After protests from many major sites, such as Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Congress has stopped debate and postponed a vote on the controversial bill. But why are people so upset about the law, and what would happen to your web-based business if it were ultimately passed?
If someone claims you are violating their copyright, your site can be blocked. Some companies may believe that this simply won’t be an issue. After all, they verify the source of the material that they use, give proper credit where it is due, and pay for rights if necessary. However, on the web, it is very easy to unintentionally post something infringing on a copyright.
How easy? The creator of the SOPA bill was doing it himself on his site. It was discovered that he used an image under the Creative Commons license but did not attribute it as required. He has since removed the image, but if SOPA had passed, the U.S government could have shut down his site for the violation.
Social media marketing would become more difficult, if not impossible. Currently, there is a system for reporting copyright infringement on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and having it removed, which allows both parties to defend themselves. But under SOPA, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are considered responsible for all of the content that is posted on their sites. They would potentially be on the hook for any material that users post. As a result, Bob Boorstin, Google’s public policy director, recently said at a conference, “YouTube would just go dark immediately. It couldn’t function.”
If a site with as many resources as YouTube feels that it cannot keep up with the responsibilities of policing the material on its site in a way that protects it from legal action, it is unlikely that smaller businesses will be able to meet the demands for any user-driven content on their websites.
SEO would become more difficult since interlinking would become riskier. If you just post a link to a site that contains infringing material, you can face consequences under this new bill. Currently, one of the best ways to improve your search engine optimization is to develop relationships with other websites, blogs, or users in order to get more incoming links. If the bill passed, just linking to a site can be a risk, so many might decide not to do so.
The law would not be effective in stopping piracy. Most people agree that it’s important to protect intellectual property, but unfortunately, many experts believe that this bill would not be effective. The intended targets, overseas sites with egregious copyright violations, would ultimately continue on. To date, they have circumvented other attempts to stop them. They would simply develop new technologies to get around the block.