Let’s say you have a website and you post regularly to a blog. At some point someone (not affiliated with your company) randomly posts a comment on one of your blog posts mentioning another company or linking to a video about that company on YouTube. Then that company mentioned sees the comment and isn’t happy about it. Rather than engaging in a conversation in the comments to defend their brand position or asking that the comment be removed; they have the power to shut down your ENTIRE domain. Sound like censorship? It is.
The Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are bills which would give corporations and government the ability to censor websites on the net. Both of these bills had, at their heart, good intentions. However both bills are so horribly written with vague definitions of piracy that basically ANY website including any form of user-generated content could be at risk of being shutdown. Think of Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and the implications these bills could have on the way these websites fundamentally operate if passed into law. All of these websites rely heavily on user generated content. SOPA /PIPA would completely alter the way Americans would be allowed to use the Internet. Key word in that last sentence is “allowed”.
It also presents a nightmare for web hosting companies which will be forced to police all of the domains that are hosted by them. Let’s say you own a boutique baby clothing store and you had a post about how babies do the cutest things on your website blog and someone posted a link of their baby dancing to a top 40 song. If that top 40 song’s recording company were to claim that this content were piracy, your web hosting company would have to shut down your ENTIRE domain as soon as the complaint was received. There would be no pre-shutdown notification email and no friendly ‘please remove this from your site’. The next day you’d wake up and like flicking off a light switch – your entire website would be gone.
Companies such as DreamHost where the Adelie Studios website and blog are hosted, have over 1.2 million domains that are hosted by them. If this layer of enforcement were required because of the liability they’d be forced to take on, you can all but say goodbye to affordable web hosting. DreamHost has their own response denouncing the bill and the negative effects it would have in their blog post “Don’t drop the soap, drop SOPA!”
As a small business producing niche animated content and marketing animations for the web, both of these bills are incredibly frightening to us. Fight for the Future produced a great little animation (which we are always fans of people using animation) to explain and illustrate the way these bills could potentially censor the internet. Check out their animation below.
SOPA comes up for a vote on Tuesday, January 24th. To find more about the SOPA & PIPA bills yourself and to see what actions you can take, visit: http://americancensorship.org/