You may have noticed a lot of chatter lately about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and a related bill, PIPA. The SOPA act is designed to protect the intellectual property and copyright of major media organizations from illegal piracy online. The movie studios and record labels want to crack down on piracy, but instead of taking the fight to the website owners (who are violating their copyright), they’ve turned to Washington to legislate in the ability for them to shut down those websites and their monetization methods via government order. More specifically, the bill would give the US government the ability to
- order ISPs to re-route traffic going to a given website that is potentially in violation to resolve to another location
- order search engines like Google to remove potential violating websites from the search results
- order PayPal and other payment processors to shut down the violator’s accounts, thus cutting off their revenue stream
- order ad services like Google AdSense to shut down advertisements for, or payments to such websites
At Ephricon, we’ll all for the protection of copyright material… however, we’re very concerned about SOPA as we feel it gives the government and major communications firms (like Comcast, for instance) too much control over the internet and the content you may or may not see.
But we’re not alone… opposition to SOPA, especially over the last few days, has been particularly strong. High-profile websites like Wikipedia and Reddit are “going dark“, tomorrow (January 18th) and taking their sites down in protest. The Twitter universe is also on fire with anti-SOPA sentiments, with many Twitter users adding a “STOP SOPA” icon to their avatars.
As best we can tell, there was supposed to be a congressional vote on SOPA in early January, but the recent growth of the anti-SOPA movement has caused congress to delay the vote. President Obama has also indicated that he may veto the bill, should it pass.
So what does this mean for you? For our clients, we don’t expect either tomorrow’s blackout or SOPA in general (should it pass) to have a major impact on SEO results and generating new business online – at least not in the short term. Instead, we’re more concerned about SOPA from a free speech, government censorship and personal freedom standpoint. Obviously it’s not the bad guys that SOPA might stop that we object to, but rather the free range and over-reaching power this would give to the government, and what precedents that might set on a societal level. We’re keeping up on the latest developments and will be in touch as things progress, and should we identify any advisable action items with regard to SOPA.