Today, January 18th, Team Armadillo is joining hundreds of web sites across North America in blacking out in support of the anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA movement.
And while it’s great news that SOPA (The Stop Online Privacy Act) has been shelved by Congress for the time being, it still doesn’t address some of the underlying threats towards the web industry in North America. It’s a step forward, but governments north and south of the 49th parallel must show a greater understanding of the importance of this emerging industry.
Why would a Canadian Company Take Part?
You may be asking, why would a Calgary based web design studio care about federal legislation in the United States? Simply put, the internet as a market place has no borders.
What happens in the United States, in regards to policy, ultimately influences policy and activity in Canada. In particular, elements of SOPA could effect our own clientele and our own business models. As a company, we have created numerous blogs and web sites across North America, with content who audience stretches across borders. We also utilize reliable shared hosting within the United States. But SOPA (and to an extent PIPA) gives authorities the power to penalize not only site owners, but web hosting providers for copyright infringement. And while we are definitely for the protection of Intellectual Property, let’s be honest good people do make mistakes. With this new legislation it is quite easy for a site on a shared hosting environment to accidentally break elements of SOPA and by proxy force a disabling of an entire array of web sites. It may never happen, but the threat of it is concerning to us.
In addition, we are also incredibly supportive of the emerging tech industry in general. In particular, the great start-up culture. Many start-ups in Calgary and across North America, are leveraging elements of the Social Web to create unique products. SOPA’s principals allow the the disabling of sites that distribute copyrighted material. Which sounds good in theory, but is also a large grey area of controversy and quite vague in it’s limitations. What constitutes the infringement on copyrighted material? Is it uploading and advertising of intellectual property or is it the misuse of property. Imagine a young start-up in Calgary, that hits it big with some sort of social web product, the next Flickr, the next Spotfy or even the next Evernote. Thousands of users suddenly using the service to connect with other people in ways not even imagined by the original start-up company. You have a small start-up of three to five people suddenly responsible for the activities of hundreds, possible thousands of users. You may have users suddenly uploading avatars of images they don’t own the rights to or sharing tracks of bands they haven’t paid a royalty to or sharing a funny video they found on the internet from a site that seamed legit, but was actually breaking SOPA’s rules. There a variety of ways in which a site or an application could be in violation of either of these acts, without their own knowledge.
Now, with SOPA or PIPA that start-up could easily be squashed in a matter of moments. Either through a shutting down of their site or thousands of dollars of legal fees. All because of something, that a single user may or may not have done on purpose.
And because both SOPA/PIPA are designed to cross across borders, as a web-based company, this frightens us.
But, Again What Does This Have To Do With Canada
Let’s be honest, Canada and the US are tied to one another when it comes to policy in regards to the Internet. What passes as policy and legislation south of the border, inevitably makes it’s way up to our neck of the woods. By standing with the SOPA Blackout, we want to challenge politicians at the Provincial and Federal level to start taking this emerging industry seriously. To be a proactive player in the development of Internet Policy and also to start a dialogue with the growing tech culture within our borders. Let’s build something that not only protects intellectual material and property, but also doesn’t hinder the potential of this growing industry.