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SOPA-spurred protests mirrored on campus

As Wikipedia, WordPress and other websites “black out” today to protest recent U.S. legislation that could censor portions of the Internet, one USF computersociety will go offline in solidarity.

The USF chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society (IEEECS) will darken its pages for 24 hours to protest the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Both aim to stamp out Internet piracy by requiring search engines and Internet providers to bar access to certainwebsites.

Though House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) temporarilyshelved SOPA, it is expected to revisit the House floor inmodified form in February and PIPA debates currently fill the Senate floor.

Michael Nachtigal, USF IEEECS president and agraduate student studyingcomputer science andengineering, said the bills would limit human creativityand infringe on FirstAmendment rights.

“Sharing information is atthe heart of the IEEECSComputer Society, and SOPA threatens the ability to share information online freely,” he said. “Bills like SOPA could have a very chilling effect on all aspects of Internetculture – at USF and across America.”

The bills would make site owners liable for their users, which could result inwebsites like YouTube orReddit permanentlyshutting down.

Mike Kanning, president and co-founder of USF’s Free Culture Club, said thetemporary suspension of SOPA brought him little solace.

“While I believe PIPA will fail like SOPA did, a watered-down version of PIPA should now be of concern – the OPEN Act,” he said. “OPEN has similar goals as SOPA/PIPA, but seems to be less onerous to users and tech companies. But the bill is still in the early stages and we should keep an eyeon it.”

Kanning, agraduatestudentstudying philosophy, saidcollege students inparticular would be mostaffected by SOPA.

“(College students)download music, movies and stream TV shows and getillegal copies of textbooks to save money,” he said.

Nachtigal said his club’s decision to fight these pieces of legislation was to protectthe free sharing ofinformation. Since Nov. 16, their website posted a notice to all users urging them to take action against SOPA.

Other sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter have been vocal against SOPA,collaborating on a Nov. 14letter to Congress, claiming that SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and jobcreation, as well as to our nation’s cyber-security.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” last week that he will continue trying to pass PIPA, which he said couldcreate jobs.

“We’re having a veryimportant piece of legislation, important to this network right here, IP, and that’s of course dealing with informational – with, with making sure that we have intellectual property that’s protected and we need to do that,” he said. “And that – that’s also job-saving. So that’s what we need to work on, things that create jobs and protect the American economy.”

Yet the argument doesn’t appeal to critics like Kanning.

“SOPA has been stopped for now, but those who haveinitiated and supported SOPA will try to find other ways to get similar changes and new laws made,” he said.