The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, has been created with the intentions of enforcing stricter laws on online trafficking and piracy. If something like SOPA were passed, many websites such as Google, Facebook and YouTube would be forced to shut down. This is because they operate solely on the idea of sharing intellectual ideas of individuals. The ability to upload personal videos, comments and share music is what has allowed to Internet to grow so rampantly. Most people are opposed to the idea of SOPA and that leaves a major issue for the PR practitioners who must defend it.
SOPA has been created to not only place governmental control over the Internet but also to please the Hollywood/Music industry. Hollywood has since lost the battle in a sense but I don’t think they are ready to give up just yet. The two publics Hollywood’s PR practitioners must focus on and win over are college students and Silicon Valley head honchos, more specifically the owners and operators of Google, YouTube and Facebook.
I believe the main issue to be solved is getting both publics to understand the goals of SOPA. If it is explained to them in a manner where they do not feel violated or that their rights about being stripped from under then I believe the process will go a lot smoother. The arguments to defend SOPA are valid and public relations just need to get college students and Silicon Valley to see them. Online piracy takes away the financial gain of the individuals who created the art. Not online does it take away credit where credit is due but it also makes the reach of their product difficult to measure. Agencies are artists are robbed of their dues every time their product is downloaded illegally. It’s like letting people run wild in a city and just break into any store they want and take what they please. SOPA’s intention is also to cut out wholesale and resellers. This is huge. It’s the same situation for fashion designers as it is the music industry. People are out there making a killing off of a fake Louis Vuitton purse. Not only are they making too much money for a half assed product but also they are potentially damaging Louis Vuitton’s brand image. How? Say you buy the purse off EBay and don’t realize it’s fake. Two weeks later the handle falls off and you jump on Louis Vuitton’s Facebook cursing them for their cheaply made product. Then the issue falls to LV’s public relations to fix an issue that never should have been, all at the expense of a wholesaler.
Another point PR should focus on is the importance of giving credit where credit is due. Music artists and actors work hard for hours upon hours and sometimes years to produce the intellectual products we enjoy viewing. I believe if things are appropriately put into perspective for college students that they may be more willingly to listen and ultimately support the decision of stopping online piracy. Conveying to them its like working for free may be an effective tactic. SOPA’s intention of not shutting down the internet but simply shutting down the abusers of it needs to be expressed.
Ultimately, I believe that a combination of advertising and public relations should be used to tackle the issue at hand. Advertising could be beneficial because its main purpose is to get to the heart of the problem and pull at the heartstrings of its viewers. I believe with the right campaign designed advertising could be successful in this situation at least in gaining knowledge and awareness. However, PR can’t sit back in this situation at all. PR needs to be up front fighting the demons and putting a focus on damage control.