This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

SOPA and PIPA Represent the Antithesis of Agility

Supporters and opponents of proposed anti-piracy laws mirror the agility divide.

The fight over proposed anti-piracy legislation has gone mainstream. The lineup of proponents and opponents of SOPA and PIPA maps the agility divide.

First of all, let's just say that if you find yourself contemplating how you can influence federal legislation that will prop up your business model, you're doing it wrong. Anything involving legislation is the polar opposite of agility.

The House version is SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the Senate's is PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act). Their stated aim is to reduce theft of US-originated intellectual property (IP) by those outside the US. SOPA is on hold at present, as a result of the massive Internet backlash against it. PIPA is scheduled for a vote when the Senate returns from recess, though after the White House came out against some of the more Draconian provisions, some senators are seeking to postpone a vote.

SOPA supporters (some would say "drafters") such as the Motion Picture Association of America claim that IP theft costs the US economy tens of billions of dollars per year and has destroyed millions of US jobs. The exact figures the IP industry deploys have been a moving target of late, but all of them are bogus. They date back to late-1980s un-sourced estimates of the impacts of physical (not virtual) IP theft worldwide, not in the US. Close analysis suggests that illegal downloading of movies, music, and software results in no net loss to the economy, just some redistribution. And those awaiting a jobs bonanza if SOPA/PIPA become law in some form will wait until the stars grow dim.

Opponents of these proposed laws say that not only would they do nothing to reduce IP theft, they would break the Internet, cause important segments of the Web to go dark, threaten online security, and destroy whole industries. (One knowledgeable commentator, Cory Doctorow, warns that the fight against technology-crippling laws has only just begun.)

The list of SOPA supporters reads like a who's-who of the least agile segments of industry -- those that continue to fail to come to grips with the disintermediation the Internet brings. They include companies in industries such as recording, motion pictures, broadcasting, and publishing.

The opponents include Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, PayPal, CraigsList, Yahoo), venture capitalists, blogs, rights organizations, and think tanks. Among the things they have in common, especially when compared to SOPA supporters, are agility and embrace of the Internet's disruptive and disintermediative nature.

In fast-moving and chaotic times, your business needs to be on the lookout for the technologies or developments that can undermine your products and markets. Ideally, you will find a way to turn these developments to your advantage before your competition does. Sending armies of lobbyists into the halls of Congress is for those who can no longer compete.