Hollywood Can’t Handle The Truth About SOPA and PIPA
Hollywood Can’t Handle The Truth About SOPA and PIPA
Hollywood Can’t Handle The Truth About SOPA and PIPA

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    today, a most extraordinary group of people sent a letter to Capitol Hill, in
    the latest round of the fight over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the
    Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), telling Congress it was time to
    reject the well-worn lobbying of the big media companies.

    than 70 grassroots activist organizations and emerging Internet companies got
    up the nerve to show Congress that it was time to stop fooling around with
    bills that helped to generate the largest online protest in recent memory.  More than 100,000 Web sites
    participated in the Jan. 18 blackout day. 
    Tens of thousands of people called and visited their Congressional representatives,
    all with one message: These bills are dangerous, and shouldn’t be allowed to

    The letter, coordinated by Public Knowledge, said, “Now is
    the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from
    a fresh perspective.”  

    The message that there were, and are, fundamental concerns
    coming from a wide and comprehensive communities is one that doesn’t come
    across in comments that big executives have made lately. It’s a shame that
    Hollywood moguldom didn’t get that message and instead is still playing make
    believe.  Lawmakers should realize
    that their constituency in Hollywood is lacking a grasp of reality and missing
    the mark by a mile.

    One hand, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was quoted by
    deadline.com as saying at a conference that Hollywood didn’t lose the SOPA/PIPA
    fight on the merits of their case. 
    It was, instead, because there was “a lot of misinformation” from
    Silicon Valley.  He blamed the “mob
    ” and “unfortunate rhetoric” for the bills’ troubles.

    Speaking at the same All Things D conference, Chase Carey,
    the number-two exec at Fox, said it was “the message getting twisted” by that
    nasty Interweb that caused the bills to go down.  Carey admitted he hadn’t read the bills, but rejected
    working with Silicon Valley on a solution.  That’s fine.  It
    really isn’t Silicon Valley’s place to work out a solution with Hollywood

    It boggles the mind that Hollywood, which exists to tell
    stories, thinks it has let its story get away. 

    Let’s define the issue in a way Hollywood would understand,
    with this adaptation and then quotation from “A Few Good Men“:

    Int.  THE

    We are in a courtroom, in a tense moment of a trial.  It’s a court martial, and the
    participants are all in the military. 
    At the prosecution table is Navy Lt.
    Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise in the movie), who has been
    performing unevenly throughout the trial, but now is gaining confidence.  He’s questioning Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), a decorated Marine commander who looks down on KAFFEE
    as if he’s an inferior life form. 
    Back and forth they go, with Kaffee asking and Jessep grudgingly
    answering, until this, from the movie (as opposed to the play from which the
    movie was taken):

    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.

    Jessep: You want answers?!
    Kaffee: I want the truth.

    Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

    That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?  Hollywood can’t handle the truth about SOPA and PIPA.

    First, they can’t handle that there were dangerous elements
    to the bills.  That was why so many
    people, the very people Congress left out of the discussion, were moved to get
    involved.  The bills were much more
    complex than “cracking down on overseas pirates,” and yet those
    pushing the bills either disregarded or didn’t recognize the threats to a free
    Internet.  Certainly their
    testimony before Congress didn’t give any indication that they did either.  When anyone brought up their
    objections, Hollywood executives and their legislative allies dismissed
    them.  Who cared what cybersecurity
    analysts, law professors, artists, human rights groups, public-interest
    organizations and others had to say? 
    Eventually the sponsors caved on the security issue, but only after a
    long-standing dispute.

    Unlike the moguls, the activist letter recognized: “A wide
    variety of important concerns have been expressed – including views from
    technologists, law professors, international human rights groups, venture
    capitalists, entrepreneurs, and above all, individual Internet users. The
    concerns are too fundamental and too numerous to be fully addressed through
    hasty revisions to these bills. Nor can they be addressed by closed door
    negotiations among a small set of inside-the-beltway stakeholders.”  

    Second, the executives didn’t recognize that the protest
    against the bills was not a product of classic special-interest lobbying.  It was not Hollywood vs. Silicon
    Valley.  As this article in
    PC World (and other publications) showed, Google did not create the protest against
    the intellectual property bills. 
    Rather a network of groups with substantive concerns worked with
    organizations from around the country, which, once informed of the dangers of
    the bills, spread the word to their members, and constituent organizations.

    Third, there really is some question about what “the
    truth” is in these cases.  The
    only numbers for “harm” come from the industry and haven’t been
    duplicated by anyone.  It’s time to
    find out what the “harm” really is.

    That time-out is necessary to “determine the true extent of
    online infringement and, as importantly, the economic effects of that activity,
    from accurate and unbiased sources, and weigh them against the economic and
    social costs of new copyright legislation. Congress cannot simply accept industry
    estimates regarding economic and job implications of infringement given the
    Government Accountability Office’s clear finding in 2010 that previous
    statistics and quantitative studies on the subject have been unreliable.”

    This is too important to hand over law making to one
    industry, as Congress did in the case of these bills.  Too much is at stake to try to rework the bills in a
    slapdash manner, behind closed doors.  That’s the truth.