Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) - if you don’t know what it is, you’ve probably been living in a cave for the last 18 months.
This is the scariest thing in the tech world since the beginning of the internet.
It could basically shut down any site deemed to be engaged in “infringing activities” and that includes most of the content sharing on social media sites. It’s scary because they could do this without a court hearing or a trial.
Am I surprised? No. I kind of knew something like this was on the horizon. The free content train couldn’t run forever. Now this causes a huge panic – and any company that uses social media as part of their marketing strategy may as well get their pink slips ready if this bill gets passed.
The US kind of sees the Internet as their thing and since it all started with DARPA in the 70’s, it kind of was – not to mention the fact that the rest of the world adopted their protocols for data transfer as the standard. So yes, I guess they feel they have the right to legislate this technology for the rest of the world.
The sad irony is that most of the media companies standing behind this bill are the ones benefiting from social marketing and the exposure their content is getting online. So is it worth it? Have they done the math to see if losing that exposure and forcing each and every user to pay for content will drive up their profits? I’m not an actuary, so I honestly couldn’t tell you.
Being that I’m employed by one of the largest media companies in Canada, I understand the struggle. The fact that newspaper circulation is declining and that readers online are getting the content for free is killing us.
On the other hand, we gain massive exposure through social media channels and without that, we might be back to relying solely on local audiences and traditional marketing methods. I don’t know what the answer is but this bill may do nothing more than drive ‘free content’ underground.
Remember Napster, Limewire and Hotline? There were a lot of peer-to-peer underground applications and communities sharing content for free online just 8-13 years ago. These applications were led by hacker communities and all this bill would do is create a new underground internet. The technology got here faster than they could make laws to govern it and unfortunately, this bill, regardless of its intentions, is too little too late. I don’t think we can go back and start applying rules to the World Wide Web. We can only go forward. The thing that governments and media companies need to grasp is that it’s not just about the content.
The way users are consuming the content online has changed. Sites like YouTube and Facebook have made content social and interactive in a way that traditional media couldn’t do on it’s own. The most interesting thing is that users are no longer forced to be faithful to a brand. They aren’t forced to buy an entire album or newspaper if they want just one song or one article. They don’t have to buy a subscriber package with 300 channels just to watch that one TV show they like.
It’s all in how content is bundled to suit a person’s life-style. People want good content. What that means to you and what that means to me might be different – so why not let people create their own content bundles? Why not take the Amazon approach and recognize that people change over time and their tastes and interests may vary from year to year? If we listen to the users and give them the content they want, the way they want it, they will pay because by virtue of doing this, you are creating a service.
I think the underlying reality here is that media companies need to change to allow consumers more choices and better services. I may be over-simplifying but I think that would be the best way to move forward.