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If you have been on the Internet today (which of course you have) you may have noticed a few of your favorite websites not working. Wikipedia, Craigslist and Reddit are just a few sites that have shut down today in protest of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

SOPA, designed to crack down on the rampant copyright infringement on the web, was introduced in October 2011. In its current wording, SOPA stringently bans any type of copyright infringement to the extreme that some have been comparing the bill to “communist China internet”. Any grey area of the bill puts the power in the government’s hand by default. As a programmer at Mashable eloquently put it: “If ever a bill was spaghetti, this is it. If a programmer on my team wrote code as convoluted as this bill, I would fire him on the spot.”

Since October, SOPA seems to have garnered little interest amongst the PR industry, which frankly, is shocking. It wasn’t until Wikipedia announced it would join the likes of Reddit and Craigslist to protest that I started to see uproar of concern within my professional networks. It’s about time, and for good reason – if SOPA viagra to pass as currently written, that will mean some major changes to the public relations field.

If passed, the effects these acts will have on the PR industry are astronomical. The bill, which can be read in its entirety here, is 17 pages long printed. I recommend you read it if you can stand the legal jargon, but if not, here are some main points that are sure to affect the public relations industry.

  1. Sharing – perhaps the most detrimental aspect of SOPA is that it will prevent sharing content on the web. That means sites like YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, and even Facebook are threatened. A big chunk of PR and social media is getting people to share content and hoping for a snowball effect. Take away sharing and you take away the ability of easily and inexpensively reaching a large audience.
  2. Generating income- If a site found in violation of SOPA or PIPA, advertisers will be required to pull their ads.  Google searches will be altered and that could compromise the time and money spent optimizing searches. Non-profits that use PayPal or similar money transferring services when seeking donations could be required to shut down.
  3. International domains – Agencies with international clients are safe, right? Wrong. Even though SOPA claims to only have control over domestic IP addresses, IP addresses are not national organizations. In fact, the American Registry for Internet Names (ARIN) covers 20 nearby countries. Any sites in violation registered with ARIN are at risk of being shut down.

The good news is, earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced the House will not vote on the highly controversial SOPA. However, this does not mean SOPA has been killed as it could be resurrected at any time. And while SOPA may be momentarily shelved, its equally as evil twin PIPA is picking up where SOPA left off.

So, today while browsing the Web, take note of what articles you are reading, videos you are watching or pictures you are admiring. Chances are the original creator of that content is not the owner of site, nor the composer of the music in the video, nor the photographer of that picture.

If you feel strongly about stopping SOPA and PIPA, please let Congress know by visiting


Stephanie Lough
Stephanie Lough
A former HMA Public Relations employee.


  1. Alison Bailin says:

    Thanks, Steph. This will help me explain the issue to all of my pro-social media friends who are NOT in the communications industry. And – it will help them figure out to SIGN the petition at the end.

  2. Joey Wilhelm says:

    I’m glad to see so many taking up arms for this, and you are absolutely correct! This is the largest threat the Internet has seen to date. But also of equal (or possibly more) import to note is ACTA.

  3. Stephanie Lough says:

    When I started writing this blog, I wasn’t sure if I should do a “What is..a” or express my concern for my generation, Gen Y. Of course, there is an overwhelming majority against SOPA and PIPA and last I heard, the bills have been abandoned. Source:

    The concern I have for my generation is that within my networks, those who I am not professionally tied to expressed more of an annoyance towards the protest than what the protests are for. Even more frustrating is that these people shut down when they hear “political issue”. I am a big supporter of keeping your political agenda OFF social media when it is party specific or propaganda, but I think it is safe to say that this issue crosses party lines and will effect all generations, demographics and industries in a negative way. Yes, even the entertainment giants responsible for lobbying this issue will hurt if they get their way.

    I agree that seeing repetitive content on a your Facebook news feed is annoying, but that should also be a main indicator that something big is happening. Did 2011 not show us how powerful social media is for social change? Imagine if people in Egypt were to say “this is important and all, but it takes up too much of my feed.”

    Honestly, what is more important on Facebook right now? A new “Sh*t says” video? To add to the irony, these people are DJs (don’t pay royalties), graphic designers (you buy that font?), salesmen (don’t share your product links!), researchers (but they probably never used Wikipedia)……..

    Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

  4. Chris Piel says:

    good stuff. anyone have any ideas about how the media can regulate themselves to prevent these sort of oversteps by the government?

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