The Day the Internet Grew Up

A VC: A Post PIPA Post:

these two bills were drafted by the MPAA and the RIAA and walked into Washington without an iota of conversation with the technology industry. I can’t tell you how many Senators and Representatives have told me that they were told by the MPAA and the RIAA that the technology industry was on board and that these issues would not impact the Internet and tech community adversely. This is no way for one industry to propose that Congress regulate another industry. I think it is absurd that one industry would have the arrogance to think it is appropriate to ask Congress to regulate another industry for them. And yet that is what went down on these bills.

Back in 1988 (before many of you were potty trained…), I wrote this April Fools joke for the net. the in-jokes are a bit dated, but this part sums up the attitude of the internet then, and through the years:

Note: This conference is a rescheduling of the conference originally
scheduled for October, 1988 but cancelled after the United States Department
of Commerce decided that the material was too sensitive to allow
non-American citizens to read (including the material written by the
Canadians on the committee). Because of this, the conference has been moved
to Canada, which doesn’t have a complete Freedom of Speech written into it’s
constitution, but has better things to do than worry about ways of
circumventing civil rights. Americans having trouble getting their papers
cleared for distribution at the conference should contact Professor Shikele
about setting up a direct uucp link for the troff source.

For many years, the net was too small for the authorities to worry about, and this “wild west” mentality ruled, that the rules didn’t apply. And in many cases, they didn’t. As the net has grown and gone mainstream, this attitude has continued, although increasingly, whether it’s been the companies stomped in court when they became too annoying (like Napster) or countries like China implementing massive censorship firewalls (and the accompanying controversies as companies have to decide whether to go along with them or not).

The day the net went dark over Sopa is, to me, the day the Internet grew up and became an adult. Instead of thinking we can just sneak around doing what we want in the alleys and not get caught — we now realize we need to sit at the table with the adults and talk (and argue) with them as adults. The net mobilized and forced some major and entrenched powers to back down. They won’t get caught by surprise next time, and don’t for a minute believe they’re done with this.

But, and it’s a big but — neither will we, both collectively as “the internet” and the big companies that drive the net like Google and Apple and Facebook. They clearly realize they can’t let others drive the agenda and sit on the sideline, so you can expect everyone to get more involved in the process in Washington — because like that game or not, we can no longer pretend we’re immune to it or can ignore it.

I think the entertainment industry badly misplayed their hand through arrogance, and I think they’re going to regret it.

Because I think they woke the sleeping dragon, and the dragon now has their eye on them. They won’t be able to sneak their way through Congress without a fight, and many of their allies in Congress now realize that the fight is going to require them to take sides. And I bet a bunch of them will realize the tech industry is a better side to be on.

But now is the time for those companies that represent the industry and the net to make it clear to Congress that they expect a seat at the table in future discussions. And you can bet, the entertainment industry won’t like that. Not that I care what they think…


This entry was posted in The Internet.