Dear Ari Emanuel: We're All Meeting On The Internet, Come Join Us

from the and-living-and-working-here-too dept

We recently posted about Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel's ridiculous demands that Google somehow find the magic "stop piracy" button. That story is turning into something much more interesting. The next day, at the same conference, a Google exec, Susan Wojcicki, pointed out the obvious: that Emanuel doesn't know what he's talking about (she used a more diplomatic phrase, noting that he was "misinformed").

Emanuel has since shot back that he's not at all misinformed about the need for the geeks in Northern California to solve his problems:
I am misinformed about a lot — just ask my wife — but I’m not misinformed about this: One of our last remaining dominant American exports is our creativity, no matter how you define it, either as a story or as an algorithm. There is equal genius behind companies like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google as there is behind artists who create stories that resonate around the world. We need to protect America’s intellectual property and Hollywood can’t do it on its own. I understand that the onus is not entirely Google’s, but let’s stop talking at each other and get in a room with all parties to figure this out. To be clear, I don’t want to rehash SOPA as we can all agree that was a reflection of Southern California’s arrogance, and let’s also not pretend that we’re working together on this issue because we have Youtube channels together. This is a larger conversation. It’s time for Hollywood, our government and Silicon Valley to step up and collectively resolve this problem. Let me know where and when and I’ll be there.

The problem, of course, is that his very premise is wrong. He's taking the position that we need to "protect" first, rather than just fix our business models. This is a very mercantilist viewpoint: where protectionism beats innovation. But we've got centuries of economic proof that that's not how you evolve and it's not how you innovate and compete. What you do is you figure out ways to add value and to embrace new business models. Any effort that starts from the default position that what we need is more "protection" rather than greater innovation is doomed to fail -- because that innovation is an unstoppable train, and the "protection" aspect doesn't work. So if you don't focus on the innovation, then someone else will, and you'll have wasted all your time, effort and money on a "solution" that simply drives your business somewhere else. To the place that has focused on innovation.

But, even worse, is his arrogance in thinking that this is a problem that requires "Hollywood, our government and Silicon Valley to step up and collectively resolve this problem." This is the same thing we've been hearing for months out of Chris Dodd and the Hollywood crew: it's time to get back into the backroom and craft "a deal." That's how they think, but it completely misses the point. This isn't about crafting a backroom deal, it's about recognizing the power of the internet, and the importance of the internet to people.

Every time a Chris Dodd or an Ari Emaneuel suggests a backroom deal between Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the government, he leaves out the people who actually matter: all of us, out here, on the internet.

And, to that point, if he wants to know "where" this larger conversation is happening: it's right here. On the internet. It's on news sites and social media sites. It's on Reddit and Twitter and Facebook. It's here on Techdirt and lots of other blogs. We live on the internet and this conversation has been happening for a decade. Ari and his buddies have always been welcome to join, so it's a bit disingenuous for him to suggest that he'll "be there" when we tell him where "the meeting" is. It's here. It's going on all around you and you've always been welcome to join. But you don't. And, no, I won't even get into the irony of him demanding a "meeting" when Hollywood did absolutely everything to keep the rest of the world out of the backroom meetings that led to SOPA.

Joshua Topolsky, the editor in chief of The Verge -- who challenged Emanuel, and was rudely told to "go sit down" and had Emanuel ask "where do you work?" -- has written his own response, in which he tells Emanuel he works on the internet:
What Ari seems to forget, and what maybe politicians and the film and TV industry seem to forget is the last time piracy was a flashpoint between the entertainment and tech industries, the problem was not solved by sledgehammer legislation. Or takedowns. Or yelling. It was solved by the music industry accepting that their old model was broken, and technologists figuring out a new way to do business. And that gets to the core of this problem for Ari. We didn't go back to the way things were after the RIAA sued college students — the industry changed.

He doesn't want to change his business model, and he will do anything he can to protect it — including altering the basic functionality of the internet. Pirating and Apple's resulting rise in the music business changed that business forever... and diminished its financial footprint. Entrenched companies that owned every part of the food chain suddenly discovered they were just another cog in a big wheel.

Ari doesn't want that anymore than the music industry wanted it, or traditional media wanted it. Ned Ludd and his machine wreckers didn't like change either.

But there is one simple truth that I really believe in, in life or in business: adapt or die.

You want to know where I work Ari? I work on the internet. Welcome aboard.
I'd argue it goes even further than that. We don't just work on the internet. We live and breathe the internet. It is our identity. Emanuel looks at the internet, and he doesn't get it. To him, it's just a version of television that doesn't pay as well, so that's not interesting. In his talk, he repeatedly demanded a business model that pays as well as TV. That's not how this works. Disruptive innovation doesn't wait until you go back and provide the legacy players with a business model that pays just as well as the old business model. That's not disruption. Disruption works because the legacy players are too shortsighted to see the trend lines, and so infatuated with their fat profits that they don't recognize the potential of the new mediums, and only seek to regulate against them becoming too pesky. The train companies pushed for legislation requiring all automobiles be preceded by a person walking on the road waving red flags.

Emanuel is asking for everyone to come up with the next version of red flag laws for the internet. That's not how this works.

If he wanted a real conversation, it wouldn't be focused on the parameters of how do we set up protectionist, mercantilist barriers. It would be on how do we create more value and then monetize that value. And those conversations are happening all the time, all over the internet. He's welcome to join. He's always been welcome to join. But it requires doing a little actual working and living on the internet.

Filed Under: ari emanuel, copyright, innovation, internet, piracy, protection
Companies: google, william morris

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  1. icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 1 Jun 2012 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re: No, there is not *equal* genius at Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.

    I'm not sure you can count finding loopholes in the law as brilliant. Since they're the same ones who got the loopholes written into the law to begin with.

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