You may have heard in the news recently of all the controversy around the Stop Online Piracy Act – a United States bill introduced by Lamar S. Smith. The purpose of the bill is to extend the ability of the U.S Government for fighting Online Piracy. Any website that has copyright material uploaded to it by any user (not even an employee) would have to take responsibility for it – this could mean a prison sentence of up to 5 years. The majority of tech companies have an issue with the bill because it is quite vague and gives the Government a lot of leverage.
If SOPA passes in its current state it would mean new web based companies that focus on user content and social media would have an incredibly hard time getting off the ground. This is mostly due to them starting with a small work force and minimal resources – gradually, they would lose the ability to monitor all of their data as their websites becomes more popular. SOPA won’t affect companies that have websites with no user generated content such as comments and file uploads.
For example: Youtube, the popular video sharing website, was started by just three people. If SOPA existed when they first launched the funding they would need may have killed off the idea entirely. Letting any person upload videos to share with the rest of the world with minimal control would have been very risky.
Another reason many people have an issue with the bill is because it gives law enforcement the ability to shut down US websites and also block foreign ones, creating a huge firewall similar to that of China’s. As you could imagine this could threaten free speech as well as international trade dramatically.
On January the 18th 2012 115,000 websites either altered or entirely blacked themselves out to protest the bill. This included website’s such as Google, Reddit & Wikipedia. As a result, the Congressional attitude towards SOPA shifted from 80/30 (For and against) to 65/102. The vote for SOPA & PIPA (PIPA is a similar proposed law) has been delayed and is surely to be ammended.
As a UK based company you may think that this has very little to do with us aside from international trade and receiving less internet traffic; however, there is currently a proposed plurilateral agreement called ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) which is very similar to SOPA but will affect countries all over the world.
You can learn more about ACTA here and if you feel you are against such an agreement going through in the UK you should consider signing this petition.