What SOPA Means for Affiliate Marketing’s Future – By Brook Schaaf

by Colleen on May 23, 2012

In dramatic and unprecedented fashion, Google, Wikipedia, WordPress and other major internet properties went dark or otherwise protested the bipartisan Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) on January 18.

This opposition coalition, which included affiliate marketers, succeeded in making SOPA politically toxic in the near future. However, as we learned (painfully) from the tax nexus battle, proponents can make adjustments and make another push at any time.

The primary purpose of SOPA was to fight online piracy. Introduced last fall by U.S. Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-TX), the bill was meant to expand U.S. law enforcement’s ability to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.

But the content community’s proposed remedies immediately alarmed the tech community. The bill would have enabled the government to block not only sites that published pirated material, but also sites that linked to such content.

Had SOPA been passed, any site found to be linking to such content would face dire consequences. ISPs would be forced to block access to your site. Search engines would be forced to remove your site from results pages. Payment networks such as PayPal would be forced to stop working with your site. One clear consequence would have been the censorship of legitimate content somehow associated with pirated content.

For a better understanding of the impact of SOPA, I spoke with Gary Kibel, our counsel and an expert in this space.

“The issue that most people have with SOPA is that it was very broad and imposed an obligation … to be deputies,” Kibel said. This obligation would “increase costs because affiliates would have to add a process… with no return,” that process being a content and complaint review within five days.

Some SOPA commentators have suggested that competitors might go so far as to create SOPA violations for your site, but Kibel said he did not anticipate sabotage as a realistic threat because he has not seen the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notices used for anti-competitive purposes.

Because many affiliate sites are boot-strapped, any kind of cost burden would make it that much harder to launch and succeed in the space.

Moreover, it would surely have a chilling effect on our space, making advertisers wary of working with thousands of publishers. Gary called SOPA a “key critical issue” for its proponents, so, we can be sure it will return.

Understanding and communicating these problems to other voters and legislators has a meaningful impact on preventing them.

Brook Schaaf is CEO of Schaaf-PartnerCentric, an outsourced affiliate program management agency.

Download the entire FeedFront issue 18 here – http://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/feedfront-18

FeedFront issue 18 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2012/4

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