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Can SOPA Affect Your Dealership?

 

Wikipedia, the sixth most popular site on the entire Internet, went dark yesterday in protest of a proposed Congressional bill – effectively halting any college papers from being written whatsoever. Alongside thousands of sites such as Craigslist, Tumblr, and Reddit, the global encyclopedia asks visitors to take action against the Stop Online Piracy Act, a piece of legislation that threatens to give the U.S. government the ability to block access to infringing domain names. This means that corporations can sue websites for user-posted content, potentially crippling start-ups and a variety of social media outlets. But the auto industry is far removed from the entertainment world that the bill targets – why should auto dealers care about SOPA?

It’s easy to understand why movie producers and record labels would want to put a stop to theft of their intellectual property. However, under the guidelines of this new bill, any content that you use to promote your dealership that is not explicitly your own would be subject to legal action from the content’s original publisher.

At the very least, this means that sites that rely on user–generated content will feel extreme pressure to monitor all postings heavily. Auto manufacturers could have the authority to shut down discussion boards that they feel disclose trade secrets. And if someone posts copyrighted content on one of your social media sites? SOPA holds you accountable with fines or a lawsuit.

Ted Rubin, president and co-founder of ActivEngage, believes that the bill is well-intentioned, but poorly executed. “Piracy is a legitimate threat, and innovators and creative agencies deserve protection for their works and products.” Rubin explained that the vague, indiscriminate wording of the bill remains a problem. “The bigger issue is that small businesses could suffer because legislators are trying to impose a solution that is simply not enforceable.

ActivEngage Director of Virtual Sales Carol Marshall says that some dealers struggle to stay creative as it is. “It would definitely inhibit a dealer’s ability to capture attention quickly if he or she can’t use pop culture to help liven up their websites.” Marshall thinks that policing the Internet for possible infringements is not an intelligent use of time. “Trying to stuff toothpaste back in the tube is a useless effort. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry?”

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While ActivEngage stands strongly against illegal piracy, we ask you to weigh in on the Stop Online Piracy Act. Visit Google’s petition to tell legislators what you think about the action taken against freedom of speech. Then tell us your thoughts in a comment below!

Lindsey Auguste
Great post, Stephen. I think it makes the issue more real when dealers realize that this bill can directly affect their online efforts. Sometimes it's hard to relate ideals like free-speech and censorship into our everyday lives, but you clarify the point well here. DrivingSales also participated in the Blackout on January 18. We completely agree that online piracy is wrong and needs to be remedied, but the bill allowance of far-reaching government censorship are a scary side effect that we cannot endorse. Personally, I don't think that the US wants to set a precedent that it's okay to put in place censorship capabilities in the same fashion employed by China, Vietnam, and Iran. It's a blatant act against free-speech, not to mention the ramifications it could have on cybersecurity. Thanks for making this issue more real to the dealership world.
Stephen Jackson
Thanks Lindsey! It was the blackout of DrivingSales that made me wonder how the issue was specifically relevant to dealers. At current time of this writing, something like 8 senators have backed out of endorsing the bill and tons of corporate sponsors are doing an about-face. Given the immense response to SOPA, do you think the bill still has a chance of passing?

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