How Would SOPA and PIPA Impact B2B Marketing?
Many of you will have heard of SOPA (the controversial ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’) and PIPA (the ‘Protect Intellectual Property Act’) after a week of protests with sites like Google and Wikipedia hosting symbolic blackouts on January 18th and Obama voicing his opinion in opposition of the bills. But what do these acts mean for B2B marketers? To find out, let’s understand the purpose of these proposed bills:
SOPA, introduced last October to the House of Representatives, intends to stop online piracy by giving US law enforcement and copyright owners greater powers to combat online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property and pirated goods. PIPA is the Senate’s version of SOPA with a recommendation to extend the powers of enforcement to rogue websites registered outside of the US (and some other nuances about which you can read here or watch here).
These bills are particularly popular with the entertainment and music industries, who have suffered the most from online piracy and file sharing, but do not take into account the implications for the sharing of information on the Web. For B2B marketers, the current drafts of these bills propose important changes to the way they conduct their online marketing activities, especially when sharing content through social media and marketing partners.
The impact on social brands
Pretty much anything goes in social media. That includes content, the very foundation of all social brands you can think of today. The bills could have major effects on the sharing features of sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube to name but a few. If you consider that Facebook alone represents a quarter of the US online advertising spend with a community of more than 800 million active users, you can imagine the impact this would have on share of voice, demand and revenue generation in social media. Social media could be transformed from a quick and effective way to connect with businesses and audiences, to a conscientious process, where every post and link is checked to ensure it is not in violation of copyright laws (for more information, check out Clay Shirky’s video at TED). Businesses would need to develop compliance structures and, potentially, find alternatives to current marketing techniques, such as monitoring business trends on Facebook, engaging thought leaders in conversation on Twitter and connecting with colleagues or business prospects via LinkedIn.
The impact on websites
SOPA and PIPA define copyright infringement loosely. If your website is considered to infringe copyright because of content you posted or other user-generated content, it is probable that online payment systems, search engines and internet service providers would no longer be able to service your website. This could leave businesses who do not comply with no search rankings and limited ability to transact online. However, despite the intention of SOPA and PIPA, the act would only be able to block the domain, not the IP address. This means copyrighted materials would still be easy to reach and download through the IP route (simply by typing a site’s IP address, instead of its domain name, in a browser).
The impact on marketing innovation
Faced with the compliance complications associated with a highly regulated web, entrepreneurs could become more cautious when rolling out new initiatives and developing new products. This is true for marketers too. Extra care and attention will have to be used when creating great content that will be shared across social media platforms.
The impact on client relationships
The consequences of SOPA and PIPA could put stress on client relationships and co-marketing agreements. Sharing content across sites will require extra caution. Imagine a scenario in which a client publishes some of your content on their site. If that content gets flagged for copyright infringement, the client’s site could be at risk of shutdown, creating a strain on contractual obligations and potentially damaging business relationships. Such regulations could make business and marketing partnerships with other companies a strenuous process.
These developments could transform the online marketing landscape as we know it. They could infringe upon freedoms we have taken for granted such as buyers’ ability to educate freely online and businesses’ ability to engage in social conversations.
Click here to learn what you can do to help protect your freedom as an online marketer, business or user.