As PR professionals, the First Amendment is not only crucial to our business, but something we truly feel passionate about protecting. Today, we have all inevitably run into at least a handfull of blacked-out sites in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011(PIPA), two bills under consideration by Congress. If this legislation is made law, it would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Sounds like an easy thing to support, right? Not so fast.
People for the bill (major motion picture companies and record labels among them) say it protects the intellectual property market and their industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to be able to enforce copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. One example is Google’s $500 million settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to target U.S. consumers with ads to illegally import prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies.
People against the bill say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship,and will threaten free speech. It will hinder the efforts of small businesses and independent artists who rely on the ease of communication the internet provides. Today you’ll find a great number of websites hosting their own virtual protest, such as Wired, Wikipedia, Social Media Today, The Oatmeal.com and Google. Mashable says this will take us back to 1994, before the World Wide Web launched:
“When you turn copyright infringement into a felony and say that anyone can accuse a website of providing ”infringing” tools (and apply severe penalties whether or not you do something about it), you are essentially making it impossible for anyone to do anything online without fear of retribution.”
There is definitely an incredible amount of information available and passionate advocates both for and against it. As PR professionals, we have to be aware of how this bill would affect our clients and the work we do. Take some time to get familiar and let me know what your thoughts are.