While many in the press have really enjoyed claiming that the SOPA/PIPA fight has been about Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley, we’ve been pointing out for a while just how silly that is. Months ago, we pointed out that it’s a strange “fight” when one side (Silicon Valley) appears to give the other side all the weapons it needs to succeed (only to watch Hollywood then aim those weapons at its own feet). It’s been pointed out time and time again that Hollywood has a habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth… and accusing it of piracy, when it later turns out to be the answer to Hollywood’s prayers.
When the White House came out against the general approach in SOPA and PIPA, it still said that a legislative response was necessary… and asked for the “best ideas” from the tech community and people online:
Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.
But, here’s the thing: as many of us have been saying for quite some time, the “best ideas” have nothing to do with legislation, because legislation is tackling the wrong problem. No amount of legislation or enforcement stops piracy. That’s been shown over and over again. What does help deal with infringement is offering a better service that gives consumers more of what they want in a reasonable and convenient manner.
And thus, I can’t recommend enough Nat Torkington’s brilliant response to “the President’s challenge” above by likening it to this old joke:
Heavy rains start and a neighbour pulls up in his truck. “Hey Bob, I’m leaving for high ground. Want a lift?” Bob says, “No, I’m putting my faith in God.” Well, waters rise and pretty soon the bottom floor of his house is under water. Bob looks out the second story window as a boat comes by and offers him a lift. “No, I’m putting my faith in God.” The rain intensifies and floodwaters rise and Bob’s forced onto the roof. A helicopter comes, lowers a line, and Bob yells “No, I’m putting my faith in God.”
Well, Bob drowns. He goes to Heaven and finally gets to meet God. “God, what was that about? I prayed and put my faith in you, and I drowned!”
God says, “I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter! What the hell more did you want from me?”
How does that apply to this situation? Same thing. The tech industry keeps sending Hollywood the tools it needs to save itself… and Hollywood keeps “waiting” for some miraculous savior, while missing all of the tools it’s been offered to save itself:
All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?
Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.