The loss of profit due to theft of intellectual property rights and the protection of creative works is a serious economic problem in the United States. US-based companies, Disney, HBO, Showtime, Universal and others spend billions of dollars to create intellectual property to profit their investors. Until recently, it has been as if “piracy” was considered a victimless crime; however, the truth is that the victim is the American citizen. To deal with the problem, recently the House of Representatives and the Senate drafted the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
There are “rogue websites’ hosted by foreign countries that supply the stolen intellectual property to just about anyone who can logon to the site by direct access or by linking. Though intellectual property, such as music and movie downloads are stolen everyday in the United States, the major current infringing perpetrators are other countries whose laws cause inequities for copyright owners in the United States.
According to the Global Intellectual Property Center, “Rogue sites attract 53 billion visits per year, jeopardizing the more than $7.7 trillion of U.S. GDP and 60% of exports that the industries they steal from produce for our economy. The sweeping alliance of business and labor leaders, which represent nearly every sector of the 19 million Americans employed in IP-dependent industries, have all called for enhanced enforcement against rogue sites.”
If you think it is a small problem consider the top ten pirate countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Libya, Venezuela and Iraq, pirate no less than an average of 90% of the intellectual property that enters the country. This means that of every ten people that watch a movie in any format, one has paid. This is as opposed to the United States where it is estimated that 20% is pirated, meaning that of every movie watched, eight of ten have paid in some way. This also includes software, music, writing and other forms of intellectual property. For the owner of any intellectual property asset, it is an enormous loss.
Recently HR 3261 was created (under the title Stop Online Piracy Act) to sever rogue websites from entry into the United States. The bill allows the United States government to get a court order to seize the websites who offer illegal downloads. The bill is intended to increase the ability to challenge spammers and hackers. The Senate bill is S 968 and is titled the Protect IP Act.
There are activists and hackers who believe that all information should be free and uncensored on the Internet. Unfortunately for artists, writers and producers the average consumer prefers “free” to almost any price, even if they deem it reasonable. Rogue sites are sites that offer intellectual property, hacked and stolen, to other consumers. As the copyright owners of US businesses complain, lawmakers are attempting to find a solution to offer security and protection from theft, but perhaps the solution isn’t as simple as it appears.
Now you are asking, how does this affect me or my website? The bill allows an association relationship on sites that may host links or comments to rogue sites to also be denied access by the American public. For instance, if you allow comments to rogue sites and hacktavists to be posted on you site or on your Facebook page, the government will have the right to seize your site, even if most of the content is legal. Every online user is soon to be responsible for the content posted under their domain and control. The bills also call for the end of commerce on any sites that they have seized.
Part of the problem is the enormous magnitude of the Internet. How are social media sites going to monitor all of the activity and comments posted on their site? Many say the innocent user or business owner is now going to be spied upon and like always, the little guy is going to suffer the most. Skeptics of the bill are looking to add specific language making sure that “foreign” sites and accounts are closed, not necessarily domestic sites and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). If there is any advice, you cannot any longer allow comments on your social media pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn, or your website without scrutinizing their content.
The good news is that if your site gets bombed by hacktivists, you will not have to go to court to get justice; you will be able to file a complaint with the Department of Justice. Many people think that it is going to be an invasion of privacy, but those who have been hacked or own IP say, “good.” This is one of these times when only time will tell.