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What’s SOPA With That?

If you’ve been keeping up with the tech blogosphere in recent weeks, you’ve probably noticed you can’t go anywhere without reading about SOPA. Without even delving into the subject matter, it’s apparent that this is a very polarizing topic that is sure to have implications on everyday Internet use. So what exactly does this ubiquitous…

If you’ve been keeping up with the tech blogosphere in recent weeks, you’ve probably noticed you can’t go anywhere without reading about SOPA. Without even delving into the subject matter, it’s apparent that this is a very polarizing topic that is sure to have implications on everyday Internet use. So what exactly does this ubiquitous acronym stand for?

SOPA is short for the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill introduced this past fall to give intellectual property owners a better handle on the trafficking of pirated content. Those in favor of the bill feel enactment will allow copyright owners to finally gain control over the seemingly lawless nature that has run rampant with the proliferation of torrent sites and lax sharing regulations. Supporters are confident proposed regulations will bolster would-be sales of otherwise easy-to-find, illegally spread free content.

Opponents, on the other hand, are concerned that the proposed regulations compromise the informative open nature of the internet. They are worried that that any concession to somewhat blurry regulations will create a “whistle-blowing” atmosphere that will cause publishers to second-guess information that is shared for fear of retribution. They claim that withholding any information for fear of penalization promotes internet censorship which in turn violates the First Amendment.

First legislation is set to hit the Senate floor later this month. Regardless of your stance, there is no denying that this topic will surely affect your Search experience in the coming days. If you follow some of the bigger industry titans on Twitter such as Danny Sullivan or Matt Cutts, then you’ve surely noticed their respective stances based on their profile pictures alone. Content giants Wikipedia, Reddit, and many others are taking it one step further – “going black” on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 to protest the anti-piracy bill.

All of this controversy has led to some pretty interesting SEO questions. Namely, if some of the highest naturally ranking sites are willingly taking their content down for a short period of time, how will this affect the overall indexing process? SearchEngineLand got ahead of this question early this morning and offered a very interesting and to-the-point response.  By labeling your domain temporarily with a 503 HTTP status code, you are instructing the crawlers to temporarily overlook your content. According to Google, enacting this measure will tell the spiders that the content that you currently have on your domain is not the “real” content and should not be considered. Simply undo this when the time is right, and your content will be re-indexed shortly without any real side effects.

Whether or not you plan on enacting your point of view on SOPA, the very topic has taught a very interesting lesson that can be applied in other areas of SEO. And that’s something both sides can agree on.

Edit: According to a just-released statement from the House Committee on the Judiciary, the authors of the bill are regrouping to modify the bill. From the horse’s mouth, “Due to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February”.

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