How Hollywood Brought On The Web Blackout
How Hollywood Brought On The Web Blackout
How Hollywood Brought On The Web Blackout

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    Web blackout protests are the clearest evidence yet that the movie
    lobby and its preeminent tweeter, Rupert Murdoch, have it all wrong.
    They don’t know who their enemy is. They don’t even know which
    battle they are supposed to be fighting. All of that makes for a
    messy confrontation.

    story line ginned up in coverage of the Protect Intellectual Property
    Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is that the dispute is
    between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Or, if you read the
    entertainment publications, it’s between Hollywood and Silicon
    Valley.  No, the fight is broader.  It’s between Hollywood and America.

    brought some new prominence to the mistaken meme with a series of
    tweets for his new Twitter account on Jan. 14, following the release
    of a White House statement opposing the PIPA and SOPA bills in their
    current form. A day earlier, House Judiciary Committee Chairman
    Lamar Smith (R-TX) suspended the committee votes scheduled originally
    for Jan. 18, although he later said the votes would take place in
    February. Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) cancelled
    his hearing that would have featured cybersecurity experts, venture
    capitalists and others opposed to the bill on assurances from
    Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that only a consensus bill would
    advance to the House floor.  The Senate is still supposed to vote on some form of PIPA on Jan. 24.

    Anyway, Murdoch’s tweets:

    Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who
    threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”

    he piled on to Google. “Piracy leader is Google who streams
    movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into

    third tweet, “Film making risky as hell. This has to lead to
    less, hurting writers, actors, all concerned.”

    ended the string on the 14th by saying he had “Just been to
    google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering
    free links. I rest my case.” On Monday, he went on another
    binge, tweeting, “Seems like universal anger with Optus (he
    meant POTUS, abbreviation for President of the United States) from
    all sorts of normal supporters. Maybe backing pirates a rare
    miscalculation by friend Axelrod.” He was referring to David
    Axelrod, chief strategist for President Obama.

    Google is opposed to the intolerable bills, and put up an
    opposition link on its fabled home page urging “End Piracy, Not Liberty.” Google, not coincidentally,
    was the sole witness at the one House Judiciary Committee hearing on
    SOPA and was there not so much for its substance but to serve as a
    whipping post for Committee members.

    Silicon Valley companies, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo! have
    registered their displeasure. Yet the industry, like Murdoch, is
    under the impression that Google and the others are controlling this
    debate. They are not. Tech companies, frankly, haven’t shown the
    ability to control much of anything in Washington. Despite what
    Murdoch claims, their lobbying spending and clout is far out matched
    by the Big Media Megaliths.

    also why the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) statement
    about the blackout was by turns amusing, and infuriating. It was the
    MPAA that wrote and pushed PIPA and SOPA upon their congressional
    friends, no doubt telling them that the bill was needed, and that
    their wouldn’t be any opposition that couldn’t be overcome. Now,
    protests are turning up all over the country. Instead of recognizing
    the reality, MPAA asserts, “some
    technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish
    their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than
    coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem
    to agree is very real and damaging.”

    continued, “It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to
    people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is
    also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in
    the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development
    when the platforms that serve as gateways to information
    intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to
    further their corporate interests.” An abuse of power?
    Furthering of corporate interests? What do they think their two
    pieces of misbegotten legislation are? What do they think the
    stacked hearing was all about?

    Abuse of power? MPAA and its cohorts have proposed Draconian bills for
    years, with no shortage of politicians eager to take the movie money,
    dine with the stars, and crack down on the Internet which few of the
    august members of Congress admittedly don’t understand.

    said the ” so-called
    ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed
    to punish elected and administration officials who are working
    diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our
    hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who
    intend to stage this ‘blackout’ to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts
    and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

    “meaningful efforts,” the MPAA means combat the problem
    they see, on their terms. The fact that companies comply with
    thousands of notices under the 1998 law the movie companies wanted,
    and got, means nothing. The industry declines to endorse the
    legislative alternative that’s out there, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden
    (D-OR),  Issa, and
    Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

    dismissal of the blackout as a stunt is simply insulting. It’s
    insulting to actor George Takei, who is blacking out his site. It’s
    insulting to filmmaker Nina Paley, who is blacking out hers. It’s
    insulting to gamers and those companies which produce video games
    defying their trade association to join the protest. It’s insulting Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress and
    to the 10,000 or so sites that will participate in the protest the
    best way they know how. It’s insulting to the Internet Archive or
    Wikipecia. Look at this list. That’s not
    Silicon Valley speaking. It’s America speaking

    arrogance of power that pushes these bills refuses to see the
    political opposition is coming form all directions. It’s the liberal
    and conservative groups, which rarely find common ground, standing
    firmly on that ground in this effort. When Demand Progress, run by a
    fairly liberal group, and Don’t Censor the Net, run by a former
    webmaster for the George Bush campaign, get together, that’s a unique
    and powerful alliance. Throw in the Heritage Foundation, the Cato
    Institute and the Tea Party, all in opposition, and it’s a wonder
    there are any votes for these monstrosities at all.

    addition to mistaking the opposition, the movie lobby is once again
    failing to recognize what is at issue. Publisher and content creator
    Tim O’Reilly, in announcing his support for the blackout, put it
    best, ” Before
    Solving a Problem, Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Problem.” As
    O’Reilly advises, “If the goal is really to support jobs and the
    American economy, internet ‘protectionism’ is not the way to do it,”
    and he questions the extent to which there is a “piracy”
    problem. So far, he hasn’t seen any real evidence: “Defining
    the problem means collecting and studying real evidence, not the
    overblown claims of an industry that has fought the introduction of
    every new technology that has turned out, in the end, to grow their
    business rather than threaten it.”

    Congress wants to do this right, it should start at the bottom by
    conducting hearings and studies to determine the extent of the
    “piracy,” and to consider whether it’s a business model
    problem or an enforcement problem facing the industry. Then it
    should listen to all sides, including those ignored in the SOPA/PIPA
    fiasco — law professors, Internet engineers, human rights activists,
    artists, public interest groups, educators, library professionals,
    among others, who wrote to Congress in protest. And it should listen
    to the tens of thousands of ordinary people who called to complain.

    should Congress follow Murdoch’s example and look up “Mission
    Impossible” on Google, it will find right at the top, the
    official trailer for the movie, which has so far taken in $189.4 million on
    domestic box office.