Has Hollywood Hubris Awakened Silicon Valley To The Importance Of Telling DC To Knock It Off On Bad Laws?

from the it's-possible dept

We’ve talked a lot in the past about how the tech industry frequently ignores what’s happening in Washington DC, and takes the attitude that it doesn’t want to be involved in policy debates, because folks are busy focusing on actually building companies. However, as we repeatedly learn, just because we want to ignore DC, it doesn’t mean that DC ignores us. And that’s a problem. It allows others to use the government as a weapon against innovations they don’t like. For years, Hollywood has been able to do this successfully — but, when they push too far, it seems they may awaken a political beast they’d rather not deal with: the geeks. You don’t want to make the geeks angry. Yet, that’s exactly what Hollywood has done with SOPA/PIPA… and this time, most of the public is on the side of the geeks, because we’re all geeks now. We all use these technologies and services. It’s why there’s widespread public outcry against SOPA, but absolutely no grassroots support for the bill.

Larry Downes, over at News.com, has written up a great article highlighting how SOPA/PIPAhave awakened Silicon Valley to the importance of engaging in policy — and comparing it to previous battles, like the infamous Clipper Chip fight, which brought us EFF, among other things. It seems that, when clueless bureaucrats push techies too far, they respond in a big way. The real question is whether or not this becomes a sustained thing. Disclaimer: I make a brief appearance in the article, in part because of my involvement with Engine Advocacy, a group which is helping to educate both sides — entrepreneurs and politicians — on these issues (and not just about SOPA, but a wide variety of such issues).

Downes asks the right question in wondering if we can keep this up, so it’s not just in emergency situations. I sure hope so, and that’s definitely part of the thinking behind Engine:

Establishing a permanent counterbalance to old economy interests won’t be easy. Engine Advocacy’s McGeary acknowledges that incumbent industries who want to reign in technological change are better organized and know every corridor and office on Capitol Hill by heart. So using social media and other technical advantages will be critical to even the odds. “We can’t line up soldiers on an open field,” McGeary said. “We need to be rangers and use the tools we have to fight a guerrilla war. The facts are on our side; not that that always wins.”

Facts win in the long run… but we’re hoping to make that long run a lot shorter, and we’re hoping we can do it by using the very tools that Congress seems intent on hindering. But, in the end, for any of this to work, it’s still going to take a lot of motivated people. Hopefully, the fight against SOPA/PIPA has shown what can be done when enough people do get involved and speak out.

Even more important, however, for the long run, is getting ahead of these issues. We shouldn’t just be responding to ridiculous attempts by legacy industries to hold back innovation. We should be proactive in explaining to Congress why innovation is important for the economy and jobs, and why passing bad laws to protect legacy industries at the expense of job creating innovation is a dangerous idea for the economy. It can be done, but, again, it’s going to take a lot of people being willing to take part.

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Comments on “Has Hollywood Hubris Awakened Silicon Valley To The Importance Of Telling DC To Knock It Off On Bad Laws?”

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E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No he isn’t. Copyright terms are a very valid complaint. A term that lasts beyond the artist’s life is not doing its job of incentivising the creation of new work. A term that lasts longer than the shelf life of the work is not doing its job of incintivising the creation of new work.

As for the idea that only new stuff gets pirated, you may well be right. But as we have said millions of times, that is a business model problem. If people can’t get the content they want in an easy and cheap manner that they want, that is a problem the content creator/distributor needs to solve. They can do that by making that content available in the formats and areas the customers want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A: [citation needed]

B: I don’t need to ‘rationalize’ something that isn’t immoral to begin with. There is nothing immoral about ‘infringement’ so I have nothing to rationalize.

C: If the public doesn’t get anything in return for sacrificing its rightful right to copy then why should it sacrifice anything. Nothing ever becomes public domain anymore so the public is giving away its rights in return for absolutely nothing.

D: Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s not OK for big corporations to steal from the public domain through retroactive extensions even if people infringe.

A Slashdot comment by symbolset summed it up best

“If it’s OK for the media lobbies to steal our public domain works from us in perpetuity, then by all means let’s even the score.


“I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot.”

“The public seldom makes nice distinctions.”

Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1841 & 1842


If the law is not intended to be socially beneficial then why should people follow it? People lost respect for the law for good reason and you shouldn’t be surprised that more people will ignore the law when the law is on the wrong side of the public interest.

Sure, shortening copy protection lengths to something reasonable won’t abolish infringement completely, but it will substantially reduce it. Most laws can’t abolish what they prohibit entirely but that’s no excuse to pass bad laws (ie: long IP lengths).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I disagree. Even if they can’t find a way to make money off of something other than infringement, I have no problems with that and I don’t consider their business model to be bad. I say legalize infringement and abolish IP.

If (IP and other) monopoly extremists can’t find a way to make money off of something other than monopoly rents (from govt established broadcasting and cableco monopolies to laws that deter restaurants and other venues from hosting independent performers that would play non-infringing content, to taxi cab monopolies, etc…) then their business model is obviously bad. Abolish government established monopolies and let them go out of business and find other jobs. We need to do away with government established monopolies, I for one don’t want them.

MikeVx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Alerting is not censorship.

Censorship would be removing the comments completely so that no one could get at them. All the hiding does is say to anyone passing by “Here there be idiots.” People can simply choose to lift the sign and see the stupidity if they either don’t trust the group judgement or think it might be funny stupid instead of burning stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, the idiots are the ones who “censor” comments. Which is funny, because if the comment was truly censored, no one would be able to view it at all. Yet, there’s a button you can click to immediately and easily view it.

No one has been censored on this site. If anything, the fact that you and others can openly post idiotic and troll like comments on a regular basis should serve as evidence that “Pirate Mike” and his “readers” are very much for free speech and against ACTUAL censorship. How so? Well, they let you post what you want here. If they didn’t feel like it, they could easily do something about it. Mike could very easily block all the IPs of the shills/trolls/idiots. Yet he doesn’t.

I think the “fucking idiots” are the ones who don’t know what censorship actually is. You may fall into that category, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

“If these tech companies can’t find a way to make their money off something other than illegal infringement, then their business model is obviously bad and they need to adapt and find a better one.”

The initial assumption is incorrect. You presume that all “tech companies” make all or most of their revenue via direct support of copyright infringement.

I find this interesting – You refer to it as “illegal infringement” and therefore you admit there is such a thing as “legal infringement”. Are you referring to fair use?

I’m guessing that you pretend 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th … party liability is a slam dunk. AFAIK, these types of cases are still decided in a court of law and not a board room.

Anonymous Coward says:


The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was an office of the United States Congress from 1972 to 1995. OTA’s purpose was to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues of the late 20th century, i.e. technology assessment. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including distribution of government documents through electronic publishing. Its model was widely copied around the world.

Princeton University hosts The OTA Legacy site “the complete collection of OTA publications along with additional materials that illuminate the history and impact of the agency.” On July 23, 2008 the Federation of American Scientists launched a similar archive that includes interviews and additional documents about OTA.

Understanding technology bad! Ignoring technology good!

Travicane says:

Re: OTA Wikipedia link from AC

Great link: followed and read it.
We really need to get this back so the dolts in congress have at least a minimal technical guidance.

Of course, that would make no difference if the majority general public view (over 80% disapprove of their performance)of the current batch of congress/senate critters as either incompetent or corrupt holds true.

Might help with the incompetence part, but not with the latter view.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: OTA Wikipedia link from AC

My Senator (Roy Blunt) emailed me Hollywood’s bogus piracy numbers to defend his support of PROTECT-IP. I responded with OTA studies pointing out his “facts” were bogus. I’m sure he doesn’t give two hoots. I won’t be voting for him no matter how much campaign funds he raises. He’ll probably get re-elected anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Explain things to Congress? Congress doesn’t care about explanations, all they care about is bribes.
Look at the facts. We’ve seen big names from all over the political spectrum calling SOPA/PIPA a bad idea, any number of experts explaining the problems it’d cause, tens of thousands of phone calls, hundreds of thousands signatures, etc. The response? Absolute dismissal.
That’s all you’ll ever get from them unless you’re financing their campaigns, then giving them cushy jobs with 6-figure salaries when they get voted out of office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Want to see Washington scramble?

Take the discussion of the issues out of Washington an into the public for one, then only then we will have more honest and useful laws.

Voting for idiots that will sell out when they are in power without having them committed to anything is just not useful.

Plan and give them the laws people want to see it and they will have no way of negating it, and with laws written by the people for the people you don’t need to elect anybody smarter just someone who understand how to fallow directions.

Techies can deliver that.

Tiny webserver embedded on an application can create an online community that can link and discuss the laws people want and have a GIT kind of thing for laws where people create their own networks of trust and can decide where they want go from there.

stephen says:

where is someone to check the money trail

Shouldn’t we start looking at bank accounts of these so called government officials who are supposed to be for the people elected by the people. Also laws should change on how enterprise are viewed by washington. Do away with lobbying, make the government more transparent and rich people should be unable to run for official positions, lower salaries paid to government officials so there is no way to get rich in Washington. One last this does it not say in the constitution that if the government is not working it is our responsibility to stand up against said government. Thank god for Anonymous

Whaaaaa uhhh I just had the craziest dream, washington was for the people by the people. How the hell did this keyboard get in my hands?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: where is someone to check the money trail

Congresscritters tend to leave office richer than when they went in, and seem to land in positions that pay them to keep doing what they were doing while in office.

Nothing will change until we can get people to look past the hot button issues that get them motivated, and to take a deep long hard look at the dark heart of what politics has become. This isn’t a red or blue, liberal or conservative issue… they are mostly all corrupt and those few who try to hold out get voted out or the corruption creeps in to them. They face a system designed to corrupt their influence and provide it to the person offering the most.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

One wonders what would happen if the Tech Sector did what Hollywood threatens.
If the Tech Sector just locked Washington out, keeping them from using any technology they develop. Hollywood claims they will fail and go away, what would hurt their campaigns for reelection more? Another retelling of the same story or being cut off from Facebook, Twitter, websites, etc.
They think its funny to ignore the internet and how it works, so maybe its time we actively shut them out.
They think they don’t need tech, lets show them the world they are crafting.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

What the Google or the tech sector should do ...

1) The tech sector should oppose the EMI sale on monopoly grounds as there are to few record labels left. Then fight tooth an nails to prevent it.
2) Purchase the back catalog from EMI.
3) Push to reset copyright to the pre disney standards world wide.
4) Sell EMI’s music for 50% less than the labels do, and reduce the rates every time the labels do.
5) Allow anyone to sell or stream EMI’s catalog at rates half of what the labels do, and reduce the rates every time the labels do.

Google spent 12 billion on Motorola mobility to counter patent disputes on cell phones. This one should be a no brainer. Price them out of the market so fast they can not shed the fat fast enough to survive.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: What the Google or the tech sector should do ...

I think you’re on to something with #2. Right now much of the content on file sharing websites is unauthorized. This allows big media companies to point at them and say “these sites are dedicated to infringement”. What if some tech company bought, and then placed in the public domain, a big block of semi current popular media? Suddenly a huge chunk of shared files are authorized, and web sites are no longer “dedicated to infringement”.

It’s a thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

No matter how the public thinks of these proposed bills, this sort of screwup will happen time and again, until the Congresscritters get their heads out of their rectums.

You don’t have to know everything about anything to make good laws. What is constantly missing that makes these bad laws, is lack of input from opposing sides and lack of input by those that know their stuff on that particular area. As long as closed door law making is the accepted way to make laws, you are always going to run into these sorts of results.

Think back and you will find this has become the practice. DMCA, ATCA, SOPA, no difference in any of them in how the public, the tech educated that could inform, nor anyone else with a vested interest outside the scope of those buying, proposing, and writing these laws without further input. In order to make good laws, you need input from all sides, which is what is not happening.

What you get instead is a dream bill like this crap called SOPA that no one wants but those that paid for it or see it as useful. It is because of just such actions that for the second year in a row, no material will enter public domain.

Public domain…the very reason that copyright was put into effect to begin with. The bargain with the public to allow sole distributorship, for a limited time, has been broken beyond repair. Copyright today is what it was never meant to be but rather what it was meant to guard against.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Hollywood’s been in bed with Washington for over a hundred years (and remember that the Washington is barely a hundred years older than Hollywood.) There’s a lot of history there: Hiding from Edison’s patents in the teens and 1920s, Hayes Code censorship in the 1930s, pro-war propaganda in the 1940s, communist blacklisting in the 1950s, counter-culture backlash in the 1960s, institutional criticism in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwartzenegger in the 1980s, corporate takeover and aborting independent film in the 1990s, and internet piracy in the 1990s. They have a long, rocky relationship where they’ve fought each other and worked together so they know how to make each other do their bidding. They’re an old married couple.

Hollywood has deep pockets, lots of beauty and glamor, and control of mass media. Hollywood actors have more influence over the public than any politician, and they’ve created the mythology that America is great, the military is awesome, wars are just, a fistfight can solve any problem, evil is easy to identify and always punished, and nobody is poor if they have love. That’s how they created the hopes and dreams of America.

The tech community is more like their bastard teenage son. It was spawned by the government, and the government did its best to guide it and nurtured it through the early years. The worst thing it did was chide little Billy Gates for hoarding all the toys and letting everyone know Stevie Jobs was their favorite. But the kids have now grown up and no longer does its father’s bidding. It’s unruly, uncontrollable, rude, indifferent, ungrateful, defiant, and overloaded with porn.

So the government looks at Hollywood and says, “What’s to be done about these darned kids?”

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Unless we change it:

…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…

US Declaration of Independence

Anonymous Coward says:

EFF not a reaction to Clipper chip

The EFF was founded in 1990, primarily in response to the Steve Jackson Games raid. The clipper chip was announced in 1993 (although the idea of key escrow had been floated before then).

Apart from the legal and political backlash, many people wrote, promoted, and exported cryptographic software in response to the Clipper chip, making key escrow requirements basically unenforceable. People are doing the same in relation to each of these new copyright-related laws, and if copyright holders push enough they may see the same result.

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