Let's Be Better

"Those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake" -- Chris Dodd, Fox News, Jan 20, 2012 (originally found on Techdirt)

So, I've struggled with how to react to everything that's happened over the last week, and really all the things that have led up to it over the past few years. The SOPA/PIPA protest and blackouts, the abrupt shutdown of Megaupload, the rise of Anonymous and their reaction to all of it. I have seen my government and my fellow citizens attack their own for being intelligent, for being hard working, and for trying to better the world. I let it slide when Congress was discussing breaking the Internet - the greatest engine for social, economic, and technological growth since the development of agriculture and the written word - to protect a small but powerful group. I shrugged it off when Congress referred to consulting the experts who built the Internet as "asking the nerds" if it would be problematic to change how DNS works. I joined in the protests of SOPA and PIPA, and did my best to spread awareness about the complete removal of due process, the risk to our free speech, and the cost of turning over the roles of judge, jury, and executioner to a private industry with everything to gain by holding back progress.

I buy my media. It's probably been almost a decade since I downloaded media I didn't pay for. I have an HD premium cable package, two Tivos, two Xbox360s, Netflix, Last.fm and for a while a Hulu Plus account. I spend more on media in a given month than some people spend on food. TVs, computers, a house-wide audio system - all of it fueling the creative people in this country and around the world to do what they love and to share in their creations. But all of it enabled, and given value, by technology.

When you create a disruptive technology, there's always someone who goes from comfortable to on the defensive. That's why you disrupt. The blatant admission by Hollywood that they had bought politicians and expect to have their laws passed, no matter the public outcry and no matter the damage done to our rights makes them an industry worth disrupting. I believe the "at any cost" approach to protecting creative works is harmful to our economy, our rights, our culture, and our world. We have laws in place that protect this content, and despite claims to the contrary, they work quite well. More people are making more money in movies and music today than at any point in human history.

I don't think I agree with the actions taken by Anonymous in their reaction to the Megaupload shutdown, but I can understand the anger and frustration behind them. I don't think using technology to attack groups or individuals gains any real support for your cause. No, I don't want to make them the victim. I don't want to in any way encourage empathy or lend legitimacy to the actions of the MPAA. I don't want to continue the arms race of DRM vs. hackers. I want us, the technologists, to completely take them out by building services and products so unfathomably better that they cannot hope to compete, until they dwindle to nothing.

And I encourage every creative person out there to join us. Your work is valuable. You should be paid for it, no one argues that. Help us dismantle an industry that has systematically devalued your creative labors, stripped you of your own rights (as authors, and owners of your own work), and sold the fruit of your creative efforts for their own profits.

When you can't win because the game is rigged, you change the rules. Rather than use technology to help groups like the MPAA and their members reach new customers and adapt to a changing market, we must use technology to accelerate their end. Every day, I work to expand the capabilities of technology. Join me. This year - build something amazing, disruptive, and wonderful. When Hollywood dies, and it will, it won't be because we bought the most politicians, it won't be because we hired the best lawyers. It'll be because we served their customers better than they ever could.

I strongly support the sentiment in Y Combinator's RFS9. At no point in my life have I seen an industry so aggressively bite the hand that feeds. At no point have I seen an industry so deserving of being wiped from our economy by the tides of advancing technology. Since I started you with a quote, I figured I'll leave you with this:

"Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise."

-- Y Combinator RFS9: Kill Hollywood

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