Why SOPA and PIPA are Bad for Market Research and Innovation
SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, or House Bill 3261 and PIPA or the Protect IP Act are attempts by the entertainment industry to curtail the ability of individuals to visit websites that may be linked to suspicious content that may be involved in pirating content. Not sites that have pirated content but that “may be linked to” sites with pirated content.
While many of us agree that there is still a lot of content piracy still going on in cyberspace, the popularity of torrent sites has actually declined in this age if iTunes. In fact, if one were to look at where the source of piracy is these days, you would need to take a hard look at China and several other Asian countries where there is little government intervention when it comes to protecting American-made content. Just go to any street corner in Asia and see how many people try to sell you a DVD of a movie currently in theatrical release. But SOPA and PIPA aren’t focuused on companies outside the U.S., they are focused only on sites, big and small, on these shores.
The problem with SOPA and PIPA are that the social networks and online service providers will be required to censor backlinks to ensure that they’re in compliance. Ironically, the technology behind SOPA is very similar to that which is being used by the Chinese government to censor the internet within that country.
Technology companies from Google to Wikipedia as well as social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have all come out against SOPA and PIPA as they are a means for internet censorship without providing companies and individuals due process. The Consumer Electronics Association or CEA has also come out against SOPA and PIPA today saying that they squash innovation in this country, and we couldn’t agree more.
SOPA itself will put the burden on any company to comply with the law. Sites will be on administrative order to enforce protection without allowing the site — think Wikipedia, Google, Craig’s List or thousands of startups — to defend itself. The bill also mandates that the site will also bear responsibility for the actions by users of the site that are in direct violation of the company’s policies, procedures, and terms of service. This means that YouTube can be sued if enough people post pirated content on it. How many times a day does that happen? It also means that Google can be more easily sued if you start using images from Google Images that are not royalty free. It means that startups can be sued if enough people backlink to their sites and direct people to pirated content. How is a four person startup going to control this?
But what SOPA and PIPA will really do is hurt innovation, and marketers — brands large and small, advertising platforms, and market research firms.
First, startups do not have the resources to check the thousands of backlinks that occur each month. Contrary to the wishful thinking by many congressmen, SOPA and PIPA are not job creators, they are examples of government getting in the way. They are bad for startups, which is bad for innovation.
Second, the major brands will also have to police their sites constantly, which will impact their marketing and branding efforts. Search engines don’t pirate movies, but neither do Visa or Paypal. But SOPA and PIPA will allow the government and the entertainment industry to go after the payment platforms, which is just unfair.
Third, advertising platforms will be hit hard with the job of tracking backlinks to their campaigns, which will impact their overall Web traffic, search traffic, and ad revenue.
Finally, the typical American’s online experiece will be more controlled because of SOPA and PIPA, impacting the practice of market research online as we know it.
Nobody really wins with SOPA and PIPA.
In a year when Congress can’t seem to agree on anything that matters to this country as far as the deficit, unemployment, healthcare, or imigration, it has been possible for the entertainment industry to pay lobbyists $95 million to get a bill that they wrote passed, and to get both Republicans and Democrats to line up to co-sponsor it. SOPA is a bill written by an industry (entertainment) that doesn’t get the internet, and will be voted on by people (Congress and the House) who don’t get the internet either.
How many times have you infringed on a copyrite?
How many times have you used an image from Google Images and posted it in an email?
How many times have you xeroxed a page in a book or magazine?
Think about it, and then voice your opinion.
- Randy Giusto
SVP, Innovation Research and Industry Analyst