Former Senator Chris Dodd, who’s been one of the most prominent lobbyists for the SOPA/PIPA bill in his new position as Motion Picture Association of America CEO, lashed out at critics participating in the Internet blackout last night. Websites like Wikipedia and Reddit have been dark since midnight in protest of the legislation:
But Dodd called the blackout a “dangerous gimmick.”
“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and who use their services,” Dodd said in a statement. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”
Disagreeing with Wikipedia and Reddit’s position is one thing, but how exactly is the blackout “irresponsible” and “an abuse of power”? The First Amendment covers the protest actions of these websites, just like it protected Dodd’s own congressional lobbying.
From purely a public relations perspective, Dodd’s argument is a train wreck. If the public blames anyone for the blackout protest, it’s groups like the MPAA and the supporters of the SOPA/PIPA legislation in Congress.
And that’s because Hollywood lost its monopoly on entertainment a long time ago. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and other sites have spent years building a level of trust with their users, and they’ve come to surpass celebrities and the movie industry in terms of cultural and political influence. To put things in perspective, imagine if George Lucas came out in strong opposition to the SOPA/PIPA bills. Do you think a ton of people would say to themselves, “Hey, George Lucas doesn’t like this legislation, so maybe it’s a bad idea – I should contact my representative and ask them to oppose it”? Probably not. But when Reddit, Google and TwitPic came out against it – websites that people spend a good percentage of their day-to-day leisure time on – that moved the dial.
It’s perfectly understandable that the motion picture industry is concerned about copyright enforcement. But it’s not going to win public support by getting into a shoving match with online giants. The industry’s popularity has been waning for years, and it’s only going to hasten its irrelevance by backing SOPA/PIPA too aggressively.