November 30, 2022
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Looking past SOPA

Entertainment media fought the Internet, and the Internet won, for now.

With SOPA and PIPA stalled indefinitely with floundering support from the Senate and House of Representatives, feelings over the victory have been mixed.

T.J. Gunther

Through all of the celebration across the Internet, there is a growing number of critics pointing out that SOPA is just the latest move by big media corporations like Hollywood and the Recording Industry Association of America to fight piracy, and in no way will they be the last. Both media and technology innovators are preparing for what will be a long struggle.

The underlying issue is that online piracy breaks the old model of media conglomerates as gatekeepers. They want to control how their content is used and continue to profit from that position. SOPA/PIPA would have again handed media the keys to control their content against online piracy, with the ability to shut down any service not working for them without any significant barriers. The thing is, media will never get the keys again. People would have found ways around SOPA/PIPA, and the media providers would have just come up with something even more restrictive.

The media industry, specifically Hollywood, has solid content but has not utilized new technology to make distribution easier than piracy. It’s the model that Spotify has taken with music. Hollywood’s lack of innovation threatens to forfeit control of their content. That choice is setting up the next phase of the SOPA/PIPA fight and Internet freedom.

SOPA and PIPA are just the beginning of the battle for online freedom of speech. Current head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Chris Dodd, has come out against those politicians who abandoned the bill.

The prestigious startup incubator Y Combinator, which has helped launch more than 300 companies, including Reddit and Dropbox, has put out a call for new companies taking aim at Hollywood. In their appropriately titled post, “Kill Hollywood,” the company’s cofounder Paul Graham sees the bills as red flags for digital rights.

Big media wouldn’t try pushing a censorship bill unless they needed it. “If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention,” Graham writes.

Y Combinator sees this moment as a chance to seize upon technology and wrestle control of entertainment away from politically driven people like Dodd. Graham believes the technology has been developed that will upset the entrenched Hollywood industry. It’s just a matter of innovation.

“What’s going to kill movies and TV is what’s already killing them: better ways to entertain people,” Graham writes.

Though SOPA/PIPA may be on the rocks, both Dodd and Graham are gearing up for Act II. Neither the media industry nor the Internet and the tech community have lost the will to fight.

Through increased lobbying or tech innovation, there will be a winner, with media gaining power or losing its new players. SOPA and PIPA are just the shot heard ’round the world that’s brought the struggle to the forefront.