The SOPA Effect
Introduced just before Halloween (October 26, 2011) by a bipartisan group of 12 members of Congress, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) is ostensibly intended to strengthen U.S. law enforcement, better protect copyrighted intellectual property and decrease the traffic in counterfeit products. Opponents—which include a large portion of the tech industry—contend that such a sweeping law might threaten the entire e-commerce industry.
One key component of the bill allows the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright owners to petition for court orders that would stop websites charged with facilitating copyright infringement. Such orders could bar online advertising networks from the Internet, block search engines from accessing these sites and/or prohibit payment sources, e.g., PayPal, from associating with "accused" web violators.
Many opponents also cite Constitutional issues, since they believe that, at a minimum, the proposed law would be in violation of the First Amendment. The House Judiciary Committee is considering the pros and cons of the bill as Congress returns from its holiday recess.
How might this proposed law hurt order fulfillment services, company branding and other Internet-based organizations and activities? Consider the position of well-respected IT magazine, eWeek. Their editorial staff believes that the ". . . language of SOPA is so broad . . . that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use." These are serious and damaging allegations with valid foundations.
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is an equally respected non-profit organization tirelessly working to protect the digital rights of businesses and individuals. They not only agree with eWeek, but feel even more strongly about the dangers of this legislation. They have deemed this proposed law, a "massive piece of job-killing Internet regulation. . . This bill cannot be fixed; it must be killed."
Even if eWeek, EFF and others are overstating their opposition, the SOPA bill could seriously damage the order fulfillment industry and many highly popular web-based businesses. Consider Etsy, for example, as threatened by this combustible legislation: the company is an e-commerce site representing almost one million small hand-made product designers and creators. Suppose even one of their suppliers was "accused" of copyright infringement. Their entire site could suffer blacklisting and shutdown, hurting millions of shoppers and the remainder of their loyal small business entrepreneurs. A justice department with that level of power could kill fulfillment services and entire businesses for the alleged, not adjudicated, copyright violation of one small company or individual.Continued on the next page