Players or pawns: Big Copyright's war on technology?

One of Canada's best technology journalists, Jesse Brown, interviewed Techdirt.com editor Mike Masnick on the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act. While I agree with most of the discussion, I want to challenge some of the conclusions made at the end of the interview. It was discussed how "big copyright" had a history of lobbying, while tech firms were part of a start-up culture and until recently didn't play that game. This was behind why "big copyright" has been so successful at pushing forward laws which break some of the best features of modern technology, while at the same time not helping copyright holders.

This is based on the idea that there is only one tech sector involved, and that "big copyright" are in control of this game rather than being pawns of a more powerful player.

There really is two technology sectors. There is a part that has been in Washington and other seats of power for a long time that includes hardware/software companies like IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, as well as phone/cable companies like AT&T and Comcast (Bellusogers in Canada). These are all companies that have been very good at lobbying government to grant them stronger government granted monopolies as a way to reduce competition and increase their ability to collect monopoly rents.

Whether we are talking about right-of-way access for cabling, wireless spectrum monopolies, software/design patents, or Paracopyright, we are talking about laws which benefit these incumbent technology companies to the detriment of everyone else. When I say everyone else, I include the non-technology part of the entertainment industry who are only pawns in a game being played by the most powerful part of the technology sector.

Mike Masnick and Jesse Brown spoke of the other part of the technology sector which includes startups, more pure Internet-era companies, and the list of technology literate individuals who constantly come out against these types of laws. I include Google here for the moment, crossing my fingers and hoping they won't turn to the dark side as they have people spend more times in the halls of political power.

I think we in the tech sector need to stop wasting our time being angry at the non-technology part of the entertainment/content industry, and put our focus where it need to be: the government assisted monopoly building part of the technology sector. We need to better interact with the content industry to help them better understand the warring parts of the technology sector, and how these companies seeking more control in their hands will harm their interests as much as it will those of us in the competing parts of the technology sector. None of these policies, whether we are talking about Paracopyright ("technological protection measures" in C-11 and DMCA) or SOPA, will help copyright holders. In fact they will greatly harm their economic and other interests. They have been duped by the monopoly-building part of the technology sector who have been able to use copyright holders as a shield from the scrutiny this part of the technology sector requires.