An Open Letter To Chris Dodd: Silicon Valley Can't Help Hollywood If You First Cripple It With Bad Regulation
from the misdirection-or-a-step-in-the-right-direction? dept
It was refreshing to hear your recent speech, in which you suggested that there really isn't a "Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley" fight, and that the two sides need to work together to help create the ecosystem where both can thrive. It’s hard not to agree with that assertion, absolutely. There isn't a fight between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and there never has been. Every new technology that Hollywood has decried as being terrible has eventually turned out to be a massive boost to Hollywood's profits and ability to make, promote, and distribute its works. If that's a "fight," then it's an odd one, in which we in the tech community keep providing all of the weapons Hollywood needs to succeed... only to see you frequently aim them at your own foot before finally working out how to use them properly.
So when you say, "'those who would pit' Hollywood content creators against those in Silicon Valley who create technology 'in a manufactured conflict more reminiscent of the Beltway chatter I learned to ignore on my last job,'" we in the tech community agree and celebrate that sentiment. The real debate isn't between our two "sides." It's between old and new -- whether there will be a level competitive playing field that enables our country's continued progress and job creation, or a market regulated so as to protect incumbents.
Unfortunately, the timing of your claim and the statement itself were odd, coming as they did on the very same day as some members of Congress introduced SOPA, which the MPAA was heavily involved in crafting. After all, despite numerous attempts to be a part of these discussions, we in the internet industry were denied any opportunity to even look at, let alone provide input on, the draft of a massive bill that would fundamentally change the nature of how the internet functions. As you well know from your decades of distinguished service in government, not circulating drafts of such laws or seeking input from those you seek to restrict and regulate is, to put it mildly, highly unusual.
That certainly did not strike us as being in the spirit of "cooperation" you put forth last week. The day after your comments, a group of us -- venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, artists and innovators alike -- all went to Washington DC to talk to elected officials, to express our grave concerns about the bill. Consider the thoughtful comments of one of us on the trip: Fred Wilson, an investor in Twitter, KickStarter (which has helped artists raise millions of dollars online), Indeed.com (a Texas-based job search engine), and many other services. In discussing the trip, he argues that this bill is the very opposite of cooperation.
At every turn during the trip, we were told that your lobbyists were working overtime to discredit the concerns of us in the internet industry, and to keep us away from the table as you sought to completely upend the legislative framework that allows the internet to thrive. How are we to work together to create all of those wonderful new opportunities for your industry to create, promote, distribute and monetize, if you are fundamentally blocking our ability to do so?
We can't build those tools for you if you restrict us by massively regulating the internet, making it much, much harder for new startups to form or receive investments. A bill like SOPA creates so much liability that it would be impossible for two engineers in a garage to build the next great startup unless they also had a dozen lawyers sitting with them. We can't help the artists and creators who were in our group with the new platforms they rely on, if these new innovative startups don't even bother starting. We can't help the users and participants who want new and convenient and legitimate access to content, as well as ways to make their own content. At the end of the day, both Silicon Valley and Hollywood work best when we focus on creating and providing what our consumers want. So, in many ways, we are in the same business.
I'm happy you can see that there's no conflict. Now, let's prove that by actually working together. If it's true that you believe that there's only a "manufactured conflict" between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, why don't we get together and work this out between us? Prior to this bill being introduced, no one from the internet side was invited to negotiate, or to review the legislation. We suspect the larger internet players would be happy to sit down with you, and can say for certain that the group of us who went to DC last week would be happy to represent investors and startups in such a conversation.
Why don't we start by throwing out SOPA and PIPA and talking about how we in the internet industry can (and already are) building the next set of weapons for you to succeed in the modern world. And let us help show you how to work those weapons, so you don't point them at your own feet first.
Let’s work together not only to help one another, but also to help artists, innovators and entrepreneurs alike. You have an open invitation to come to any of our offices and discuss this whenever you want, or we're happy to meet you anywhere in Silicon Valley, NY, LA or anywhere else in this country where amazing new technology and services are being created. But let's keep the conversation out of Washington DC, so we can focus on getting something done, rather than another round of "manufactured conflict."
Mike Masnick, Floor64
Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Brad Burnham, Union Square Ventures
Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital
Heather Gold, artist/creator
Dennis Yang, Infochimps
Derek Dukes, Dipity (and new stealth startup)
David Ulevitch, OpenDNS
Josh Mendelsohn, Hattery Labs
And the other entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, artists and investors who came to DC last week to express our concerns about SOPA/PIPA.