What my congressman, a SOPA sponsor, told me

Yesterday, I wrote about a meeting I attended with my congressman and friend, Jim Cooper.

I shared in that post my opinion of the legislation known popularly (and unpopularly) as SOPA. In short, I oppose the legislation and view it as nothing more than an attempt by the entertainment industry to out-regulate what they can’t out-innovate. I also believe that by fighting battles on the field of copyright and intellectual property law and by using the term “piracy” to label activities that may not only  be legal, but be beneficial to the copyright holder, we are in a place where a lot of bandwidth is being directed at trying to convince the other side(s) (no matter what side you’re on) rather than finding ways to evolve our understanding of what the internet is and what its potential can be.

Yesterday, I wrote that Jim Cooper is a very smart and intellectually curious individual. I appreciate, also, that he believes big problems can be broken down into parts so that they can be better understood. I agree with that approach, as well.

He suggested that those of us around the table probably agree on 95% of what’s in the legislation. I have no reason to believe his statistic is correct or in-correct, but I agree there’s probably a lot of fluff included in the legislation, most of which is designed to bury the contentious parts. (I also believe what I just said was a snide way to say, I agree with him.)

I also agree with the most important take-away and challenge Jim Cooper provided the group. In essence (I wasn’t taking notes), he said, “This is Nashville. We have the music industry here. We have a lot of talented technology people here. We should try to work together to address the issues we don’t agree on here. If there’s a way to solve the issues by working together, then Nashville should be where that happens.”

While I’m not quite sure we have the tech chops in Nashville equivalent to the music chops here, I do know that inside and outside those Nashville music companies that are endorsing SOPA are lots of extremely smart tech people who understand what their executives don’t. I know there are lots of creative, entrepreneurial and tech-savvy students and recent graduates from schools like Belmont’s music business program and Vanderbilt’s engineering and business schools who completely comprehend all the facets and nuances of the issues, musically and technically and business(ly?). And I know that if there are good alternatives to crappy technology (say, the MP3), then people who care about music (say, customers and fans) are willing to pay for it if they understand the value.

So, what Jim Cooper said perhaps should be listened to by those in Nashville who want to embrace the reality of the internet today and look for ways to innovate rather than legislate wherever possible.

Perhaps someone should write a song about this.

(Illustration: Polar bears having a snowball fight. It’s a Nashville thing.)

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  • Hi Rex!

    I think you underestimate the technology community here in Nashville. I believe
    we can work together to solve this in Nashville, but I don’t think should. I
    think those of us in Nashville – media and technology – should sit down and
    *start* the conversation. Once we have all reached the point that we can
    discuss a solution framework we should open it up include anyone from either
    side that is willing to approach the problem with an open mind and work to
    solve it.

    One problem that stands in the way is that there is so much animosity between
    the two groups that it is going to be difficult to get them to sit down at the
    same table and talk reasonably.  It doesn’t help that SOPA hangs over any
    meeting of the minds like a cloud.

    I would love to see progress in this area that protects the rights of copyright
    holders without infringing on the rights of others. Sitting at the Flying
    Saucer last night a few of us on the technology side brainstormed several
    solutions that, using existing technologies, attacked different parts of the
    problem. I’m not suggesting we have a working solution but I do think we have
    enough of an idea that we could benefit from the input of media companies to
    see if we are on the right track.

    Neither side has the answer, together though we can work to solve this problem.

    Thanks for these two great posts.


  • Thanks Cal (who, by the way, was at the meeting I’ve written about). The way I wrote the part that leads you to say I underestimate the technology community obviously miscommunicates what I was trying to say. What I meant to convey is that no one, anywhere — be it Silicon Valley or New York — will question whether or not it seems logical that a solution related to these issues should emerge from Nashville. What we have that’s unique is a tech-savvy community who live with and among people who understand every facet of the music industry (domain experience, in other words). You are right. The way I said it under estimates a lot of very smart developers and tech-preneurs.

  • I just find this whole saga you’ve laid out very depressing, Rex. That even a highly intelligent and intellectually curious congressman is falling for this piracy argument, which is almost transparently false, points to something fundamentally busted in our system of policymaking. 

  • Aaron, I’m trying my best to practice diplomacy. You and I understand the internet as being a place, not merely as a medium — or even as technology. Politics today is still about geographic-based communities. I can’t address this argument from where I live online, the place where I understand the folly of trying to comprehend one country’s copyright laws in the context of a borderless world. I (and my congressman) must start from the geographic place we exist — where we have neighbors who have portfolios of copyrighted property that used to generate $x for them each year and now generate 1/2 x. The fact that they benefitted from album sales where now people purchase singles is not an argument they won’t to hear. They want to start with blaming something they can see when they Google the name of a song and see five ways to buy it from Russia for a penny. So, I’ve decided I will at least start with acceptance that songwriters aren’t bad guys, even though they’ve cast their lot with some executives who, frankly, aren’t in this fight for anything related to helping songwriters.