If you were anywhere near the Internet on Wednesday, you saw our website and thousands of other sites including Wikipedia and Google participate in a blackout protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its corresponding bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
If you’re not up to speed on SOPA and PIPA, here’s the deal. The bills seek to block the illegal use of copyrighted content online.
Now, as an ad agency whose bread and butter relies on the creation of ideas, you’d think we’d be for SOPA and PIPA. You’d be wrong. No, we don’t want to see our stuff get ripped off. But, even more than that, we don’t want to see these bills fall into the wrong hands. And, they undoubtably will. Think McCarthy in the 1950s. That’s the level of abuse we’re talking about here.
These bills give people the power to blacklist and shutdown websites based on the smallest perceived infraction. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “rightsholders, ISPs, or the government could shut down sites with accusations of infringement, and without real due process.”
So, what happens if your site is blacklisted (deservedly or not)? Well, as you’d expect with any blacklist, other online companies have to shut you out. If you’re advertising through ad networks such as Google AdWords, using Paypal on your site or running an SEO campaign, all that’s over. Under the law, other sites will have to stop linking to your site and search engines will be forced to forget your site exists. Once you’re blacklisted, you turn into persona non grata. No one online will want to associate with you for fear they’ll be blacklisted too.
If you manage to escape being blacklisted, the bills still come with negative consequences. The EFF states that SOPA and PIPA will cost the private sector millions of dollars and reduce online security. Most importantly, the bills will do nothing when it comes to stopping online piracy. The tools outlined by these bills aren’t anywhere near sophisticated enough to keep tech-saavy users, the people doing most of the online pirating, from using content illegally.
Thankfully, we’re making progress. Due to the massive protest from the American public this week, many supporters of SOPA and PIPA have jumped ship. Even the White House has come out against the two bills. With so many against SOPA and PIPA, leaders in the House and Senate have decided to put off voting until some agreement can be reached. What that agreement is or how long it takes remains to be seen. In the meantime, you can help by writing to your representatives in Washington and letting them know just how bad these bills are for you and your business.