Governments have attempted to play major roles in how the Internet is governed, with limited success. In 1998, President Clinton signed into law legislation that limited states’ rights on Internet taxation and strengthened online copyright infringement while limiting liability for publishers whose users violate copyright law. And in 2012, SOPA was postponed amidst fears of “big government” access and intervention. But a handful of new legislation could change the online landscape dramatically for the foreseeable future, especially for marketers and anyone else whose living is dependent on e-commerce. The following lists four critical pieces of legislation marketers should know.
First introduced in 2011, Do-Not-Track is federal legislation aimed at creating a quick and easy way for online users to opt out of tracking. This would be a major blow to marketers and big data, who depend on tracking capabilities to better target campaigns. Currently, the Ad Choices program allows for some level of opt-out, but is regulated by the marketing industry.
Viewed by many as a follow-up to SOPA, CISPA has strong opposition but not as much as SOPA did. Case in point: a planned multi-site blackout to protest the law failed to achieve the numbers that a similar SOPA effort did. Most of the opposition comes from a desire to protect civil liberties; but if both CISPA and Do-Not-Track are passed, marketers should question why the federal government is granted the ability to effectively spy on consumers while companies cannot track online behavior for marketing purposes.
The Marketplace Fairness Act would essentially require online retailers to collect and submit state sales taxes. On one hand, it would help level the playing field for locally operated brick-and-mortar retailers. On the other hand, it will require online retailers to comply with 9,000 regimes; and in states that have no sales tax, retailers will have to build compliance systems from scratch. The potential negative effects are far-reaching: less available funds for marketing, compliance and bookkeeping nightmares, and even international migration to avoid the requirements.
What does a German copyright law initiative have to do with marketers in the U.S.? Potentially, a lot. A proposed copyright law in Germany would allow publishers to charge news aggregator sites a fee for publishing snippets of their content, even when those snippets link to the original source. The law is obviously aimed at opening the door to letting publishers cash in on Google’s billions of dollars in search revenue. If it passes, similar measures could be proposed and adopted in other countries – and open Pandora’s box for any website that relies on content, news, and related sources for its marketing. Forget Google: What about small, ad-supported websites that aggregate news via RSS feeds? Will they have to share ad revenue profit with every RSS feed publisher?
No matter your political position, if you’re a marketer it makes sense to follow these four pieces of legislation so you can properly prepare. You might even find new opportunities in them. Pass or fail, you want to make sure you’re in the know so you can properly advise your clients on their overall marketing strategies.