Digital Marketing News – SOPA and PIPA – for or against?

 

The last week has seen a deluge of articles flooding news sites and social network talking about the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) bills currently being proposed by the House of Representatives. I wouldn’t recommend trying to read the documents unless you have some serious insomnia issues but they’re there if you want to check them out.

Major brands and noted media figureheads have spoken openly either in support or condemning the bills which are designed to tackle head on the issues around online piracy.

We all know that internet piracy is rife and it’s a hard battle for those responsible for policing such content, and that it’s a very concern for the music and publishing industry. But are the proposed laws really going to outlaw such a widespread issue? And even if they do, are these the kind of laws we want to live by where innocence rather than guilt has to be proven.

On face value, the powers granted by the new bill appear reasonable. Sites caught streaming unlicensed material on a regular basis face prosecution, and those who support this activity could be shut down. This includes sites or services that link to other sites that break copyright laws. Makes sense?

But looking closely it appears that there is no burden of proof on services that chose to block suspect sites from its users. This leaves the process open to abuse from sites choosing to block competitors on the weakest of evidence. It allows and almost actively encourages a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach which has more than a few organisations pretty riled.

For a site like Google, they could potentially be responsible for ensuring that any site accused of piracy is blocked from their search results, otherwise they could end up falling into the aiding and abetting category and could face being shut down. And as the laws would cover foreign content, Google would need to ensure these measures were implemented worldwide regardless of the location of the user.

It’s no surprise that the supporters and critics are divided into two very separate camps, the majority of those in favour of the bill being made up of those industries which lose the most from online piracy, and critics being those with most to lose.

Twitter is most clearly in the opposing camp and who can blame them? If a user posts a link to unlawful content it has the potential to put Twitter at risk of being shut down.

Obviously we would hope the enforcement of these laws would be on a case by case basis but essentially the power would be there to take extreme measures against some of the biggest sites in the world. No wonder it has gotten more than a few people a bit upset.

Several major brands are planning to publicly protest against the two bills this Wednesday. Wikipedia is planning a total blackout for 24 hours and Google is planning a change to its homepage as a protest (not quite as grand a gesture for them).

I’m not convinced the new laws will achieve much in the fight against piracy, I’d imagine the majority of those sites which stream large quantities of pirated content do their best to stay off the radar of anyone even remotely official. And aren’t these sites the ones that are truly at the heart of the rising issues? The bills will really only affect those sites who try to sideline copyright costs every now and then or those who do it as a genuine mistake.

And for those who seek to access this kind of content on the web, I doubt they do so through Google search or via Twitter. I don’t mean to belittle the efforts of those clearly more experienced and wiser than me but for all the new powers outlined in the bills, there is still no real strategy for locating the main culprits and enforcing these laws effectively.

And as for the protests, there may be flurry of comment flying around social networks during the blackout but I’d give it two days before it’s old news. I’ll wait to see if I’m proved wrong.

Written by Felice Ayling

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