Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about SOPA and PIPA, the U.S. government's proposed bills that claim to protect online piracy, but instead threaten the livelihood of many businesses, including those run by moms. There's so much information out there and it can be quite confusing, so I wanted to break everything down for a Mompreneur and let you know how these bills can affect your business.
What is SOPA and PIPA?
Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House are two bills before Congress that aim to protect copyright infringement for digital content. Not only does this encompass the obvious movies, photos and music, but it also covers just about anything else on the Internet, including things that may affect you like blog posts and website content. While this sounds all well and good, the problem is in the way the bills are written. They are far too vague and will ultimately censor the Internet and have drastic consequences to businesses all around the world, including those run by moms. If you'd like to read more about SOPA or PIPA, you can take a look at their summaries here.
How do these bills affect Mompreneurs?
There are many ways that SOPA and PIPA will affect the Internet and a simple Google search will enlighten you on their proposed impact. What I'd like to do today is tell you how they will affect you as a Mompreneur and the specific challenges you'd face if SOPA and PIPA were passed.
1. Guilty until proven innocent. One huge issue with the ways these bills are written is that you don't necessarily have to be a proven violator of copyright infringement, all you have to do is be accused. An accusation alone is enough to cause detrimental harm to your business. You could lose your domain, have your website shut down and even be sued. All with no warning.
2. You're held responsible for your user content. If you have any part of a website, blog or social networking page that allows for users to submit content, you will be responsible for what they submit. For example, if you have a blog and allow comments, you'll be responsible for monitoring them to make sure you don't have any pirated content submitted or links provided to sites that contain pirated content. Or, if you are on Facebook or Twitter, you'll be responsible for monitoring your followers' posts on your page to make sure they don't have forbidden content. Can you imagine how difficult this will be?
3. Social networking as we know it will change. We all use social networking to build our businesses, but if these bills are passed, social networking sites will be forced to drastically censor their sites, limiting the content that can be shared and changing the way we use them for our businesses.
4. Where to sell your items? If you rely on sites like Etsy, Ebay or even Facebook to sell your items, you'll be up a creek as they'll be forced to shut down to avoid prosecution. Each of these sites contain photos submitted by users, the problem is, there would be no way for them to inspect every single photo uploaded to their sites to make sure it has the appropriate copyrights. Can you imagine not being able to use Etsy? Or Pinterest? Oh boy!
5. Education will be hard to come by. Right now, there's a huge source of information on the Internet for Mompreneurs to sort through to learn how to run a business. Under these laws, information will be much harder to find. Ebooks will be more difficult to come across and bloggers won't be reposting information from other sources.
6. Business will slow down-literally. SOPA would impose DNS filtering and also force ISPs to prevent access to certain sites. This means each ISP has to inspect the entire Internet traffic of its user base, which will consume additional resources and slow down Internet service. If you run a business solely online, this could be detrimental as people become impatient and don't visit your site frequently or stay on as long.
7. Lose income. If you rely on advertising income on your website or blog, this will be a huge blow to your wallet. You would now be responsible for the content on each of your advertiser's websites, and unless you're willing to police each one, placing advertising on your own site would be a huge risk.
8. Limits social interaction. Many of us use online forums and message boards to chat with other people and promote our businesses. Message boards and other sites that rely on user submitted content will have to shut down as they can not feasibly monitor every single post that comes into their site.
Can you imagine your business without Facebook, Etsy, Twitter, blogs, etc,? While combating piracy should be a huge priority and more protection is certainly needed, SOPA and PIPA simply aren't the way to get us here. As Mompreneurs, our businesses and our lives are threatened by these bills and it's up to us to take action to stop them. Tell Congress how you feel so that our businesses don't suffer! Here's a link to Google's petition against these bills that will take your concerns straight to the guys and gals in Washington. Sign it, share it and keep fighting! Share this post with other Mompreneurs so they can be educated and join in the fight! Even if you don't live in the U.S., this has huge implications for the Internet as we know it, so help spread the word!
Don't mess with a mommy-we'll send our 2 year old after you!