‘SOPA tramples over the way Internet works’

The battle for the future of the Internet continues as US Congress debates the 'Stop Online Piracy Act.' Programmer and net activist Aaron Swartz says the law tramples over the way the Internet works and is contrary to basic freedom of speech issues.

If passed, the bill will allow the US government to shut down any site illegally hosting copyrighted content. Lawmakers behind SOPA say it would deal a blow to online pirates and producers of counterfeit brand products.

However many digital giants, including Google, YouTube and PayPal, have strongly criticized the legislation, saying it would create an environment of fear and hamper innovation.

It is all part of a larger crackdown on freedom of speech, Aaron Swartz told RT.

There is pretty much no other law that would give the government the power to censor the Internet that wouldn’t be laughed out of Congress. It is totally unacceptable,” he argues.

But by using copyright as a wedge issue suddenly we are able to put this power into the hands of government. And then once they have it, it can be expanded and expanded to deal with a whole range of other things.”

Swartz explained that copyright laws are extremely complicated. “There are lots of things that look like copyright infringement but turn out to be licensed in one way or another.”

But all of that is being ignored by the proposed law he warns. “Without even a trial the site gets shut down entirely whether it’s legal or illegal, whether it’s copyrighted content or protected speech.”

And even a site like YouTube, which has a mix of different types of content, under this bill the entire site can get shut down,” he adds.

SOPA would not only shut down websites but also increases penalties for people caught engaging in copyright infringement Swartz says. “If you make a video on YouTube of yourself singing a copyrighted song this bill would increase the penalty to that to ten years in jail.”

Swartz fears that the law will be very close to passing as there is an enormous amount of lobbying coming from Hollywood and the recording industry. “And there are just not enough people speaking out on the other side,” he says.

Blogger and online activist Brian Fanslau says SOPA would allow a vigilante group of corporations to have the ability to enact censorship for copyright infringements and get rid of you and take away your revenue.

They are taking away our Bill of Rights by not allowing us to speak up,” he told RT.

The Internet is the place where you can freely exchange information back and forth. This idea can’t be crushed,” he states.