Websites protest what they call Internet censorship

Some popular websites like Wikipedia shut down Wednesday, in protest of proposed laws that some say would drastically change the Internet. A few local web sites joined the fight in this effort to reel in new technology.

The proposed laws are called SOPA and PIPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. Their goal is to stop illegal copying of things like movies, music and photos.

There's general agreement something should be done about that, but opponents say those two bills go too far.

The Digitel is not an Internet giant. It's a local web site for sharing news stories from around the Grand Strand.

But the partners who run The Digitel joined big worldwide web sites Wednesday in shutting down - while some, like Google just blacked out their logos - to protest the proposed laws they say could put them out of business and penalize innocent people.

"Even moms that post videos of their kid dancing to a pop song could get arrested or jailed for 5 years, massive fines," said The Digitel managing partner Rocky Dohmen of North Myrtle Beach.

Dohmen said there are plenty of laws already on the books to protect artists. He said what these bills are really about is big film and music companies trying to limit the Internet, like they once tried to stop VCRs or MP3 players.

"When you have bigger corporate powers that like it the way it's been, they hate new and they hate the change, they hate a new way to make money."

CCU political science professor Frederick Wood, who has studied the legislation, said most American websites that allow digital file sharing, like YouTube, respect intellectual property rights and will remove items on request. The laws are mainly aimed at foreign piracy sites.

"The goal here with SOPA and PIPA is to, since we can't tell the foreign sites what to do, we will get at the Internet service providers, companies like Google which allow you to find these foreign websites," Wood said.

The Internet is still a new, wide-open medium and Wood says Internet law is evolving. "As long as we're going to have the Internet, we're going to have to figure out a way to regulate it."

President Obama has said he won't sign the legislation as it is now and even supporters, like Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, say they want to amend it.

But this issue isn't going away and opponents like Dohmen say they will keep the pressure on.

A procedural vote on the PIPA bill is scheduled in the Senate for Jan. 24. SOPA, the House bill, is on hold for the time being.