A few random thoughts on the famous bill causing sites to go black today

SOPA Resistance Day!

Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr

Usually we as conceptbakery try to hold back with out political opinions and respect the diversity of our audience. But today is a day where marketers and nearly all other web users can’t really ignore politics. We’re being called to action by sites like Wikipedia, Google or reedit. We wish we were influential enough to turn our site black to make a difference in the SOPA / PIPA discussion. The least we can do is publish this little note.

Trying to just read the law and making full sense out of it is pretty pointless unless you have a very in-depth understanding of the US legal system. We (including the politicians voting on it) have to rely on interpretations of experts. For starters, Chris Heald @Mashable broke it down fairly well.

There are many creative ways of protesting taking place today. The Oatmeal is one that made us smile.

In general we like info graphics. Americancensorship.org has a good one.

Information Technology is one of the few innovative growth sectors left in the US. With SOPA/PIPA, we’d make many creators’ lives on the web prohibitively complicated.

By passing this law, our politicians in Washington D.C. would hand over the key to becoming the new lead culture on the web to some other country that wants to grab it. That in return would also hurt Hollywood, which is standing behind SOPA/PIPA. The overall value of our entertainment industry would diminish, as the US itself would diminish.

The biggest trend on the web over the last decade has been social media. One core element of social media is sharing what you’ve found on the web with others. The sharers usually don’t own the rights to the content they are sharing. Any site that supports this user behavior will be affected by SOPA’s anti-piracy law. We think YouTube has found a very viable solution to address many copyright issues on their site by putting ads on videos appearing to be a copyright violation, and then sharing the ad revenue with the creators of the original content.

Of course, conceptbakery would also be affected. We’d be afraid of litigation. We’d probably have to take down some of our client campaigns today. Our insurance policy would quite likely be canceled or become prohibitively expensive. Our clients would quite likely re-allocate some of their budgets in safer areas where they have less to fear. And most importantly, we’d have to think about each one of our projects involving user-generated content. We love when anyone of you has something to share with us, but with SOPA/PIPA we’d have to be much more careful in monitoring you.

As a German-American agency, we’ve already dealt quite a bit with the shallow legal waters in Germany. They’re often a hassle: Remember when Germany tried to ban the Like button? But even Germany doesn’t have the high punitive damages we have in the US. We’re pretty sure lawyers in the US will love SOPA/PIPA. They’d have a field day! Unfortunately, US law firms can’t sell equity to non-lawyers. Otherwise, that would be the only silver lining: you could go and grab some shares if these laws pass.

Even the strongest opponents of SOPA and PIPA admit that online piracy is not a good thing and needs to be curbed. Can it ever be prevented without measures severely impairing the functionality of the internet as we know it? Quite likely not. That would be similar to trying to make the US borders 100% secure. 98 or 99% might have to do unless we want to make sacrifices most of us aren’t willing to accept.

What we have been missing prior to the presentation of this bill was a valid process to find a consensus. It appears that this was hashed out in some back room by lobbyists. For a long time, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have been at odds on the online piracy issue. Why couldn’t both camps elect some of their smartest leaders and work out something together that addresses the needs of both parties? We should make sure that this group isn’t just dominated by big business and the start-up / developer community is represented in this circle as well. In order to protect the culture of the web, we need to maintain an environment where the little guys still have a chance to hit it big. We can‘t have any barriers protecting big businesses just for the sake of securing their status.

Our suggestion would be to kill SOPA and its Senate sister PIPA   and start from scratch. There are more qualified people out there than the people who’ve been working on this so far.

Will the damage be reversible once it is done? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

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  • http://www.intuitive.com/blog/ Dave Taylor

    Agree completely. Lots of inflamed rhetoric on both sides of this argument, no question that there is an issue of stolen intellectual property online and the subsequent loss of revenue, but SOPA and PIPA, even as recently amended, do not seem to be the solution that lets us retain innovation while simultaneously curbing piracy. Interesting times…

  • http://www.klausholzapfel.com Klaus_Holzapfel

    Sounds like someone has to do the hard work and figure out the best approach, find a consensus and then actually get someone in Washington to support it (without getting bribed for that).
    I hope today served as a wakeup call that the issue won’t go away by itself. It will be resolved by politicians and lobbyists unless we take matters in our own hands.
    I conclude in "pirating" your last words: Interesting times… (I hope I won’t get sued for that :)

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