Christian Dawson Of I2Coalition's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the and-a-few-not-so-favorites dept
I loved reading Mike Masnick’s update on what Trent Reznor is doing today, and not just because Mike needed to get off the phone with me a few days ago as Trent was calling. I see this story as an update to one of Mike's greatest hits, his 2009 Trent Reznor Case Study. So many of us who fight for intellectual property reform -- who were on the front lines of SOPA and PIPA -- are huge music fans and movie nerds. We respect artists and want to encourage their innovation and evolution. Mike continues to show us ways that the new economy can be great for artists of all kinds, and that we shouldn't burn down the new economy to preserve the old.
My least favorite post this week by far was the one on PhoenixNAP, which also referenced an earlier post about ServerBeach -- both criticizing those providers for overreach on content takedown procedures.
The companies I work with build the "nuts and bolts" of the Internet. I run a web hosting company called ServInt, and I am Chairman of a policy-centered trade association of web hosting, data center and cloud providers called the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, or i2Coalition. Though neither of the two companies are in our association, hosting is a small community. I know those guys personally, and while I am not intimately familiar with either case, I know the challenges this industry faces quite well.
I totally understand Mike's point that these companies seem to have thrown the baby out with the bath water. However, it's important to put them in context. Placing them in the same category as those who seek to censor speech or stifle innovation is unfair, and damages our collective ability to keep focus on activities that damage our collective goals.
ServerBeach and PhoenixNAP have a really fine line to walk; one that my company walks all the time. It's important to remember that what Internet infrastructure companies are trying to do is provide for their customers while avoiding becoming contributory infringers. I'm sure that ServerBeach and PhoenixNAP, like ServInt, have well established procedures to help avoid this risk. However, sometimes a company's infrastructure setup may not correspond exactly with either the "right" way of complying with a statute, or even the "best" way. It's important to keep in mind that infrastructure companies are in the business of moving information as quickly and cost effectively as possible, and not taking sides on any speech issue. My issue with Mike's post is that it appears to take the position that either company should have structured their environment to maximize speech or minimize the effects of the DMCA or other laws. Neither position reflects the business we're in.
My industry faces challenges, and we can gain great insight into what those challenges are simply by reading Techdirt each week. The things that Techdirt generally fights for they do so on behalf of an open Internet and its users, and that includes Internet infrastructure providers. Just this week you can go to Techdirt and see what we're faced with, including:
- a story that features a statute – the DMCA – that operates like a mathematical equation. For infrastructure companies this creates a particular problem: since they generally can't access a customer's server, if only a couple of bits of information are bad, and the customer refuses to take action, the entire server may have to be taken down.
- a fascinating piece on copyright trolls, who exploit our industry and find ways to sue and shake down Internet infrastructure players. As most Internet companies are trying to behave responsibly and walk that fine line, we need to be constantly concerned about those who seek to profit from any perceived misstep.
- a grim reminder of what the trademark landscape looks like today, via Tim Tebow. Case law for contributory infringement of trademarks is a moving target. Because Internet infrastructure providers don't have safe harbor protection from their customer’s use of trademarks as we do under the DMCA for copyright, providers often have to take the most conservative position available to them.
- another reminder of how the U.S. patent system litigates innovation and destroys progress. One of our biggest fears was that SOPA/PIPA was poised to reshape the Internet into the broken image of the U.S. patent system by opening up giant new pathways to contributory infringement. The direct and indirect costs of where patents are today are devastating.
- a shocking look at just how much some lawmakers still don't understand the Internet. I shouldn't be, but I am still shocked when I come across legislators who have no understanding of our industry whatsoever and seem unwilling to understand our industry. They always seem to be the ones who most want to regulate it.
Trent Reznor, who is back with a major label after years innovating on his own, sat down with Mike to dispel rumors that he sold out his principles over a big check. I read the piece and was convinced that any pre-conceived notions I had about the move were likely wrong, or at least more complicated than I had given them credit for.
Similarly, I don't know an Internet infrastructure provider who likes to kick off a client. I am left feeling we don't have the whole PhoenixNAP or ServerBeach story. When you've got one side wanting to air their grievances, and the other that is by necessity respecting customer confidentiality and not talking, it's hard to be definitive about what went wrong. I've been in those shoes. Though I may have some sympathies for the predicaments of PhoenixNAP and ServerBeach, I agree that hosts need better tools and procedures in general to address complaints in ways that are more fair to consumers.
All in all, it was a fascinating week on Techdirt, and like most weeks I can draw direct parallels to what we read on Techdirt every day and what challenges we face here on the front lines of the Internet. That's why I love making Techdirt a part of my day, everyday, and why I was thrilled to get a chance to recap a very poignant week.