Everyone has seen the recent flurry of activity and the messages encouraging the public to stop SOPA. Not everyone understands what all of the fuss is about. In a nutshell, SOPA is an anti-piracy bill that is currently, and until recently, very quietly working its way through Congress. SOPA would effectively give content creators the ability to pull their content from another site to which they have a copyright claim. Unfortunately, the pulling of the content includes the ability for the content owner to demand that the offending site be stripped of advertising, the ability to accept payment, and can even be removed from the search engines and blocked by Internet service providers.
Still, how does this affect you? Currently, the Internet is much like the Wild West. There is a lot of territory without a lot of law. SOPA is a very extreme response to the lawlessness of the Internet as we know it today. At first glance, it may seem like a good thing to know that you could take action against someone who steals your content. Not so much the case with this bill.
Take this site, for example. We’ve mentioned popular music, film, and television shows in some of our posts to help get our point across. We’ve used images from the aforementioned sources, although clearly we have not “stolen” intellectual property from them. If anything, we’ve helped promote those pop culture references. If, for some insane, unfathomable reason someone associated with one of these sources decided they didn’t much care for us, they could file suit. These media giants have far more funding than this humble website, and would have no problem shutting us down, stripping us of our content, even getting us removed from the search engines.
Sites like Wikipedia would surely have multiple violations, and search giant Google would even be at risk for providing people with mentions to the sources that they’ve asked for when querying a search. Essentially, we’d become afraid to talk about many of the things that made the Internet so great in the first place. Because of this, people will stop talking about businesses online for fear of prosecution. Imagine, no reputation disasters to deal with! Unfortunately, the only reason you would no longer need to monitor your reputation online is because you essentially would not exist online.