Innovation

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
entrepreneurs, innovation, protect ip, startups

Companies:
mpaa



MPAA Mocks Entrepreneurs For Being Concerned About MPAA's Efforts To Stifle Innovation

from the of-course-they-do dept

As a who's who list of top tech entrepreneurs have come out against PROTECT IP, noting how it will stifle innovation and limit their ability to create jobs, it's no surprise (no surprise at all), that the MPAA's propaganda machine felt the need to get cranking on the sophistry to try to mock the very real concerns of a large group of entrepreneurs. The MPAA's Alex Swartsel -- last seen attacking reporters for accurately predicting the same thing that the MPAA predicted -- has put up a post mocking the many entrepreneurs who wrote and signed the letter, claiming that they did not read the bill.

First, she attacks the claim that the definitions in the bill are vague, by insisting that PROTECT IP is written "so narrowly focused that it covers only websites whose sole purpose is to provide or point to stolen content." Right. But, if Swartsel is going to claim that the entrepreneurs didn't read the bill, then the very least she could have done was to have actually read our letter. In it, we explain, quite clearly, the history of folks like the MPAA, insisting that pretty much every new technology's "sole purpose is to provide or point to stolen content." Need I remind the MPAA that their fearless leader, and the guy whose name sits on the building they now work from once said:
"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."
Forgive tech entrepreneurs building new platforms to allow for better distribution, promotion and monetization of films for worrying about which of them is going to be declared the next "Boston Strangler."

And, let's notice that Swartsel fails to mention that when MPAA members Warner Bros. and Paramount were asked to help create a list that named sites dedicated to infringement, as per the vague definition above, that it included sites like The Internet Archive, as well as some of the key platforms used by artists today, like SoundCloud and Vimeo. Boston Stranglers, all of them.

Next up, she mocks the idea that tech startups might face any legitimate "burdens" from PROTECT IP. And then follows that up by listing out some of the very burdens that we would face under the bill -- including very vague rules about "reasonable measures" that tech companies will have to take to stay in compliance. And what she leaves out is that the MPAA and people like Swartsel are the ones who think they get to define what's reasonable here.

Want proof? Looks no further than EMI insisting that it gets to decide if MP3tunes is in compliance with the DMCA. Or MPAA-member Viacom suing YouTube for a billion dollars, claiming that it was not in compliance with the DMCA because it didn't magically figure out how to block all infringing content. And, really, just look at how much time, effort and money have gone into those two lawsuits alone. The entrepreneurs who signed the letter know that when the MPAA comes to sue, saying that their efforts didn't meet its definition of "reasonable," they're about to end up in court for years, and have to pay millions of dollars to do so.

I'm sorry, Ms. Swartsel, but to a new startup building the next great platform, having to spend millions of dollars and a few years in court is a significant burden that can put many out of business. Just ask Veoh and ReplayTV -- two companies that were, in fact, effectively put out of business by similar lawsuits. Until Ms. Swartsel has to sit in front of her investors and explain to them why we have to spend the money they gave us fighting the MPAA in court, rather than building the next great platform, I'm not really sure she's in a position to comment.

Next up, she claims that the arguments of Paul Vixie, on how PROTECT IP will break key parts of the internet and damage internet security have been "debunked." That's just funny. By "debunked" she means that the MPAA put out a silly statement that effectively said, "hey, if we break the internet, you smart tech people should just go fix it again."

Finally, she does the typical "but think of the starving artist" argument, by calling out Jason Stall and Ellen Seidler, the two poster children for the MPAA for filmmakers who complain about piracy, but fail to actually put in place smarter business models. It's silly to get into a pissing match over this, but why don't we look at filmmakers like Kevin Smith who has pointed out that fans downloading his films "leads to converts," and he then does amazing things to give those converts all sorts of reasons to buy -- such as by using the awesome TopSpin platform. Need we mention that TopSpin's CEO, Ian Rogers, signed the letter worrying about PROTECT IP? Or how about all of the movies currently being funded by Kickstarter, often raising much more money than they would have received otherwise. Andy Baio, who helped build KickStarter, is among those who signed the letter as well.

These entrepreneurs are very reasonably concerned. They're the ones who are actually powering the next generation of fillmmakers and helping them make money. They're not whining about "piracy," but are focused on utilizing these new platforms, the same platforms that the MPAA wants to burden the next time MPAA member studios decide to put them on a list...

If the MPAA was really concerned about filmmakers, it would help them embrace these new platforms that help them make money. Not line them up in a witchhunt for new Boston Stranglers.

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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Sep 2011 @ 9:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You call grifters "entrepreneurs", is all.

    First, how does Kickstarter relate to the Protect IP Act? it's a dotcom, Protect IP applies to foreign sites.

    I don't work for Kickstarter, so I can't speak for them. Why don't you ask them?

    But you're wrong in saying that PROTECT IP only impacts foreign sites. As we've explained (I guess you didn't bother to read the letter), the mechanism for making PROTECT IP work is by putting liability and compliance demands on US companies. Like Kickstarter.

    Second, drafts of COICA (the first version of Protect IP Act were circulating before Kickstarter was around. The music industry was behind those efforts too. Are there other sites that do what kickstarter does and have ben around longer?

    I'm not sure what the timing of when COICA was being planned has to do with anything.

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