Three years ago, almost to the day, I posted this in response to claims the RIAA was dying…
But it’s important to remember something here: The RIAA is not the record companies. If the RIAA dies it won’t end the record companies’ efforts to stop file trading. It will only give birth to another organization tasked with the same goals. Which makes the RIAA’s desperation a good thing because it makes them more willing to deal (which a new organization probably won’t be).
Which brings me back to my point. File Trading Advocates can attack the RIAA all they want but it isn’t going to accomplish anything. What they need to do is praise every effort that moves away from harsh tactics and work with the RIAA to develop realistic solutions. The RIAA’s current desperation means there’s no time like the present to start a dialogue.
That’s why I’ve been relatively quiet on the “Stop Online Piracy Act”. I don’t like SOPA, I don’t think it will be good for the Internet and I hope it fails. But it was inevitable. These copyright holders have been forced into harsher solutions because the tech industry refuses to engage them and makes no effort to find realistic solutions. Even now the tech industry continues to be on the attack…
The company boycotts have sparked a threadon Hacker News, where user Solipsist posted a link to the list with the comment, “While I understand your sentiments towards SOPA, are you really going to distance yourself from all of these companies?”
To which YCombinator founder and investor Paul Graham replied,
“Actually that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the list yesterday. Several of those companies send people to Demo Day, and when I saw the list I thought: we should stop inviting them. So yes, we’ll remove anyone from those companies from the Demo Day invite list.”
Disinviting offending companies to YCombinator Demo Day? That takes, um, guts. Graham told me in a followup email that he was indeed serious and had just given the list of SOPA supporters to the people in charge of the Demo Day invites, ”I don’t know exactly which companies had people on the list. But I know which will now: none of them.”
I’ll admit this hits me where it hurts. I admire Paul Graham so to see him take such a counter productive position is honestly painful to me (not to mention embarrassing because I’ve used him as an example of a reasonable person in the tech industry)
I mean, lets be realistic about what he’s saying here. He’s saying he understands there are companies who support SOPA and he’s going to do everything in his power to force them into doing what he wants regardless of how they feel.
Ask yourself this: How do you feel when someone tries to force you to do something?
My guess is it doesn’t endear them to you. It certainly doesn’t make you feel like taking their side. So you can try to force these companies to withdraw their public support but they’ll still privately support it. In fact I’d argue they’ll become more dedicated to the cause because people who are forced to do something tend to double down on their beliefs.
Given that what do you think comes next?
I predict SOPA will, in its essence, be implemented three years from now. Even if the current bill fails. Because these companies won’t give up. They may not want a public fight so they’ll just pay legislators to slip SOPA into other bills piece by piece. In fact, I’d wager they’ll slip something worse in once all is said and done.
If Paul Graham wanted to be productive he should do just the opposite of what he’s doing. He should personally invite the CEOs of these companies and their representatives to the next Demo Day. He should prominently post signs by each startup explaining why SOPA would hurt the innovation they represent. He should deliver a speech making an impassioned argument against SOPA. Basically he should see them as good people who are wrong and not evil people who he should try to hurt.