If you’ve visited Google this morning you may have seen their blacked out logo, the above photo is a screenshot of the homepage. You might have also heard that Wikipedia has gone “black” for the next 24 hours. Just do a search for anything on Wikipedia and you’ll see what they’ve done.
So what’s all the hullabaloo?
These websites are protesting legislation that is currently being considered in the U.S. Congress called SOPA and PIPA. SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act and it’s sister legislation PIPA or Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act are being introduced by Congress to combat piracy online. Seems like a pretty noble cause right? Well, a closer look at the legislation might give you pause.
These pieces of legislation provide for the ability for the U.S. Department of Justice to file an injunction to shut down any website who is posting OR linking to intellectual property that is under copyright. The provisions in the law allow for the shutting down of search sites that link to these materials, streaming audio and video sites that stream IP that is held under copyright and even require certain Internet Service Providers to block these sites all together.
How does all of this affect you and your business?
It might not right away, but if all of the provisions in this law pass it could have a tremendous impact on your daily use of the Internet for marketing your business.
Let’s say a popular site that you syndicate your listings to is found to have images that are held under a copyright. The Dept. of Justice and/or the copyright holder could file an injunction against that site to have it shut down, effectively ending your ability to reach thousands of potential clients. It wouldn’t matter if you had violated the copyright or not, all that would matter is that your listings were on a site that may have done so.
What if you’ve posted a virtual tour to YouTube. The same thing could happen. The Department of Justice could shut down YouTube and all your hard work would be invisible to potential clients.
Maybe you’ve done a tremendous amount of Search Engine Optimization for your website and you’re ranking really high in the Google search results. Then one day it is found that there is a link from Google to a file sharing site that is facilitating piracy. Google could get shut down.
Maybe these are extreme scenarios, but truth be told, the way the legislation is written today, these types of things can and probably would happen. To familiarize yourself with SOPA and PIPA click here.
What is your take on these pieces of legislation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.