The Myth That SOPA/PIPA Only Impact 'Foreign Sites'
from the targeted,-perhaps,-but-the-impact-is-much-wider dept
One of the key talking points of supporters of PIPA and SOPA is that these bills “only target foreign sites,” so domestic sites and companies shouldn’t be complaining. Of course, for a while SOPA’s private right of action was open to domestic sites as well, but that was removed in Lamar Smith’s “manager’s amendment.” But it remains a total myth that these bills only impact foreign sites. They may target foreign sites, but the entire setup, compliance costs, and legal liability is applied to domestic sites and companies. The blacklisting remedies all require a variety of US companies to take significant and costly actions that will burden many startups.
The recent discussion by Reddit General Manager Erik Marin about why SOPA would lead to the end of Reddit highlights the point nicely.
If SOPA passes in anything like it’s current form, it would almost certainly mean the end of reddit. It may not happen overnight, but we have a very small staff (~11, mostly engineers), and even dealing with DMCA stuff is a big burden for us. SOPA would make running reddit near impossible. And we have access to great lawyers through our parent company. I can’t imagine how smaller sites without those kind of resources could even attempt a go at it if SOPA passes.
We’ve been trying to make this point for months, and the folks in favor of these bills just keep ignoring it insisting time and time again that this is just about foreign sites. Most of those people have never been entrepreneurs. They’ve never worked at a company where the threat of legal action is a BIG DEAL, that can massively disrupt operations (and cash flow). They don’t realize that increasing liability, compliance costs and legal risks isn’t just a nuisance — it can force an entire business to shut down. We’ve talked about how these bills change things so that it’s not just two engineers in a garage any more, but two engineers… who need a team of a dozen lawyers.
Considering that nearly all of the net job creation in the US comes from startups (pdf), to massively burden all of these companies with ridiculous compliance and legal costs makes no sense at all. It makes even less sense when you look at the details, and realize that the entertainment industry has actually continued to grow significantly over the past decade, contrary to the gloom and doom stories you keep hearing. Yes, a few of the big companies with big lobbying budgets have struggled with their own business model, but that’s no excuse for massively hindering jobs and economic growth, messing with the fundamentals of the internet, and giving foreign regimes a blueprint on how to censor the internet in a way that the US can’t complain.