Friday Thought: Roads Paved with Good Intentions

We have all hear the proverb about roads paved with good intentions.  With all of the media attention on SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) this week, it appears that we may have a well-needed detour.

While the media is portraying the SOPA/PIPA battle and the site blackout protests as a battle between big Hollywood and big Silicon Valley.  The reality is that SOPA and PIPA are bad for businesses and for small businesses in particular.

The intention behind SOPA and PIPA is good — stop online piracy of copywrited materials.  And one could argue that the current process of requesting the removal of individual items is not sufficient.  But SOPA and PIPA go too far in the other direction.

SOPA and PIPA give content holders, and the US Government, the right to shutdown entire sites and domains if they feel the site is improperly using intellectual property.  The act also forces sites that provide hosting and storage for others to monitor content and prevent illegal use.  Sounds like a good idea, but …

  • SOPA and PIPA allow sites to be shutdown without due process, forcing an accused site to prove its innocence.
  • Holding Google accountable for others’ YouTube content is like holding Verizon accountable for what you say over the phone.  It’s absurd.
  • Forcing hosting and cloud services to monitor and enforce will dramatically increase the cost of basic Internet services — from web hosting to email to file services.
  • Services you use could be shut down due to the actions of others, and you will have no recourse.
  • While the intention is to stop the big IP pirates, the laws apply to everyone.  Your web site could be shutdown if somebody violates a copyright when posting a comment on your blog.
  • The acts lack adequate protection from false accusations — unethical competitors can disrupt your business and bog you down in legal issues.

Beyond some of the big issues, both SOPA and PIPA present unnecessary risks to small and mid-size businesses.  Join us in opposing bad legislation, even if the intention is good.