The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Online Piracy Affects Students

3 min read


On Jan. 18, the Internet was taken by storm as many major websites, like Wikipedia, Google and WordPress, protested the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) with a blackout, preventing users from accessing the respective sites. As a result, the bills were delayed on Jan. 20.–find more information about this

But for University of Mary Washington junior Zach Fichter, online piracy strikes close to home.

Fichter, a music major and musician, knows that his music has been downloaded illegally off the Internet.

“I’ll see it pop up for free every now and then if I do a Google search, but honestly it’s almost flattering that people want my music enough to post it,” Fichter said.

But he feels it wouldn’t be worth it to pursue legal battles to get the money he is owed.

“I can probably claim somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 in lost revenue from YouTube rips and illegal re-uploading of my music,” Fichter said. “I could attempt to press charges, but it would likely cost me more to speak to a lawyer than I would ever get from a settlement.”

The January protest blocked almost one million users from the participating sites, according to the SOPA Strike website.

According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, U.S. Representative Lamar Smith and Senator Patrick Leahy introduced SOPA and PIPA to censor the Internet in order to stop all acts of online copyright infringement, respectively.

According to ABC News, these bills were proposed to give credit where credit is due, such as the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as producers, lawyers, managers, corporations, and distributors who benefit from the sales of their clients and the creativity of their work.

The front page of MPAA’s website states, “From the visual arts to the software industry, more and more people around the globe make their living based on the power of their creative ideas and those of others. This means we all have a global stake in protecting intellectual property rights and recognizing that these safeguards are a cornerstone of a healthy global information economy.”

Although Fichter is a musician himself, he is not in support of the bill as it is currently written.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve downloaded a song illegally here and there,” Fichter said. “I have trouble paying $1.29 for LMFAO’s new single or a recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but I do strive to support up and coming artists, as I would like to be supported myself. I’m hoping that in the future a more reasonable bill will be written to protect the creative property of artists, yet still encourage sharing.”

Senior education major Michaela Sands worried about the impact SOPA/PIPA would have in the classroom.

“SOPA could affect educators by narrowing the resources teachers can use to explore controversial issues or cultural diversity,” Sands said. “It would limit availability to very helpful tools used for teaching.”