How SOPA/PIPA's Internet Censorship Affects Physicians

 All images in this article were taken from the websites' homepages on Jan. 18, 2011.
There’s a big fuss on the internet today about two bills in Congress: SOPA and PIPA. On Wednesday, visitors to commonly frequented sites like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and Craigslist will find they are protesting these bills either through a black out — some for half the day, others for an entire 24 hours — or by making a statement for people to oppose the bills and contact their representatives in Congress.

The general purpose of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is one that some sites in opposition could support in theory since the proposed legislation is aimed at preventing online piracy. However, opponents are concerned that the bills are too vague on what it takes for a site to be considered in violation of copyright infringement and many argue that the bills open the door to too much restriction on the internet.

As physicians, you might wonder how this affects you. The problem with the bills is that anything that might be construed as copyright infringement, even just an accusation of it, could hurt the entire site it is posted on. The accused site would be blacklisted from search engines, advertising networks and even Internet Service Providers.

Physicians who encourage online discussions with their patients, or who engage in discussions online with other physicians, could find that these avenues are closing to them. Anyone who posts something on a discussion board that is construed as copyright infringement, regardless of whether or not that was the intent, could affect the entire page.

Any free and open discussions online could potentially be restrained by SOPA and PIPA and even removed from the Internet simply because of an accusation.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are also fighting the bill. opposes SOPA and PIPA because they could damage the “hard won successes of entrepreneurs across the globe, as well as stunting industry growth.” According to one of the statistics that Google put together to protest the bills, 204 entrepreneurs have sent letters “expressing concern that PIPA and SOPA would ‘hurt economic growth and chill innovation.’”

These accusations and potential scenarios might seem extreme, but the truth is that these bills are just vague enough that although they are extreme, they are still possible. According to Google, 110 law professors sent a letter because they felt there were “serious constitutional, innovation, and foreign policy concerns” with the bills.

Mozilla, which has joined other sites in a black out today, has been a strong opponent to the bill and even gone so far as to liken the censorship methods that SOPA and PIPA could employ to those used by China, Iran and Syria.

Many online sites are urging people to protect their rights to freedom of speech and privacy by contacting their representatives.

Read more about the implications of SOPA and PIPA.
Look at which specific companies will be greatly affected should the bills pass.