Sites like Wikipedia and Reddit are “blacked out” today in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, a pair of anti-piracy bills that detractors say would cripple Internet companies by forcing them to police user-generated content for potential copyright infringement. If the bills are passed, sites found linking to copyrighted material could be effectively shut down by federal court judges.
Both start-ups and more established Web companies are spooked and angered by these proposals, and they’ve been blasting their frustration across the Internet. Here are some of the best explanations of how SOPA or PIPA could impact online start-ups — with pictures!
This is a quick animation describing the nuts and bolts of SOPA/PIPA and how they could hurt sites that rely on links for traffic and revenue.
“It will cripple new start-ups because it will allow companies to sue any site it feels isn’t doings its filtering well enough. This could bankrupt new social media sites...Lots of trail-blazing Web sites could look like piracy hubs to the wrong judge.”
At about 20 minutes long, this one takes some dedication to get through, but it’s one of the most extensive explanations of the bills available in video form.
The creator, UK lawyer John Bain, gives us this analogy to describe what it would mean to hold Internet companies liable for the copyright of content that users upload: “An analogy is suing Toyota for the fact that some guy ran into your car with his Toyota car.”
From Google, which is joining today’s protest, comes this infographic (click here for the full size PDF)
Among the figures Google puts forth is that 204 entrepreneurs sent a letter expressing concern that PIPA and SOPA would “hurt economic growth and chill innovation.” If the anti-piracy measures are passed, the search engine would have to police the site’s links for copyrighted material.
Over at Good, which has also joined today’s protest, Nona Willis Aronowitz gives an example of how, if SOPA/PIPA is passed, companies could maliciously troll each other with copyrighted content in order to shut down their competitors:
“It could create sneaky company wars, and ideological ones, too. Not everybody would post copyrighted content on a site accidentally. Rival companies could try to snuff out each other’s sites by posting illegal content in their comments and on their forums. And what about political or religious crusaders? Anti-abortion activists could write a copyright-violating comment on Planned Parenthood’s blog to shut the site down. Creationists could write a letter to the editor of an online science magazine that’s riddled with plagiarized content. President Obama’s staff could post copyrighted paragraphs on Mitt Romney’s site. And so on.”
Venture capitalists and angel investors will also be less likely to invest in Web companies if a law like SOPA or PIPA were passed, according to interviews conducted with venture capitalists by Booz & Company:
“A large majority of the angel investors and venture capitalists who took part in a Booz & Company study say they will not put their money in digital content intermediaries (DCIs) if governments pass tough new rules allowing websites to be sued or fined for pirated digital content posted by users.”
The study also found that investors would require additional return on investment if Web properties were liable for user-generated content, as they would be under SOPA/PIPA.