The House of Representative Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet to discuss the ultra-controversial Stop Online Piracy Act.
The Stop Online Piracy Act is the bill that is proposed to be able to fight online trafficking in copyrighted property and goods. Leading the supporters of the bill are two major industry giants, the Motion Pictures Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. On their side, they have the Texas Republican Lamar Smith. Smith has lead other proposals to make controlling changes to the internet.
For example, he is said to have pushed for unwarranted, random Internet wiretapping, and in 2007 proposed that explicit websites use warning labels, or go to prison. The SOPA bill, which is basically a copy of 2008’s PRO-IP ACT, is set to be discussed and debated. The supposed point of the bill is that music and movie companies are being pirated, by both American and foreign companies.
So will the SOPA bill affect online business? If so, how?
SOPA, in its essence, is about the entertainment industry companies feeling as though they are losing money. Basically. It is the measures they are proposing that have people uncomfortable. Under SOPA the accusing entity, or copyright holder, would be able to file a claim with the US Department of Justice and practically shut down the accused website. This would have an effect, as well, on any company that does business with the offending website. This means advertisers, service providers, search engines, payment providers and more.
The offending websites would, literally, disappear. This possibility could force certain websites to curtail the amount of business they, at the very least be much more cautious about it. This could potentially damage the amount of traffic that comes through the website of an Internet business. This will affect the ability to link with certain websites, as part of online marketing, and will require Internet service providers to completely block access to certain sites. Therefore, on a certain level it will affect Internet businesses, even though the major targets of SOPA are video and content streaming businesses.
According to Ben Szoka of Tech Freedom, an opponent of SOPA, “I think Chairman Smith genuinely believes he’s defending property rights that are at the heart of capitalism.” Many question the judgment of Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith. “This is a prime example of the content industry capturing members of the government” says Julie Samuels, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Many large Internet companies are speaking out against SOPA. The list of opponents includes AOL, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo, plus many more. Many of these companies have taken to major campaigns, online and off, including large advertisement in the New York Times. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has threatened to shut down Wikipedia pages as protest.
With all of these facts, the point of the opposition is that the bill is the beginning of possible Internet censorship. The Internet service providers would be required to monitor all of the traffic coming through any website. This concept has been likened to the Great Firewall of China. Small businesses, particularly Internet business, should not support SOPA. They should oppose the approval of the bill and sign every petition possible. Even though, initially, the bill is aimed at “pirates”, the effects of monitoring and censorship could be far reaching.