By now, you’ve probably heard of SOPA/PIPA legislation that has been proposed in Congress, but unless you’re an IT Pro working for a big media company, you might think it really doesn’t have anything to do with you. As a matter of fact, if could have a big impact on everyone connected to the Internet and it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with it.
Just yesterday, a key Congressman announced that the house bill, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) had been shelved, which according to some experts means the bill is effectively dead. But SOPA’s Senate twin, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is still very much alive in the Senate.
If you’re not clear what these bills will do, the BBC describes it this way:
The US government and rights holders would have the right to seek court orders against any site accused of “enabling or facilitating” piracy. This could theoretically involve an entire website being shut down because it contains a link to a suspect site.
And it gets worse, since all business would be banned from doing business with any accused infringer.
That’s where it might get hairy for your company because advertisers and partners link in all kinds of ways. What’s more, what if an employee innocently linked to an offending site as part of some research? It could potentially put you in conflict with this law, and if a competitor wanted to shut you down, what better way than to dig around your site and find something that might raise a red flag with the DoJ.
The important thing to understand here is that there appear to be no preliminary hearings involved. It’s just a Justice Department lawyer or the rights holder (think big media with deep pockets) going before a judge and making what sounds like a reasonable argument without you even having a chance to face your accused. It’s not clear if your company got ensnared in the anti-Piracy net, if it would have a clear path to get out of it anytime soon beyond going to court to petition for relief from the order.
And if your web site were shut down for any reason, that could be a serious problem for your company. And don’t think your competitors don’t understand that.
We’ve seen what has happened with patent wars, how companies use patent infringement like a club to beat back competitors. This would be even worse because at least patent law is fought in the courts. SOPA/PIPA seem to have only rudimentary legal oversight and the implications of being drawn into a violation battle seem onerous.
So you might not think as an IT pro that this is your fight to fight, but it really is because it seems all too easy to get caught up in one of these copyright street fights and it could be expensive to extricate yourself if you do.