In the wake of this week’s remarkable SOPA and PIPA turnaround in Washington, Christopher Dodd, the former U.S. Representative turned U.S. Senator and now chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, thinks that Hollywood and Silicon Valley need to meet. “Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise,” according to the New York Times.
Prominent New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson essentially accepted the invitation, saying we need a new framework that is based on a shared set of goals and objectives. “The PIPA/SOPA framework was litgation heavy and very invasive,” he wrote. “It was “we are going to do this to you.” It’s not surprising the tech industry didn’t like it one bit.”
As much as I respect Fred Wilson, this is a clever way of positioning “the problem” as one between two industries, entertainment and technology. Okay. That’s fine, but “the problem” is really between the MPAA and RIAA and the people formerly known as their customers. If you think Fred Wilson speaks for the people, you’re mistaken. Fred is one of the genuinely good guys, but his view is quite business-centered. So who speaks for us in these negotiations?
This isn’t a business problem; it’s a cultural problem, and it must be framed as such in order for these businesses to get it right. It is indeed a legal issue, but it tends to get framed in an archaic setting. That’s the real problem here. If you really want to understand the scope of the issue, take the 14 minutes necessary to watch Clay Shirky’s explanation or read his take here.
Shirky notes that the copyright cartel wants to eliminate the sharing of creative works, just as they’ve wanted since creative works first became an “industry.” As a creative person who’s published books and songs and performed those songs as well, I don’t believe the arts are industries, so they shouldn’t be treated as such. The only fiscal beneficiaries of the arts should be the artists and that begins with being seen, read, heard, watched, etc. I oppose the suggestion that the sharing of works costs artists jobs, and I resent it when this is used to justify arguments that prevent people from seeing, reading, hearing, watching, etc. I further reject the suggestion that a self-serving “professional” hierarchy should the sole determinant of what is seen, read, heard, watched, etc. We’ve gone nuts with deep pockets needing to protect their status, and this has blinded everybody to the revolution that’s taking place around us.
I have a lot of books in my library and continue to obtain both printed and electronic versions. But I’ve given away more than I actually possess, for I believe that artistic works should be consumed. That’s their purpose. The copyright industry tells me, however, that if my friends who “borrowed” those books wanted to read them, they should have bought them for themselves. This is why I’m so vehemently opposed to legislation such as SOPA or PIPA. At core, such thinking is unnatural, for the artist benefits in ways beyond monetary compensation.
Besides, the harm that these companies are experiencing is self-inflicted, because these industries profit by manipulating and gouging the very people their products are intended to entertain. Treating customers as “eyeballs” for profit is not only disrespectful; it is contrary to the very essence of creativity’s gifts. We hear about how artists are disrespected in our culture, but that disrespect begins with the industry that exploits their gifts for profit alone.
People have had enough, and the disorganized, chaotic demonstration against it last Wednesday evidenced a dissatisfaction far beyond what a simple business negotiation can deliver. Copyright is not property. Period. Let’s get that right, and the rest will fall in place.