Why Everyone Should Care about SOPA

By Ken Parmelee

You may have recently started to hear a lot about SOPA and PIPA, and if you’re struggling with whether you should care or not – you should.


Companies like Google and Wikipedia have taken a strong stance around stopping SOPA with petition movements and site blackouts

SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) is a bill that was introduced in US House of Representatives in late October last year. The bill seeks to protect copywritten material internationally.  It seeks to do so by going after parties that support sites that distribute copywritten material illegally. In concept this sounds like a great goal: protect US intellectual property (IP)  through third-party enforcement. Said another way, it’s difficult to control sites in other countries many times, but Google and many other significant companies in the US can be controlled.

When thought through there are some problems. The internet boomed because of the freedom it created. This freedom includes everything from horrible YouTube music videos to editorials that are shared the world over instantly. This has changed the nature of news and entertainment fundamentally. Isn’t the issue really that these industries have not kept up?

New digital business models need to be created that work. I’ve worked with several companies that are pioneers in taking on the challenge. Rather than looking at digital content as too portable, they are creating distribution channels that make legal consumption so easy and readily available that a consumer doesn’t look for the PirateBays of the world. iTunes and YouTube have done this well with very different models. There will always be the grainy illegal copies of a movie with peoples heads in them that someone gets to DVD or digital download somewhere. With globalization the only way to really control illegal content distribution is through laws common with other nations and enforcement. Embracing mobile channels puts content directly into a consumers hand in a very personal way.The companies that win in that space will drive the future of the news and entertainment industries.

Depending on the outcome, SOPA could have a major impact on many of us, so it’s certainly something to watch.


Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

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