In case you haven't heard about it, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced before the US House of Representatives in October, 2011 in an attempt to fight copyright violations and trafficking in counterfeit goods on the Internet. In the U.S. Senate, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) was introduced. While at first blush both Acts may seem to have laudable intentions, many are criticizing them as cases of "the cure being worse than the disease." The bills have sweeping powers with the potential of severe repercussions for bloggers, YouTube and other sites with user-generated content.
Currently, copyright holders can ask to have their intellectual property removed from websites. Under the provisions of SOPA and PIPA, search engines could be required to block websites and entire domains could be shut down as the result of a single infraction.
In response to the imminent threat, many websites including Wikipedia and Reddit, a user-curated site, staged a virtual protest event on Wednesday, January 18th. A blackout took many sites off-line for 24 hours. It has an impact. Some government representatives are re-thinking their position.
- Lawmakers withdraw support of anti-piracy bills after online protest (CNN)
- FAQ: What’s next for SOPA, PIPA in Congress
For event planners and event industry bloggers the threat is very real. SOPA and PIPA have the potential to handcuff smaller companies that lack the resources and huge research department to dig deep and determine if using a particular image, video or audio clip violates copyright. Small bloggers could find that it's just too risky to continue. Small meeting planners would find it challenging to determine which images, video and audio resources they could use to promote or stage virtual and hybrid events.
What impact would SOPA and PIPA have on sites like LinkedIn in which thriving communities meet in a virtual world to share and discuss articles, topics and blogs? We could see a scenario unfold in which sites with user-generated and user-created content are forced to shut down. The amount of red tape that would be needed to ensure that every byte that is uploaded to their website is copyright free would be staggering.
The Internet is both a blessing and a curse. It gives businesses of all sizes accesses to markets they could never have reached 16 years ago. It makes engagement between people in every corner of the globe possible. With the click of a mouse, users can access entertainment, information and a plethora of resources. Unfortunately, pornography and copyright abuses are also easier because of the Internet.
Provisions are needed to protect copyright holders who lose millions of dollars every year due to violations. It will tough to strike a balance between addressing criminal acts and protecting the right to free speech and, in the case of the U.S., First Amendment Rights. There has got to be a better way.
Photo Credit: rorowe8