Could the US ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) affect UK websites and businesses?

Could the US ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) affect UK websites and businesses?

Today we saw some high profile brands, such as Wikipedia, Google and eBay), take part in the protest known as ‘Internet blackout’ over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). So what is SOPA and how could it affect you?

As the video explains, it’s a piece of US legislation that if passed will allow sites to be blocked if they contain material that infringes on intellectual property rights, contains links to such sites or is consider Rogue.

But this is US legislation, how will it affect me and my business in the UK?

While SOPA may not affect you directly, consider how many sites you rely on that are owned by US companies. For most sites, the majority of traffic comes from Google (a US company). If the SOPA legislation is passed and a complaint is made against your site then it could be blocked from viewing to anyone in the US and dropped from the Google rankings. Likewise, if you use Paypal and Google Checkout to process payments, these financial services would no longer be provided to your website. You should consider other ways that you might be affected.

Is SOPA likely to go ahead?

Well, as the video says, there are most powers that be that are in support of the legislation. However, it is worth considering that the full powers that the legislation grants may not be used in the way that people are concerned about. That is not that say that we agree with the legislation, but website and business owners should consider the likelihood of any risks.

What’s the problem, protecting intellectual property and preventing piracy is a good thing…right?

We absolutely agree with protecting intellectual property and preventing piracy; this is not the point of contention that has caused the protests. The concerns are that the SOPA is a very broad piece of legislation that could potentially be misused. One of the big arguments is that competitors could make complaints just to get competitor sites take down. There are also serious concerns that innocent sites could suffer because of any link with a ‘rogue’ website (i.e. guilt by association).

What will happen next?

The legislation will be the subject of continued debate and so we don’t know which way it will go yet. We will be monitoring updates to see how things develop and paying particular attention to the potential impacts on UK businesses.

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