I’m not one of those conspiracy folks who will rant all day about the evils of the government, and how they are going to take away our guns, force us to worship Satan or worse, make us listen to Justin Beiber. However, when I heard that MegaUplaod was “busted” for what should have been a civil matter, there were numerous things that came to my mind about what was wrong with this. Worse, I realized that these types of arrests could easily affect the Performance and Affiliate Marketing industry.
Here are a few keypoints that bother me and give you something to think about:
1) Foreign companies and affiliates will stop doing business with US based companies. If the US Department of Justice can go to another Country, arrest a non-US Citizen for acts not really committed in the United States, where does that end? If you are an non-US affiliate, do you want to worry about being arrested for violating some law that you never heard of? Do you think that non-US Companies will want to do business with US-Companies if they have to worry about the same?
2) Intellectual Property Law has now become criminal. Intellectual Property cases are usually expensive and usually have 100’s of different opinions associated with them. Whether something is a violation of someone’s copyright, the civil courts usually decide their trademark or patent. In this case, a claim by the movie and recording industry, turned what is a civil case into a federal prosecution. There are often many disagreements in IP law about what is “fair use” and what is allowed. Do you want to risk being part of a criminal case for promoting free gift-card offers, when the TM holder says the method of promotion is not legal?
3) It requires sites to police their users. While its always recommended to have an internet attorney, it has been a principle for a while that what users do, how they interact with other users, does not have to be policed. Now, based on this criminal prosecution, internet sites should know everything their users are doing, and spy on them. As marketers, do we need to worry that how we promote a product will somehow be connected with an illegal activity, and we will somehow be charged with a crime? Do we need to start policing sites?
I do not promote pirating, and trademark infringement. I really dislike most of the free giveaway offers, and think often on the the scummy side. Youtube was accused of the same thing: allowing users to upload copyrighted material, and only a daily basis you can still find hundreds of thousands of copyrighted works on their site. However, they settled and started to payoff the RIAA and the MPAA, and they were never prosecuted. On the other hand, MegaUpload refused to be extorted and never paid the bounty. Is this fair, that if you don’t pay off a very influential, very powerful lobbying organization that they can use connections with the Department of Justice to push a prosecution? Look at this advertisement from the MPAA, which frankly reeks of 1984.
Seriously, the MPAA is the same idiotic company that puts ratings on movies and tell us that titties are a bad thing, but cutting of heads are good for children.
As affiliates and performance marketers we don’t have the huge lobbyists. We have the Performance Marketing Association, which has started to take on Washington and represent us. Still, we are a long way from being able to protect ourselves against major corporate interests, many of them who hate that almost anyone can learn how to market a product, and product their own results with hard work.