Wednesday, January 18, 2012


SOPA isn't dead. It hasn't been defeated. It hasn't been stopped. Its just regrouping.

Their main mistake was in allowing it to become publicly known too long before a decisive vote. Its backers will try again, next time ramming it through in the dead of night. They'll give it a scary title, as anything can be justified if the title of the bill is scary enough.

Bills like SOPA are an attempt to legislate a return to media economics the way it used to be, where the sheer cost of distributing content formed a high barrier to entry. Its the economics of scarcity. Better yet, the law would require someone else to pay the cost of creating this scarcity. If the cost of any infringement, intentional or not, third party or first party, can be made so overwhelming as to be ruinous (and incidentally decoupled from any notion of the actual damage from the infringement), then cheap distribution via the Internet can be made expensive again. We can get back to the cozy media business of prior decades.

Its time to stop playing defense, desperately trying to stop each of these bills.

Its time to start playing offense.

The workings of government are obscure and impenetrable. There are reams of data produced in the form of minutes, committee reports, the Federal Register, and other minutiae, but the whole remains an opaque mass. Lobbyists and political operatives thrive in this environment, as they understand more about the mechanisms by which it operates. Yet one of the recent core competencies of the technology industry is Big Data. There are conclusions which can be drawn from trends within the dataset without having to semantically understand all of it.

I have to believe there are things the tech industry can do beyond simply increasing lobbying budgets.