What Marketers and Small Business Need to Know About SOPA


If you haven’t heard about SOPA (and PIPA), you’ve been living under a rock.

SOPA is, “Stop Online Piracy Act.” Most people thought that piracy applies only to online videos and music entertainment. Not so fast……

The government is scheduled to put these bills up for passage starting on January 24th. If it passes, internet marketers will definitely get a wake up call on how it impacts their business.

If SOPA is passed, it will give law enforcement and copyright holders power to fight online trafficking of copyrighted property and counterfeit goods.

PIPA is “Protect Intellectual Property Act” and is the Senate’s version of SOPA. This is a bill that enhances the enforcement against “rogue websites operated and registered overseas” and defines infringement as the distribution of illegal copies, counterfeit goods or anti-digital rights management technology. (Hubspot 1/16/12)

For years, the music industry has been hacked over and over again by online piracy and these bills are great news for them. If you had a genuine article out there and people kept using it over and over again without paying you, wouldn’t you feel a little pissed off about it? The downside is that if you examine SOPA in a more detailed manner, the bill does more harm than good for businesses and the internet.

As an example, your website could be shut down or blacklisted if the government or the owner of copyrighted material identifies your website as using that material (i.e. videos and music). You can imagine how YouTube feels right about now….

Penalties would include not only disabling your website, but preventing search engines from linking to your website – all that SEO you’ve worked hard for is now “toast.” Additionally, online advertising and payment gateways such as PayPal would not be able to do business on your site either. So, if you have an e-commerce site that is using copyrighted material, you may want to pay close attention to what happens with this bill.

And, by the way, the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, which is currently enforced as protection for websites who use copyrighted material, will no longer be active. If SOPA gets passed, judges could immediately provide authorization to shut down websites that are found guilty. Websites will only be able to defend themselves post shut down and of course, loss of revenue.

As far as how SOPA can affect your personal and professional life, websites that stream copyrighted material without authorization can receive up to five years in prison.

So, think about sites like Facebook and Twitter. YouTube and LinkedIn. If anyone is a part of these social media outlets, you know that these sites are ripe with links to online videos and music. If SOPA gets passed, these sites would be crippled and certainly the amount of information posted on these sites would be out of their control…unless they changed their code to not allow such content to be shown.

So, how does that affect your business? If you currently are in the practice of posting a link from a distributor that you work for, or a competitor’s link to show differences in product, you wouldn’t be able to. If that’s the case – what’s the sense of social media for businesses?

If you want to share your opinion on this, you can vote and digitally sign a petition to stop SOPA by going here.

As of 12:00 a.m. this morning, the following sites will be blacked out:

Wikipedia

Google

Craigslist

Boing Boing

MineCraft

WordPress

Additionally, if you have a wordpress.com account/blog, you can either blackout your blog until the 24th, or provide a banner on your blog to support the non-passage of this bill. To do this, go to your dashboard under Settings and a SOPA/PIPA link will be available for you to click on with the above choices mentioned.

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