American Censorship Day

A few weeks ago, I went to Washington DC with a number of other venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to meet with various members of Congress and in President Obama’s administration to discuss important legislation (here and here) that was being pushed through the process.

It’s an awful bill that is vague, poorly written and even worse it is a bill to protect a few special interests (ie Hollywood) and will sacrifice what the Internet stands for, namely an open place that is decentralized in its soul.

There are many posts up today that highlight the problems with this bill. I would encourage you to read my friend and colleague Brad Burnham’s post for starters. It’s thoughtful, insightful and powerful. Albert Wenger has a great post as well. 

In addition to Brad’s thoughts, I’d like to point out a few other things that I find highly problematic. 

1 – In all of the meetings I had, the elected officials I met with convinced me that they are trying to do the right thing but didn’t have all the facts.

The other thing that I heard is that they have only heard the passionate arguments from Hollywood (and apparently Microsoft has lent them their support. whatever).  They need to hear from everyone else, loud and clear, that this legilsation is not in the public’s interest. Here’s a letter from a number of Silicon Valley companies voicing their concern.

2 – In every meeting I was in, I asked what does Hollywood want from Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and thousands of other founders that is not covered under DMCA. DMCA is something that we all know how to manage and deal with. I was not able to get an answer. That is troubling for countless reasons.

3 – Hollywood is asking Congress to give them power that is well beyond anything reasonable. Basically it would be like shutting down AT&T because one of AT&T subscribers decides to use his/her phone to do something illegal. The responsibility belongs to the user – not AT&T. That is how DMCA works and Hollywood doesn’t like that. They want to shut down the startup – not the user.

4 – It’s not clear to me that their intentions are pure either. there have been plenty of examples of big Hollywood companies bullying startups. Consider Universal Music Group (UMG) v Veoh. We were investors in Veoh. The courts ruled that Veoh did nothing wrong but UMG kept suing, appealing and suing and eventually the company couldn’t fund the litigation expense even though the courts constantly sided with Veoh

That was a landmark case and now Hollywood wants a bigger stick to go after the next Veoh, or YouTube or Facebook or whatever. How exactly is Facebook supposed to monitor every single photo or status post. At some point, Twitter will have billions of tweets per day. Should they delay a published post until it’s reviewed? Should AT&T monitor every phone call? 

Of course not.

DMCA makes the rules of the road clear. If DMCA needs improvement, let’s fix it. 

Let’s not censor the web. That’s not the answer.

That’s why I have the Stop Censorship badge over my mouth on the avatar on my blog today. And it’s why the same badge is over the Spark logo on our company website. Please join me and make your voice heard