SOPA and what it means for SEO

SOPA and what it means for SEO

On October 26, 2011 Lamar S. Smith, a Republican from Texas introduced HR3261 – more commonly known as SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) The goal of the law is to shut down sites that are hosting and promoting illegal content, a good goal that everyone can agree on.

A Real world SOPA example

As the web has continually grown and changed, it’s become clear that websites that have user generated content, tend to be very successful. Sites such as youtube, facebook, wikipedia, flickr, and thousands of blogs all have content that is created and published by the users of the site, and not just the site owners and operators.

To give an example of how this law affects many websites, I’ll use my own small business advice site where I recommend and review the panasonic hmc40. If someone reads one of my blog posts and posts a comment to a blog post with a link, that links out to an illegal download then my site would be in violation of SOPA, and I could be ordered to shut down in less than a week.

The domain registrar where the domain is registered, as well as to any ad companies that are generating revenue for my site, and all US based Internet service providers with DNS servers and all search engines that drive traffic to my site would also be ordered to stop the flow of traffic to my site.

In order to prevent this from happening, I would essentially have to police every comment, and every post on my blog, and ensure that every single link and piece of content contains no pirated or copyrighted material and no material that the US government considers to be copyrighted material. This creates at best an endless black hold of administrative costs to prevent piracy and it worst a guarantee of being shut down when I’m found liable.

Will SOPA and PIPA work?

Given the track record of the US government, suing 10 year old kids and 60 year old grandparents for illegal music downloads, I can’t say I’m expecting fast and fair judicial enforcement. This law actively works against the basic principle of 2 heads are better than one,and 5 heads are better than two.

This law also has no due process, and gives broad open reign for the government to shut down any site without any way for the site owner to fight it. This could have a devastating effect on search engine traffic and the credibility of a site if it’s taken offline for just a few days if the search engines can’t see the site, and the authority plummets.

Who’s for it, who’s against it

One of the biggest contributors to Lamar Smith’s campaign in the past few years is Comcast, spending almost $5 million dollars to fund the project. Many public sites that have user generated content are against the bill including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn, all of which wrote an open letter to congress warning on the dangers of the SOPA and PIPA bills. The DMCA or Digital Millenium Copyright Act currently works to prevent online privacy already, and Google is working hard removing 8 million sites that violate the DMCA between 2010 and 2011, through the use of a simple contact form.

Most sites are taken out of search results within 2-3 weeks. On the other hand, the DMCA does nothing to criminalize the site, or to declare that it needs to be taken down, so it’s not perfect either. Online Piracy is a real concern and it needs to be dealt with, but the legislation to deal with it needs to be much more specific, and a fair review process needs to be in place to protect the business of legitimate sites on the Internet.

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Chris Wensink is a full time computer professional in the healthcare industry. He also runs a successful wisconsin wedding videography company, as well as a back end video products site offering panasonic hmc40 reviews, business advice, and recommended video editing hardware such as the quad core i7 macbook pro.

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