ITHCWY: Robert Ellison's Blog

More on breaking the Internet

I finally got round to actually reading SOPA and PIPA

I make my living from intellectual property, it's my hobby as well. I also used to work at Macrovision, at the time the leading anti-piracy company for Hollywood, software, music and games. I understand the sentiment behind the legislation and agree that theft of IP causes real harm. I'd love to see the pirate sites vaporized. But not at the expense of undermining the fundamental architecture of the Internet. 

The most controversial penalties are removing sites from search results and DNS combined with a shield from prosecution for sites that comply with requests voluntarily or even preemptively. 

It's an insidious infrastructure tax comparable to requiring the phone company from removing you from their directory and taxi drivers to shrug their shoulders and pretend they don't know where you live. It also inverts the DMCA approach of holding sites harmless provided that they respond to take down notices.

Worse still, the legislation would make it illegal to provide a product or service that circumvents these penalties. Because the proposed remedy to piracy is censoring the Internet this equates to making anti-censorship software illegal. 

It's not even like mucking with DNS will be effective. People who want to steal movies will still be able to find them. These are bad laws. Sign a petition and contact your congresspeople to help put the brakes on.

This brings me to a piece on KQED where Rick Cotton from NBC says: "But these new forms of distribution that all of the content providers are embracing cannot compete against stolen, cannot compete against free.

Which sounds like bad news for a company in the business of competing with free. Luckily this isn't true. People happily pay for speed, quality, convenience, features, support, kudos, reputation, collection. Yes, some people will never pay. It's not worth the decreasing returns to go after them both to your company and as with SOPA/PIPA to society as a whole. 

Instead of having Congress censor search results for you grow a pair and use some SEO. Fill the search engines with legitimate ways to access your content. Invent new windows. Treat piracy as market research for unmet needs. 

How about a streaming service for parents who can't get to the cinema that often? I'd happily pay a premium - two tickets, parking, popcorn equivalent - and it's money you're not getting now while I have to wait for a film to eventually show up on Netflix. 

Release raw footage for an episode every season and have a competition for who can cut together the best episode. Embrace the Internet rather than fighting it. 

Don't spend your time and energy and money on SOPA/PIPA and other attempts to fight a battle that can't be won. 

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