You’ve seen the headlines, tweets and Internet buzz today about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its cousin PIPA (Protect IP Act). No matter what you think about them for a moment, put aside your arguments about “piracy” and intellectual property, the limitations on creativity and how the Internet would look very different if these bills passed.
My biggest concern for the operation of member-based organizations, businesses and nonprofits is the risk and responsibility (not to mention costs) they would now assume. Under SOPA the member organization assumes responsibility for all content on their site. If you are a national organization with sub-pages on your web site for chapters, and one of your chapters/members places a pirated video (one they don’t have permission to link to) in a remote corner of their page, you would be held responsible for their actions. If you allow users to upload content to your site or online community, you can consider yourself “high-risk,” at least in theory.
To ensure your organization is continually within compliance, you would need to establish policies and procedures. For the average person, with little knowledge of permissions law and fair use, this may involve consulting an attorney. Once you’ve established (and communicated out) the difference between acceptable and unacceptable content, you would need to place someone in charge of monitoring. Do you have the resources for that? Monitoring will be time-consuming and costly as it will be a full-time requirement.
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