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SOPA: How Does It Affect You?

01.18.2012You may have noticed that some of the websites you regularly visit look different today. Google’s logo looks like it’s been censored—so does most of the content on Wired. Wikipedia and Reddit are blacked out. What’s going on?

SOPA, that’s what.

The Stop Online Piracy Act is a federal bill attempting to curtail the Internet piracy (of music, movies, photos and more). That seems fair, right? Businesses, whether they’re Hollywood production companies or local coffee shops, have a right to protect themselves from unscrupulous behavior. So what’s the problem?

As Jeffrey Zeldman phrases it in his article, “SOPA approaches the piracy problem with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole Internet in gasoline.” In fact, SOPA goes so far that it’s possible the entire Bop Design website could be blocked just because I quoted that line. Do you quote anyone on your company’s website? Then it’s possible you could be blocked, too, if SOPA passes.

If passed, this bill could have sweeping ramifications. Not only would small businesses have to tread carefully for fear of being blocked, but hugely popular websites – right down to Twitter and Facebook – could face retribution.

A couple of years ago, “Look-a-Like Week” swept through Facebook. People were encouraged to change their profile picture to celebrities whom they resemble. So if I grabbed a photo of an actress from IMDb and made that my profile picture, all of Facebook could be shut down because of my actions.

SOPA could change the Internet as we know it today. This opinion piece at Mashable claims it could send us back to the “dark ages.” The White House has recently come out against, “legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” While this implies that President Obama will veto SOPA, that doesn’t mean the bill is dead. Lobbyists have spent of $91 million to get this bill in front of the House of Representatives. While we have no way of predicting the end result, it’s important for small business owners to stay on top of these hot topics. If a bill can change the Internet to its very core, it can certainly affect the way you do business.

To learn more about SOPA, check out these resources:
Say No to SOPA
The Most Dangerous Remaining Parts of SOPA and PIPA
SOPA Will Take Us Back to the Dark Ages
Protect IP / SOPA Breaks the Internet video

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