Chances are you have all seen some kind of online protest against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) today. While I was aware of the bill I didn’t take much thought about how it would affect Unshoes as a business. I decided that I had better look into it so that I can be informed. As I used the internet today I saw that several sites such as Wikipedia were shut down. Other sites had black bars over the logo and usually had some kind of tag line that said “stop online censoring”. I wanted to find out more about the bill rather than just taking Google’s word for it.
It didn’t take long to discover that SOPA could make a huge impact on us as a small online business. While I agree with the basic purpose of the bill, I’m not sure that there is any way to really stop online piracy. The dishonest people will probably find ways around everything while those who are trying to run legitimate websites will suffer. Analysts have said that the language in the bill is so broad and rules are so disconnected that the bill could kill e-commerce.
Here is one example of how SOPA could hurt our business. If I were to find an interesting blog post about barefoot running or minimal footwear and I decide to share that link on Facebook or our blog and the blog that we linked to violated some part of the SOPA law, then we could become liable for that violation. We share links all the time and are always on the lookout for interesting information that might be of interest to our customers. It could be as simple as sharing a youtube video or even linking to a website that has an image that was taken from another website. Online marketing could become a nightmare. Since our sandals are sold online to people all over the world we depend on online marketing. It is our primary method of getting our product out there for potential customers to see. We communicate through our blog, Twitter, and Facebook page.
Search engines will have to make major adjustments if the bill is passed and the engines would have to verify each website to SOPA regulations. In short, those of us that rely on search traffic (pretty much any business) are going to experience a major drop in traffic and therefore sales.
I’m sure there are many other consequences for all of us. The main point is that while this bill has good intentions it could lead to some pretty bad dings in the economy. I honestly don’t think that the bill will pass, but I felt that I needed to add my two cents to the discussion.