A bill being examined by Congress was recently shelved. The bill would have given officials the power to shut down and disable websites found to be trafficking in illegally-obtained and copyrighted materials. The bill would have given officials a great deal more authority and it would have been a great tool for combating Internet piracy. If it had passed, it would have been a major blow to online pirating, giving officials the ability to attack and eliminate it at its source.
This may not seem like such a big deal until the implication of the bill is considered. Many video hosting websites are unaware of the fact that they host copyrighted material. With this bill it wouldn’t matter; all a company would need to do is report a site and it would be shut down. Most sites that host video content typically remove any illegal content as soon as they can, though sometimes they miss something. The bill removes the need to communicate with the webmasters before legal action is taken, and thus could lead to a lot of unnecessary shut-downs of innocent websites.
The bill was expected to get through the House of Representatives and the Senate with little to no objection since it had support from both sides of the aisle. What was not expected was the amount of criticism and negative campaigning coming out of Silicon Valley. A number of key people claimed the bill was just another means of the government gaining control to censor the content on the Internet. The bill would give a massive increase to the power the government has on the Internet, cutting away at net neutrality in one giant slice.
Proponents of the bill claim that it is vital to aid the ailing movie and music industries which are the most heavily hit by Internet piracy. They pushed hard to get the bill through Congress, hoping to get it in the books prior to Congress’ vacation for November campaigning. The only thing that stopped the bill from making it to the floor was time. They did not have a enough time to get to the bill on the docket.
Internet piracy is safe for now, but it is surely facing, if not its demise, a major hit to what has become a way of life for a number of people. Whether you support Internet piracy or not isn’t the real question. The bill gives government officials potentially too much power over the Internet. The steps toward total control are small ones. As the debate over the Internet kill-switch continues, this only seems to be yet another attack toward net neutrality. A concept we have lived with our entire life may be seeing its last days. The Internet may not be so free the next time you look.