The fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not yet over. As Mike Masnick at TechDirt points out, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman Chris Dodd revealed in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the comatose anti-piracy legislation is in the process of being revived. Of course, the reincarnation of SOPA is happening behind closed doors, far away from the deadly public eye.
After Dodd once again pushing his point that the technology and entertainment industries “need to come to an understanding,” THR asked whether there are “conversations” regarding SOPA “going on now.”
“I’m confident that’s the case,” said Dodd, “but I’m not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive.”
Counterproductive, eh? So, in other words, Dodd is apparently saying that giving more details about these conversations — telling the public how the entertainment industry hopes to change what we may or may not do or access online — would hurt the chances of such plans coming to fruition. I, for one, am shocked. Shocked, I tell you!
Did the entertainment industry learn nothing from their very public and very expensive SOPA defeat? Do they not understand that the Internet community despises few things more than secrecy? And that by trying to play the same old Washington game again and again will bring them nothing more than continued outrage and further dwindling respect for their causes and concerns?
Earlier in the interview, Dodd says that most people in the technology community (and, presumably, Internet users at large) fail to understand that “content and technology absolutely need each other.” But that’s just not true. We do understand. It’s just that by treating us like ignorant little fools, by sneaking around behind our backs, and by crafting backhanded legislation that gives the entertainment industry more power to force us into the box they’d like to keep us in makes us angry. This issue is not about understanding, it’s about respect.
Of course, those on the other side of the wall could hurl the same stone at the piracy community, and say that illegally downloading the music and movies that so many people work hard to create, and depend upon to make a living, is the definition of disrespect. And I would argue that that’s true. But it misses the point. The entertainment industry is not going to win this fight by stooping to the lowest common denominator. They will win it by showing an understand for the public’s concerns in every way they possibly can — by making sure that their wants and needs do not come at the expense of ours. Because they are the ones with the concentration of power, the ones with deep pockets and friends on Capitol Hill, they must move the conversation in that direction first. It cannot, and will not, happen the other way around.
Alas, such a shift in the conversation and the way Hollywood does business is more than unlikely — it’s a near impossibility. For too long, the conversation between Hollywood and the Internet community has been limited to, “Screw you! No, screw you!” So much so that we now lack the vocabulary to move beyond this point. We will see a Palestinian state before we see Hollywood and the Internet make peace.
In short: This new attempt to bring SOPA (or something like it) back to life comes as no surprise. Since SOPA fell on January 20, I have warned that the fight against this kind of legislation has only just begun. And this vague but powerful admission by Dodd proves, sadly, that this is the case. Nothing has changed. The fight goes on.
Update: For anyone interested in this issue, I highly recommend reading Mashable’s interview with Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, an expert on the Internet, and copyright law.