by Art Piccio . January 18th, 2012
The recent shelving of HR. 3261, better known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is undoubtedly the best news for US-based small businesses since the beginning of 2012. It would be hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the effect SOPA’s implementation would have been on not just on online commerce, but on all the freedoms that we have taken for granted. And with PIPA in the works, the fight has just begun.
Many of our customers are small businesses with websites of their own. If PIPA passes and if future incarnations of SOPA are not killed outright, the vast majority of them will become criminals should they fall under someone’s crosshairs. These bills will criminalize normal internet use, stifle innovation, and destroy entrepreneurship in the United States – all so that more established businesses that hold more copyrights can squeeze a few more dollars out of everyone.
Extensive lobbying by the entertainment industry have resulted in SOPA and PIPA being seriously considered in by people in Congress who apparently don’t even have any idea how the internet works, which is quite frankly pretty embarrassing in itself, but has dire implications on the very way we now live our lives.
SOPA and the soon-to-be-voted and badly-named S. 968 or Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, also known as PROTECT IP or PIPA, are ostensibly about punishing intellectual property thieves based overseas. But in reality, they are essentially tools that give corporations the means to shut down web sites that affect their profits- without due process or oversight.
This means every time you share something online on, say your blog, or your e-commerce site, you run the risk of getting shut it down if whoever created or owns the copyright to that content decides it doesn’t like how you used their “property”.
You won’t even get any notification about your domain’s impending doom. Even failing to actively screen your comments for potentially-infringing content will make you a criminal. Worst part is the burden of proof then falls on you to prove you didn’t have any malicious intent when you shared that content.
And it’s all totally arbitrary.For example, Craigslist of all sites was declared a threat by Monster Cable because people on Craigslist advertising second-hand cables constituted a threat to their sales of brand-new cables. Even just uploading a video of you singing of a copyrighted song onto YouTube will become a criminal act. Sites like Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia, and YouTube- any site that allows the sharing of content with minimal screening- will effectively become criminal enterprises.
If you take into account how much of the news industry is tied up with the entertainment industry supporting net legislation, it may very well be leveraged as a way for corporations to impose censorship. Simply by making up some cockamamie excuse about intellectual property protection, they can threaten domain registrars with a lawsuit if they don’t shut down websites that post things they dislike.
All without even giving the domain owners a chance to present their side, and without their knowing just exactly what they did wrong.
Take a while to look at the groups that supported SOPA and are trying to get PIPA passed, as well as their opponents.:
Supporters of PIPA and SOPA: RIAA, MPAA, News Corp (includes the Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins, and Fox Network), TimeWarner, Walmart, Nike, Tiffany, Chanel, Rolex, Sony, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren, VISA, Mastercard, Comcast, ABC, Dow Chemical, Monster Cable, Teamsters, the mainstream entertainment industry.
Opponents of PIPA and SOPA: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, AOL, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, Zynga, EFF, ACLU, Human Rights Watch.
The relative ancientness of pro-internet regulation supporters compared with the ones opposing internet regulations is extremely telling. No progressive e-commerce firm will ever support PIPA as it is.
SOPA and PIPA are not so much about actually protecting rights as they are about protecting profits for already established companies who aren’t in tune with the times and can’t get with the program.
Don’t take us the wrong way, but we do NOT endorse copyright infringement. It’s true piracy is a problem, especially for struggling artists who continue to produce works that inspire, for little to no compensation. But on the flipside, the internet has made wonderful pieces of work more accessible than ever before.
Piracy is a problem that always results from defects in the market- the defects in this case being the backwards, inefficient, and ham-fisted ways the biggest corporate PIPA supporters handle pricing and distribution. Progressive systems like iTunes demonstrate that people will still pay for good content, even if they had the choice to download it illegally.
Also looking at who has spoken out in favor of the bills (clue: it’s not artists), it looks extremely doubtful that these inane pieces of legislation were meant to be anything but a way for market laggards to level a playing field they are no longer able to understand.
Start-ups and new businesses that are actually able to grasp current paradigms have the most to lose. These bills are without a doubt the biggest threats the internet has ever faced in the Free World.
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.