SOPA has been the acronym on everyone’s lips recently. The bill has been rejected this time, but how long until the bill is rewritten and re-entered? How effective were the protest blackouts? And could it affect small and medium businesses in the future?
What’s SOPA again?
SOPA, standing for Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill which was introduced last year in order to combat online piracy. This sounds like a great idea, but the bill and resulting copyright enforcement would also affect several other aspects of online activity, including access to internet domains and various advertising networks and payment options. This has been seen by many as a potential infringement on free speech.
What was the result?
Several thousand websites including Wikipedia and Reddit took action on January 18th last month, undertaking a ‘black-out’, many posting protests against SOPA in place of their usual websites. With the huge daily traffic of larger websites like Wikipedia, the impact was hugely felt and the demonstrations made their mark; the bill was refused. However, there remains a need for an effective way to target online piracy without negatively affecting other public websites and forums. Until this solution is found, SOPA will lurk in the wings waiting for the next act.
What could it mean for a small/medium business like me?
For businesses that depend heavily on digital consumerism – particularly e-commerce sites – the necessity to communicate with their customers via social media is paramount. Were the SOPA bill passed, internet pirates would be inhibited – as would many other online presences including Facebook and Twitter. If your business linked to a blog or website with a piece of material which was considered to infringe on copyright, it could be blacklisted along with that site. Can you afford to be offline and missing out on customer relations and web traffic? This is why all businesses should oppose the SOPA bill; with the way it has been constructed and worded, if passed it will affect far more than the internet pirates.