By MARY KOPPY/Montana State News

On Thursday, Jan. 19, federal authorities shut down the file sharing website Megaupload on grounds of it sharing pirated, copyrighted material. Megaupload’s CEO, as well as several other employees were arrested.

In retaliation, the computer hacking group Anonymous shut down several major sites, including the websites for the Department of Justice and Universal Music.

This conflict represents the most recent chapter of the US government’s recent crackdown on copyright law.

When Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, proposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), he wanted to organize the internet, not destroy it.

But from the fallout of his bill, an outsider could assume that he had declared war on everyone below the age of 25.

The legislation was originally intended to prevent foreign websites from offering counterfeit or stolen American goods, with particular emphasis on pharmaceuticals.

“The bill as-proposed would give the U.S. government the ability to seize websites that are illegally distributing copyrighted material,” Pier Dillon Scott, of the website the Sociable, reported in mid-October.

Early in the SOPA discussion, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla and a number of smaller sites joined together to oppose SOPA. They posted banners reading “Stop Censorship” at various places on their pages and encouraged users to sign petitions and protest to their Congressmen.

Google poured nearly 500 million dollars into anti-SOPA campaigns. Wikipedia went dark for a day.

Google in particular stands to lose revenue in the event of sites being blacked out. The ban could prevent the operation of advertising sites, such as Google Adwords, and prevent such sites from being indexed by search engines, according to Scott.

On Jan. 20, the day after the raid on Megaupload, SOPA and PIPA were shelved in Congress.

The homepage for the counter movement, sopastrike.com, changed its headline to “Victory!,” but includes the warning, “if they come back, we must be ready.”

 

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