA and PIPA: Opposition With Different Motivations

 

Last week’s protests against the would-be anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA got global attention; Wikipedia claims that over 160 million people saw their page denouncing the bills, and at least that many people laid eyes on Google’s “censored” logo. Now, voting on both bills has been “delayed indefinitely” due to the public outcry against them, but there still seems to be some confusion about what the fuss was about in the first place.

If you’re coming to this party a little late, here are the parts of SOPA and PIPA that had so many people — and corporations — upset:

1) SOPA would let the government sue sites such as Google and Facebook that link to OTHER sites that might have pirated content.

2) SOPA would give the government the right to force PayPal and other monetary sources (like advertisers) to cut off their funding to sites deemed to be piracy-havens.

3) PIPA would allow the government to force Internet providers to block Americans from being able to reach sites that host pirated content. This is the one that freaked people out the most.

Now those are all perfectly valid reasons to be upset about those two bills, and these reasons are why big companies such as Google and Wikipedia publicly opposed them. 

However, if you followed coverage of the protests on major news sites, you probably also saw mention of another site that was “blacking out” to protest the bills — Reddit.com. Reddit opposed SOPA and PIPA for completely different reasons than the rest of the tech industry.

I actually read Reddit.com’s front page pretty often. It’s not so much of a news site as it is a glorified discussion board that’s often filled with funny images and links to goofy YouTube videos. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, it’s also a hotspot for political discussion and piracy is a common topic. Every time the topic of piracy comes up, positions in favor of piracy tend to drown out arguments against it.

Many Reddit users believe it’s totally OK to pirate movies, music or games under certain circumstances, but those circumstances tend to be pretty broad. It’s a popular sentiment on Reddit that if you don’t like a media company (like Electronic Arts), you should get back at that company by pirating their products. In other words “FREE COPIES OF MADDEN NFL 12 FOR EVERYONE!”

Another commonly repeated argument is “I just pirate all my music, and then pay for the stuff I like.” Despite the fact that this argument makes zero sense when you can stream an entire album for free on Spotify, people still think this way because they feel entitled to all the music, movies, games and software that comes out in any given year. 

So here’s how this all connects back to the big debate on SOPA and PIPA: nearly everyone opposes the bills, but not everyone has the same goals. 

Google and many other tech companies have publicly stated they’d support legislation that helped to end piracy, but they simply believe that SOPA and PIPA would introduce more problems than they would solve. 

Meanwhile, there’s the other group — the kids who just don’t want to have to pay $3 for a RedBox rental. They like things the way they are, so they’re against any legislation that would sink their glorious pirate ships.

SOPA and PIPA may no longer be as great of a threat as they were, but rest assured that more anti-piracy legislation will eventually be written. Before deciding that you’re among those opposing these bills (whatever they may be called), make sure that you understand the reasons behind the opposition.