Paul Vixie: SOPA/PIPA Would Be Good For My Business, But I'm Still Against It
from the the-toothpaste-will-come-out-somewhere dept
A separate point that was raised by Mark Lemley early on was that this argument that those in the US simply can't go after foreign sites is ridiculous. Under existing law, it's happened plenty of times in the past where copyright holders have gone after sites and companies based outside of the US and dragged those folks into US courts.
The vast majority of the evening proceeded with the implicit assumption that everyone there was categorically opposed to SOPA... but towards the end two execs from Paramount Pictures made it known they were there, and they were very much on the other side. The temperature in the room must have dropped 20 degrees when that happened. To be honest, the panel itself might have had a few more fireworks (though likely wouldn't have been that productive) if there had been a SOPA supporter on the panel itself. Of course, the Paramount guys, in typical Hollywood fashion, made a bunch of false assumptions. Perhaps the best part was when one of them challenged venture capitalist Albert Wenger by claiming that the companies in his portfolio used intellectual property laws to protect their business: to which Wenger immediately shot back that they did not, and that they didn't support such things at all. Instead, he noted that the companies his firm (Union Square Ventures) invests in tend to win in the marketplace by competing and winning. He noted that even if they completely gave away the source code of Tumblr (one of USV's investments), it wouldn't matter. In fact, he pointed out that another company had copied Tumblr feature-for-feature... but they couldn't get users. The point is clear, and it's the same point we've made here for years: focusing on copyright to protect yourself is not a good business model, and not something they invest in. Instead, they focus on things that can succeed by executing even if someone copies them line for line.
Finally, there was an entertaining moment when Andrew Bridges asked the Paramount guys exactly how many sites they saw as a problem. Because, he noted, other studio execs from some of the big Hollywood studios had given him numbers between 10s and a few hundred. And, he noted, if it's just such a small number of sites, then why create massive regulatory issues for the entire internet, rather than trying to deal with the sites. The problem is that Hollywood wants control over much more than what's really "the worst of the worst." However, when someone suggested it was "a couple hundred" sites that were problems, Mark Lemley pointed out that then they should be all done, because ICE has already seized 450 domains.
All in all it was an interesting evening. The specific discussions on the problems of DNS blocking were particularly enlightening. It's why when the House had its ridiculously one-sided hearing on SOPA last month -- in which not a single panelist knew anything about DNS -- they should have had someone like Paul Vixie there to explain the basics of why SOPA and PIPA are bad ideas that won't fix things and will likely make things worse.
There was one metaphor that was used repeatedly through the evening, and it's really quite apt. People kept noting that "the toothpaste is just going to come out somewhere else." It's a good way of noting the unintended consequences here. Plugging this "hole" and then putting pressure on sites may stop certain actions, but it won't deal with the real issue that Hollywood is facing. In fact, it's likely to cause more problems, as the toothpaste squirts out somewhere else, unexpectedly.