What SOPA Means for Marketers

 

Today Wikipedia, Reddit, Wordpress, the Cheezburger Network and many other websites have all blacked out their pages in protest of SOPA & PIPA. These two bills are aimed to eliminate piracy on the internet but in turn are receiving negative backlash, being referred to as “censorship” and “the death of the internet”. People are discussing what these bills mean for them on a personal level, but very few are discussing what this means for the marketing industry.

Over the past few years we have entered a digital marketing revolution. Social media marketing, search engine marketing, display advertising, affiliate marketing, email marketing, and digital public relations now make up large portions of many advertisers budgets. If SOPA passes, this will all change.

Here are some potential effects of SOPA on marketers:

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

SOPA is a huge threat to the existence of social media. While many people claim that large social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are too big to fail, many smaller platforms that have recently excelled in the social world are destined to be shutdown.

One website that is speculated to have major issues moderating SOPA regulations is Tumblr. Tumblr is commonly known to be full of copyright-infringed content such as videos, photos, and of course, animated gifs. Many companies such as Oscar de la Renta and NPR have set-up brilliant Tumblr accounts that have brought a new dimension to their brands. If SOPA passes, it is a good chance that marketers must say goodbye to their Tumblr accounts.

Other social networks often used for marketing that are in jeopardy include Flickr, Vimeo, SoundCloud and Pinterest.

 

USER GENERATED CONTENT

If SOPA passes, user-generated content will be taboo. Companies and marketers alike will be terrified to allow or utilize user-generated content, out of fear of users posting copyrighted content, making the company’s website liable for such infringement. Currently, user-generated content is responsible for some of the most valuable and intriguing content for brands, particularly on social media.

Facebook has become one of the most prolific platforms for user-generated content. If SOPA does not completely eliminate Facebook, it will most definitely make marketers weary about allowing users to post content to their Facebook walls or running campaigns that encourage such activity.

For instance, Skittles is currently running a campaign called “Fame the Rainbow” where they pick photos that users have posted on the Skittles Facebook Page and add them to their profile picture and make them the “Rainbro of the Week”. Many of these images contain the Skittles logo, packaging, and slogans. If SOPA were to pass as it is now, this campaign would technically be an infringement despite the fact that Skittles is encouraging its users to use trademark material. Facebook could be shut down, Skittles’ Facebook Page could be removed, and the user could be imprisoned for five years. Those are the worst-case scenarios.

 

DISPLAY ADVERTISING

Many of the websites where marketers spend their display advertising dollars could inevitably be extinct.

YouTube is one of the websites that is highly threatened by SOPA. A large majority of the content that is uploaded infringes on copyrights, despite efforts to moderate such activity. If they are unable to maintain the restrictions placed by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the current copyright law, then it is doubtful they will be able to maintain the standards necessary to avoid being removed from the internet. YouTube is a major player in display advertising. Marketers spend over $300 million on YouTube per year. Where will all of these advertising dollars go?

Four out of the top five most viewed websites on the internet have actively voiced their hatred for the bill: Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo. It is no secret that they don’t like it because they believe it threatens the existence of their companies. In an unlikely world where all of these websites become obsolete, there will be over $2,000,000,000 in misplaced display advertising dollars.

Of course, these are all hypothetical situations. Be weary of the implications that SOPA & PIPA may have on you and your career. If these legislations do pass, the marketing industry is in store for a major overhaul.

To join the website, go to: http://americancensorship.org.