While no numbers have been reliably developed to compare the two, I would make book that the most common and sinister piracy that goes on via the Internet involves database compromise and identity theft rather than theft of movies or music. According to the Identity Theft Research Center, 4,300,056 records containing sensitive consumer data were stolen in hacking incidents in 2011 alone, exposing those consumers to the risk of identity theft. The current proposed legislation doesn't deal with identity theft, but of course, there are a number of laws on both federal and state books that do. Unfortunately, most aren't tough enough and, in the case of the federal government, they are few and far between.
One of the complaints I have often heard from proponents of SOPA is not so much that existing law is inadequate, but rather that existing enforcement of that law is lacking. Doubtless, while SOPA (or Son of SOPA) provides new and potent enforcement weapons, the noise surrounding the recent battle will definitely step up enforcement activities under current law, something that is critical, especially if both bills die beneath the Capitol dome (which apparently one has). And given the fact that Congress has mastered the art of internecine squabbling and gridlock, nothing seems to be going anywhere fast in Washington, no matter how serious the problem.
If only identity theft were as buzz worthy; alas, (the recently departed) SOPA and PIPA are big news because of the power and prestige of those on both sides of the issue. That's why the grassroots ultimately had to get involved.
The victims of intellectual property piracy are generally large and powerful companies, with lobbyists in Washington and in every important state capital, with money to spend to help with enforcement or to technologically impede the theft of their property. On the other hand, the victims of identity theft are generally individuals with meager resources, both financial and political, to fight against the theft of their sensitive personal information, and the destruction of their financial lives, or even more dire consequences should they experience medical or criminal identity theft. Put simply, the victims of intellectual property theft are generally much wealthier and more powerful than the thieves, whereas in identity theft, the playing field is generally more tilted in favor of the bad guys.
It's safe to say that if multibillion dollar companies need more legislation and better enforcement procedures to protect their property, individuals need all the help they can get to protect theirs. While there are many organizations that do their best to prevent identity theft, they cannot match the resources available to those who have large financial interests at stake, like the entertainment companies that have embraced SOPA. This is, after all, America, where money talks but big money shouts. I hope that the senators and representatives who are hell-bent to kill or at least seriously maim the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other consumer-oriented federal regulatory agencies take note of the fact that consumers need all the help they can get to protect their identities. Unfortunately, there are no lobbyists or media campaigns to shout at Congress, but perhaps a large chorus of smaller voices will make a lot of noise at the polls in November.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.