What's all this noise around a pair of bills called The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA)? It doesn't really matter to you, right? After all, you're in the staffing business, not creating content or running an e-commerce site. So how Congress monitors and legislates copyright infringement on the Internet isn't a big concern to you. Maybe it should be.
These bills have serious potential to negatively change - and impact - the Internet as we know it. That's why thousands of websites went "black" Wednesday, showing only a "strike" image, in place of the normal content.
Both bills give the mainstream entertainment industry the power to censor sites that allegedly "engage in, enable or facilitate" copyright infringement. The language in the bills is vague enough so as to effectively target sites you use every day, such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Google. That makes these bills a serious issue of censorship, not piracy prevention, as is their ostensible purpose and design.
I don't know of too many people - or really anyone now that I think about it - in the staffing industry who spends more time working on and around the web and the online environment than TempWorks CEO Gregg Dourgarian. So I went to him for a quote about just how SOPA and PIPA might impact staffing.
“Although SOPA as currently written in the legislation before Congress would have little direct impact on the staffing industry, we are an industry of innovators, not just entrepreneurs. As such, we are always pushing the envelope in terms of creating a more successful staffing model. Therefore, we need to be on guard against just this kind of big-brother type legislation or legal action. The threats can come from anywhere, in the form of unjustly awarded patents, draconian laws and other things that would shut down labor fluidity. It doesn't only hurt us, it also impacts the vast community of temporary workers and organizations that depend on us.”
“Although SOPA as currently written in the legislation before Congress would have little direct impact on the staffing industry, we are an industry of innovators, not just entrepreneurs. As such, we are always pushing the envelope in terms of creating a more successful staffing model. Therefore, we need to be on guard against just this kind of big-brother type legislation or legal action."
In New York Wednesday, thousand of members of the technology community had a protest outside the offices of New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand who support the legislation.
A tech site known as GigaOM quotes Clay Shirky, an NYU professor and technology author, as saying that SOPA should be labeled the “First Amendment Sunset Act,” because of the way it affects Internet user’s ability to speak freely. He feels the mainstream media industry is trying to create an environment that ultimately discourages free speech and debate.
“What they’re (Senators Schumer and Gillibrand) saying to us is this: everyone’s got a choice, the Internet, the First Amendment, corporate control of public speech. Pick two,” he said.
There was a bit of a surprise Wednesday when Fox News reported that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a co-sponsor of the PIPA bill, joined the chorus speaking out against the copyright infringement bill that could restrict the freedom of the Internet.
"I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor," Rubio posted on his Facebook page. "Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet."
"We should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet."
In fact, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and U.S. Representative Darrel Issa of California, have been championing alternative legislation, the Open Act, against two bills that they believe will radically alter the Web.
"This is going to turn websites into Web cops," Wyden told Computerworld at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Instead of "three guys in a garage" launching a Web-based business "you're going to be three people with an upstairs full of lawyers telling you whether or not you are going to be able to operate a Web site."
“The bill attempts a radical restructuring of the laws governing the Internet. It would undo the legal safe harbors that have allowed a world-leading Internet industry to flourish over the last decade. It would expose legitimate American businesses and innovators to broad and open-ended liability. The result will be more lawsuits, decreased venture capital investment, and fewer new jobs.”
Tell us what you think. Do you think it could impact your business? Or do you feel I'm off base when I made the assertion right off the top that "you should care."