So it appears that the progress of SOPA and PIPA is grinding to a halt, largely due to the massive online backlash inflamed by the influential new generation of digitally focused companies like Google, Amazon.com, and Facebook. For interactive marketers, this is a good thing. But protecting content creators from online piracy is fundamentally important and the movement is funded by deep pockets. If SOPA and PIPA are dead in their current incarnations, they’re certain to resurface in another form. The new question for interactive marketers and the online community is whether that new form will be more realistic, fair, and effective in terms of enforcement and compliance.
As a refresher, the twin online anti-piracy bills in the U.S. legislature sought to give copyright holders and U.S. attorneys general the power to stop foreign-based websites from linking to or displaying copyrighted content like movies and music without permission. But the bills are extremely far-reaching and complicated and could potentially up-end the operations of any website that allows users to post content or has links to other sites – which is basically every site out there.
Why are SOPA and PIPA bad news for marketers? They would potentially:
- Cripple digital marketing destinations that allow people to post content. Every link, video, or other asset posted by the marketer or by consumers would need to be vetted to ensure it doesn’t contain or lead to copyright-infringing content. Just as social networks like Facebook and Twitter would be forced to drastically change their content moderation practices (or shut down), marketers would need to scale back or shutter their brand sites and sponsored communities to comply with the onerous requirements. Most consumer posts, comments, and other user-generated content on marketers’ digital destinations would go away.
- Interrupt marketing plans. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr have become staples in the interactive marketer’s plan. With SOPA/PIPA, those sites and the many, many others that allow people to post possibly infringing content could be taken down – even if the sites are not intentionally posting or linking to pirated content. This means that properties marketers rely on for building awareness, generating leads, and driving conversions could go offline.
- Complicate media buying. SOPA/PIPA would add another layer of regulation to the digital media buying process. Publishers would need to assure media buyers that their practices meet the rigorous compliance requirements.
- Trigger a legislative “arms race” with other countries. The ramifications of SOPA/PIPA would impact people on a global basis and set the wheels in motion for other countries and regions to counter with their own cross-border edicts. Imagine the resulting compliance patchwork marketers would need to navigate.
- Stifle digital marketing innovation. With the downside risk so high (a felony for copyright infringement), site operators, publishers, and entrepreneurs would be more gun-shy to roll-out new ways to market through digital channels.
Yes, the illegal use of copyrighted material is a profound issue that must be resolved. But SOPA/PIPA overreaches and compliance with its requirements would be more damaging than productive. What are your thoughts about this contentious issue? Post your comments here and voice your opinion.