SOPA, PIPA and Your Business
If you happen to have looked anything up on Wikipedia on Wednesday, you may have noticed the internet blackout protests against the SOPA and PIPA bills that are being considered by the Senate and House of Representatives in the United States.
SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA – the Protect IP Act, are essentially equivalents of the same thing, but with slightly different emphases. The aim of the bills is ostensibly to prevent abuses in intellectual property such as file-sharing or the streaming of pirated content. However, the way the bill is written, placing the onus of responsibility on websites and domain hosts to police content and links posted by users, means that many user-content-heavy websites such as Facebook and YouTube would become too costly to monitor and would have to shut down or risk prosecution.
The bills are said to essentially turn the tables on the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ premise and adopt the opposite standpoint with regards to internet piracy. This means that your site could be shut down if, for instance, a comment on a blog post contains a link to a site that contains any form of file-sharing or allows streaming or downloading of content that belongs to anyone else. I don’t know about you, but this potentially puts us in the firing line. How many times have you innocently linked to other people’s sites, or posted a video on your Facebook page, without knowing the IP situation of the content or the full scope of the site you were linking to?
From a business perspective, IP protection is crucial, but remember to choose your fights wisely to avoid hefty legal costs. There is no point trying to sue a couple of teenagers for using your music to make a skateboard video of their mates. Even if the clip were to go viral, it would be more likely to make you some money than cost you anything – for example if the viewers decide to buy the music. It is also important to remember that it is not only media companies that have cause to worry about IP infringement – how much IP does your company have on the web? How do you control access to corporate research or software? Moving with the times is key to future-proofin
SOPA and PIPA are likely to become law in some form or another, this could fundamentally alter the way the internet operates. Only time will tell how this will affect business, so in the meantime, protect your IP, avoid infringing on the IP of others, keep an eye on what is happening in the United States as they are still the dominant force in global business, for now.g your business. Think about how you sell your products and services, do consumers really need to own it? Many companies have switched from a purchase to a subscription model in recent years. This is not the answer to everything, it may work well for Spotify, but has proven problematic for the Times.