Will we see a compromise on SOPA?








This is my first post in 2012 and hope you had a good break over the holidays.

I have been spending some time thinking and on holidays – and here is a viewpoint on  Stop Online Piracy Act

Of SOPA and Net neutrality

My personal views on SOPA are well known - Crippling the Internet through SOPA could kill off the next industrial revolution(s) . The anti SOPA sentiment is strong .. For instance:

-          EFF says that free speech is only strong as its weakest link

-          why the music industry cannot innovate and the result is SOPA

-          Godaddy had a change of heart on SOPA

However, having been involved in policy and regulatory discussions for a few years now, I am sceptical of the public rhetoric vs. the actual positions which many companies take

Take the well-known issue of Net neutrality.

For all the rhetoric, suddenly we saw a deal between Verizon and Google.

Most people view the Google – Verizon net neutrality deal with some suspicion.

The EFF also worries about the Trojan horse problem with this approach but Google puts a spin on it saying that it is a – joint proposal for the Open Internet.

The irony is: It’s quite different from the PUBLIC positioning of companies (both Google and Verizon)


So, now let’s look at SOPA. Last week, we find that  Vinton Cerf surprisingly says that Internet access is not a human right (contrasting Tim Berners Lee who says that Internet access is a fundamental human right) .

Today, SOPA is no longer a  USA only affair with Spain (Spain has its own version of SOPA which is also setting the Web on fire), France (3 strikes law) and the UK anti-piracy law

Further, the mass scale piracy problem is real (and most people on both sides of the argument would admit it).  Recently, the Spanish novelist Lucía Etxebarria quits writing in piracy protest

The award winning Spanish author says that more copies of her book have been downloaded illegally than sold, and claims politicians too scared to act.

She says that:  “People are making millions out of online piracy by setting up in places like Belize, which is where the money goes,” and that “our (Spanish) government doesn’t dare legislate.” Furthermore, she says that the laws in France and Germany offer greater protection to authors. Many downloaders commented that they could not afford to buy her books or “Literature is not a profit-making job, but a passion” – etc. However,  irrespective of these views, I believe that  no author one should be compelled to give away their work for free. This should be the prerogative of the author else it becomes a bit like the London riots where the rioters felt ‘entitled’ to other peoples’ property

The changing nature of the Content industry

The content industry is changing fundamentally in many ways and will do so even more in the near future.  Here are some examples:

-          The cover of Forbes says that – Spotify’s Daniel Elk is the most important man in music

-          for the first time in the music industry, digital sales surpass physical sales

-          Celebrities choose Amazon – is this the end of traditional publishing

-          Netflix says that its members streamed 2 billion hours of video in Q4

-          The X factorization of music


So, here is why I see that there will be a compromise:

-         The changing dynamics and new business models will be the norm. Once, there is a legal way to make money from content, the only issue will be mass scale copying (as opposed to individual copying)

-         In the ultimate analysis, the whole argument can be seen to be between content providers protecting their content vs. web companies trying to avoid compliance costs

-          Very few people such as Tim Berners Lee are truly commercially neutral and take a consumer centric view in this argument

-          The real reason why people don’t trust the content industry is due to their past behaviour ex RIAA suing 12 year old girls and those chickens have come home to roost. This may be a chance for the content industry to do a ‘version 2.0’  i.e. learn from past mistakes. But time will tell ..

Hence, I predict that despite concerns from individuals and the rhetoric, we may see a compromise ie walking the middle path: much like we saw for Net neutrality!

Image source: The middle path – Nick Margolies. (c) Nicko Margolies. Image used with permission and commercial terms of Nicko Margolies photography