What if you woke up one day to find that everything that you’ve worked so hard for was ripped away from you and there was nothing that you could do about it? To make the situation worse, what if your livelihood was stripped away from you when you weren’t even aware that you did anything wrong? Your income’s gone, you can’t receive payments that you’re due and why? Because someone else; someone who you’ve never met in the real world or virtual world, decided to post copyrighted material in some fashion on website that you link to or somehow do business with. Destroy businesses first, ask questions later.
If the situation above sounds unrealistic, it’s not. It’s exactly what can happen if SOPA and/or PIPA are passed and put into law here in the U.S.. What is SOPA and PIPA? SOPA stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act” and PIPA stands for “Protect IP Act”. Watch the video above (posted from http://www.fightforthefuture.org/pipa) for a great description of how SOPA and PIPA can affect the Internet and online businesses.
Online piracy is a problem and no one denies that fact. Yes, several industries have lost money (and a lot of it) due to online piracy, but these two proposed laws aren’t the answer to the problem. Dishonest people will continue to do dishonest things and therefore, those who pirate copyrighted materials will simply find another way to do so. What SOPA and PIPA will do is harm businesses large and small by making them accountable for what everyone else does online. Even if SOPA or PIPA helps the entertainment industry here in the U.S. increase their profits, what good does that do when the laws have the potential to put major tech firms out of business? What good does it do when honest people can’t receive payments for work that they’ve done? The economy is already in a tough position.
Who Will SOPA and PIPA Hurt?
The better question is who won’t it hurt? Here’s the short list:
2. Search engines
5. Photo sharing websites
8. Affiliate marketers
10. Social bookmarking/sharing websites
11. E-commerce websites
And the list can go on…
Essentially, SOPA and PIPA will affect just about every type of website or online business that there is.
SOPA and PIPA Scenarios
Let’s take a look at a few examples of what could potentially happen if SOPA or PIPA is passed into law:
1. A Facebook user posts a link to a video or website that contains unauthorized copyrighted material- Facebook could be shut down.
2. You’re videotaped while singing a song and the video is tossed up on your website or blog- your website or blog could be shut down.
3. A YouTube user posts a video that contains unauthorized copyrighted material- YouTube could be shut down.
4. You write a blog post and you link to a website that contains unauthorized copyrighted material- your blog could be shut down. Now if you’re thinking that you’ll be ok since you don’t link to websites that use unauthorized copyrighted material, think again. How do you know whether or not material on a website is copyrighted or not? How do you know if it is copyrighted, if the website has authorization to use it? When you link to another website, you’re putting your trust in that website that they don’t have copyrighted material anywhere on their website. Anywhere. Even if you’re linking to a well respected major online publication or website, there’s never a guarantee.
5. Someone on Clickbank is selling a product or e-book that contains copyrighted material- Clickbank could be shut down. You didn’t do anything wrong, but someone else did and now you’re without your income.
6. You’re an affiliate marketer who links to your affiliate’s products or services on your website but the affiliate has copyrighted material on their website- your website could be shut down.
Once again, the list of scenarios can go on and on. Just think about how many times a day people link to other websites for both personal and business reasons. You can’t control what anyone else does and most of the time, there’s no way to know whether or not you’re linking to a site that has copyrighted material on it. Yes, there are some obvious cases like linking to a website where you can get free copies of movies, but a lot of instances of copyright infringement aren’t so obvious. Which brings us to…
You have to nearly be a rocket scientist to figure out copyright laws. What’s considered fair use and what’s not? The language is vague and therefore you may think that you’re doing no wrong, only to learn otherwise after your business has been destroyed.
What About the DMCA?
Good question, since the DMCA was enacted years ago to do what? Stop online piracy. It’s not a perfect system but it’s been helpful. DMCA stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” If a person or company finds that they’re copyrighted material is being used without proper authorization, they can send a DMCA take down notice to the offending party. It gives the offending party the opportunity to remove the copyrighted material. With SOPA and PIPA however, there is no opportunity to remove any copyrighted material. There is no opportunity to remove links that go from your website to offending websites. What you do get is a shut down website and an opportunity to defend yourself later.
If it’s found that you haven’t done anything wrong, you then have to pick up the pieces. Most online businesses don’t have the financial resources to defend themselves and then have to start over again.
Find Out More Information
Educating yourself about SOPA and PIPA is important even if you don’t do business online. Even if you’re just a consumer who uses the Internet to shop and find the information that you need, the services and websites that you frequent could be affected. To find out more about SOPA and PIPA:
If you’re not in the United States, you should be concerned with SOPA and PIPA as well since foreign websites that contain copyrighted material are singled out.
Wrapping up, it’s all about vague language. The Internet community doesn’t have an issue with combating copyright infringement; the issue is with vague language that leaves what can and can’t be done with this bill open to interpretation. It’s leaving the fate of the Internet and technology in the hands of those with little understanding. It’s putting fear into an already unstable economy. The Internet has been a haven for those who want to run their own companies, but wouldn’t have had the possibility to do so without the Internet. It’s making people think twice before investing money into new Internet start ups. It’s putting stress on businesses that are already stressed.