Link-building is not a new concept for even the average-Joe internet marketer. If you are used to putting in hours into your backlinking methods (or outsourcing it, for you entrepreneurial types), then surely you are familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and the like.
Imagine sitting down with the intent of cranking out a few posts, comments, and shares on these sites only to find that each and every one has been blocked by the U.S. government.
What about logging onto Google Analytics and enthusiastically checking your site’s stats for the week, only to see the traffic graph looks like the downward slope of Mt. Everest. The number at the bottom? Zero.
These nightmarish pictures aren’t too far-fetched, say legal experts and marketers who are keeping a close eye on the new piece of legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261, aka SOPA). Like many new bills proposed in the U.S. Government, SOPA isn’t completely misguided. Introduced on October 26, 2011, it aims to give more power to enforcement officials who are concerned with websites dedicated to illegal distribution of content. So far, so good, right?
There’s more to this bill than meets the eye. While I can backup the concept of punishing those who steal content that people worked hard to produce and protect with copyrights, I can’t get behind the idea of some of the other implications of SOPA. This bill is making all kinds of people nervous and causing corporations to formally oppose the legislation, including some big names in technology (Intel, Microsoft, Apple) and internet giants like eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, and the Wikimedia Foundation. One of SOPA’s most obvious opponents, Google, claims the bill is “draconian.” Why all the opposition?
Remember that picture I painted for you earlier, about Facebook and Twitter being completely inaccessible to you? It’s apparently perfectly possibly with the new powers outlined in SOPA. If passed, the bill allows the censorship of sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement.
While this is great for Hollywood (think of all those torrent sites for music and movies), it’s actually pretty terrible for the rest of us.
How SOPA Would Affect You
SOPA has the potential to affect your internet marketing blog in two major ways.
- You could lose traffic and rankings.
- You could be in serious legal trouble.
How exactly? Simply put, SOPA makes websites liable for copyright infringement that occurs among its users. Since the very foundation of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit relies on the free sharing of content, they are among the most vulnerable sites to legal action. Legal experts are anticipating industry-wide changes by these companies that restrict, monitor, or otherwise control the type of content sharing that is allowed on their platforms. Taking away sharing features may be a voluntary choice, or being blocked by the government may be a forced punishment. Either way, you may have to say goodbye to your tried-and-true strategies for linkbuilding and organic traffic.
If you have a site that is open to content sharing, and you most likely do, then you face even more serious issues. Have a blog or any other means for people to post comments or links to your site? This could get you into trouble. If someone illegally shares content or even posts a link to a site that enables illegal sharing, you could be held liable under SOPA. Prepare to have your domain blocked from users or even be faced with a lawsuit.
Worried? Take Some Action.
Yes, I agree online piracy is a serious problem. Millions of dollars are estimated to be lost every year due to illegal downloading and sharing of content like music, movies, books, and games. You and I know the value of content creation, no matter what the medium.
But who knows how far the consequences of this bill will reach if passed. Websites that currently enjoy healthy streams of organic traffic from the U.S. could lose those visitors, not to mention precious content and revenue if they are being blocked. Startup companies that are lacking the necessary resources and legal reassurance could be reluctant to grow or even get started in the first place. The brilliance of social media platforms could go to waste if they aren’t able to function to their full potential
If you don’t like the sounds of this, I encourage you to learn more about the Stop Online Piracy Act by visiting some of the following sites. Then write to your local representatives to tell them how you feel. The bill is scheduled for markup on December 15, and it is still open for changes. Stay tuned for an update.
American Censorship http://americancensorship.org/
Contact Your Representative https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml