Chris Dodd Extends SOPA 'Olive Branch' To Silicon Valley… And Proceeds To Bash Them Over The Head With It
from the there-is-only-one-answer-and-it-is-sopa dept
Not this again. Ever since SOPA/PIPA were shelved, we’ve been hearing from MPAA and RIAA officials about how important it is that they “sit down and meet” with “the opposition.” Part of the problem is that they still can’t figure out who the opposition really was. They usually blame Google. And sometimes Wikipedia. We keep hearing these requests to work together, but when people take them up on the offer and agree to meet… they seem to chicken out. Another big part of the problem is assuming that the only answer to the challenges they’re facing is more legislation… but that’s clearly not true.
Either way, a news report making the rounds says that Chris Dodd has “extended an olive branch” to the tech community with a speech he just gave. Already, that’s framing this discussion incorrectly. Folks in Silicon Valley have been plenty happy to meet for many, many months. No “olive branch” needed. The MPAA and RIAA done everything to keep the tech industry from the table for nearly all of the SOPA debate. Even after everything happened, folks in Silicon Valley have made it clear that they’re happy to meet and discuss stuff with Hollywood. It’s just that many of them would like it to be “open.” I’ve heard from a few different folks where “feelers were put out” to see if they wanted to take part in some secretive backroom “negotiations” — but when they requested more open proceedings, the MPAA/RIAA guys insisted that was a deal breaker.
But really, what you see in this report isn’t an olive branch, it’s a baseball bat, where Chris Dodd talks up all the opportunities there are, and then starts wacking away at evil pirates destroying all.
MPAA Chief Chris Dodd made a peace overture to Silicon Valley Wednesday, telling an audience that “Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet.”
But he also made clear the legislative battle against piracy wasn’t over, maintaining that “a strong system of copyright protection for online content is critical to the continued success of the flourishing Internet marketplace.”
Except, that’s not clear at all. A strong system of content protection has had nothing to do with the current success of the “flourishing internet marketplace.” And putting even more protectionism in place only seems likely to make things worse, and drive more people underground. To say that it’s critical to the success of the internet seems really preposterous considering how little evidence there is that copyright really plays a major issue here.
The real problem here is that Dodd still continues to refuse to define the problem correctly. He still assumes (or publicly proclaims) that the answer is content protection. A truly open conversation wouldn’t start with such assumptions, but would do more to establish a framework and details. And then you get things like this:
Speaking to the Atlanta Press Club on Wednesday, Dodd said that “nearly one-quarter of all global Internet traffic is copyright theft. And at the heart of the problem is the proliferation of parasitic foreign rogue sites whose sole purpose is to facilitate, and profit from, the theft of international property.”
Of course, as has also been pointed out, this “one-quarter of all global Internet traffic” bit is misleading, because it’s counting all sorts of things that might not be infringing. But, more to the point, Netflix alone appears to use up about approximately the same amount of bandwidth. And what that suggests is that the problem isn’t that big. If you converted everyone who he’s talking about to Netflix… you’d just have another Netflix. That’s a decent-sized company, but nothing miraculous. It just looks big because everyone’s focused on the wrong numbers — such as the byte size of traffic, rather than what’s actually being shared and why.
“We cannot draw up a business model that accounts for the wholesale theft of our product,” he said. “It’s true for pharmacies. It’s true for the automobile industry. It’s true for software developers. And it’s true for us.”
Of course, once again, he’s misusing the term “theft,” which is pretty disappointing and again suggests the lack of a real “olive branch” here. But, furthermore, this statement is also plainly wrong. What he’s arguing is that companies can’t compete with free. But, er… plenty of “copyright” businesses do exactly that. One need look no further than the open source community. There, Dodd would discover that there have been some very large companies that built on top of products that the company can’t lock down, and that versions of those products will be available for free. And many open source companies have done well — even as they have to compete with free versions of identical products. They’ve built great business models. To say that Dodd himself (or the studios) “cannot draw up a business model” that deals with the market situation is a statement on Dodd and the industry — not on the possibility of such business models. Of course, there are more and more people discovering business models that work… but rather than let that happen, Dodd is demanding a law?
And, really, it comes back to this again: this isn’t an olive branch. Dodd isn’t seeking input from those who understand these issues. He’s pretending to offer an olive branch to get some “negotiations” started, where they won’t listen or take the time to understand the real issue. Instead, they’ll just beat everyone over the head with the branch and insist that their ridiculously bad plans to expand copyright enforcement are the only way to go.
He said that “copyright legislation helped to create the Internet of today — not to mention providing companies like Apple with the incentive to — as they say — think different, and to think big.”
This part is just intellectually dishonest. Very little of the success of the internet today had anything to do with copyright law. In fact, large parts of the success of the internet were due to exceptions to copyright law, such as those from the open source community.
“The coalition supporting a crackdown on … criminal sites includes companies large and small who produce movies, TV shows, music, software, photography, prescription drugs, consumer electronics — everyone from Gibson Guitars to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.”
Um, sounds like Dodd’s talking points need a refresh. Gibson Guitar dropped its support of SOPA…
“If you believe that freedom of speech does not imply, and the ability to innovate does not require, a license to steal, if you believe that the men and women who work hard to make films and TV shows deserve to be fairly compensated … I invite you to join this coalition and help us move towards a solution to this problem.”
See, that’s not an olive branch at all. That’s just flat out misrepresenting the position of those who opposed SOPA. No one says that there’s a “license to steal” or that people should be allowed to break the law willy nilly. Nor is anyone saying that those who “work hard” shouldn’t be compensated. There are tons of laws on the books already — many of which are already being overaggressively enforced. We’re saying that there are existing ways to deal with these issues that don’t have the collateral damage that a SOPA or PIPA would have — by not involving legislation at all, but letting the market figure things out, as it’s already been doing.
Again, if Dodd wants to meet and put forth a real olive branch, he should try not attacking those he’s supposedly reaching out to or misrepresenting their position. Otherwise it’s tough to see much sincerity there…