On Friday, Congress finally gave up trying to pass an ill advised piece of legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) it’s sister bill in the Senate. Rep. Lamar Smith from TX, SOPA’s main sponsor pulled the bill saying, "I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns…" following up with, "we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal…"
The biggest disappointment for me was how this debate was reduced to how you were either for piracy (anti-SOPA) or against piracy (pro-SOPA). Or inversely – you were either for (anti SOPA) or against civil liberties (pro SOPA). There are smart, considerate people on both sides of the issue, as well as, idiots encamped on both sides of the idealogical divide. Some of these folks are even my friends.
The truth of the matter is that this issue is so much more complex then some critics and supporters care to admit. But one thing is clear – all stakeholders – and by that I mean creators, consumers, technology experts, advocates, entrepreneurs, big & small, independents and major players need to be invited to the table when the next iteration of talks regarding proposed legislation takes place. And along with discussions about legislation – there need to be serious, honest and meaningful conversations regarding innovation and collaboration across the music and technology divide.
It is no longer OK for those in the tech camp to say that intellectual property is an archane concept. It is also no longer acceptable for folks in music to shrug their shoulders and say they don’t understand technology and that they want industry profits to go back to the massive CD bubble of the late 90s/early 2000s. It is also unreasonable for the music industry to say that the entire deficit in earnings is primarily attributed to piracy and not take ownership of their own failings in the era of loss opportunities.
Both sides need each other. Where there is distrust, dialogue fails. We then end up with massive messes like the proposed SOPA/PIPA acts. Letting politicans and lobbyists dictate our futures in the halls of Congress is a recipe for disaster. Shame on those who have capitalized on this dysfunction to further their own agendas.
I also believe there is a bright future. In our efforts to try and educate artists, musicians & other stakeholders about new internet technologies it is obvious that youth "get it." It is the old guard that is having the most trouble with contemporary concepts. This is encouraging.
Finally, musicians, filmmakers and other creatives need to tell our own stories directly to fans and consumers in a far more effective way. We need to bypass politicians and lobbyists like the MPAA and the RIAA. These organizations represent big money interests. Just as the primary goal of Google and other web companies is to create a positive cash flow. As someone who lives in both the music and technology worlds, as well as, as that of an artist who has his works illegally re-purposed on those "foreign rogue" web sites, I have immense faith in the goodwill of the people who consume my art. I just need to focus on creating an experience so powerful for my tribe that the resulting emotional bond motivates them to support me as a member of their community. Everything else is wasted energy.
No one should underestimate the power of a song, movie or story. Just as no one should discount the power of the Internet. These treasures should remain where they belong – in the hands of the people.