This post examines two reasons for why a bill such as SOPA  could come into being: First, Hollywood is a greedy industry in decline. Second, it wields significant power via corrupt politics.
A greedy industry in decline
Most of Hollywood hasn’t kept up with the times and punishes their customers with high prices and artificially crippled products.
Quoting “The next SOPA
” by Marco Arment:
[...] it’s easy to see who the MPAA represents: Disney, Sony Pictures, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Brothers. (Essentially, all of the major movie studios.)
The MPAA studios hate us. They hate us with region locks and unskippable screens and encryption and criminalization of fair use. They see us as stupid eyeballs with wallets, and they are entitled to a constant stream of our money. They despise us, and they certainly don’t respect us.
The usability of DVDs and BluRay discs is indeed terrible. It’s insulting that, compared to people who pirate content, you are punished for paying Hollywood money.
Solution: Kill Hollywood
Y Combinator has started a YCRFS (Y Combinator Request For Startups
) called “Kill Hollywood
” [source: Daring Fireball
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.
That's one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV, but not the main reason. The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they're resorting to such tactics.
“Compete with movies and TV” is meant in a very loose manner: It includes finding “new ways to produce and distribute shows”. Games, internet sites etc. are indeed slowly taking market share away from movies and TV. Additionally, the ability to produce and distribute content is becoming more democratic:
- Crowd-financing makes it easier to finance content. Example: “Louis C.K. - Live at the Beacon Theater” which is only distributed online and made over a million dollars in 12 days.
- Digital technology makes it cheaper to produce content.
- The internet makes it easier to distribute content.
Presumably, the “new Hollywood” will reside at the same place as the “old Hollywood”, because that’s where the talent and the infrastructure is.
The “old Hollywood” wields its power over politics via corruption.
Quoting “MPAA Directly & Publicly Threatens Politicians Who Aren't Corrupt Enough To Stay Bought
” by Mike Masnick for Techdirt:
showing just how disgustingly corrupt the MPAA relationship is with politicians, Chris Dodd went on Fox News to explicitly threaten politicians who accept MPAA campaign donations that they'd better pass Hollywood's favorite legislation... or else:
"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,"
The above news caused an interesting reaction. Quoting “White House Petition To Investigate Dodd For Bribery
” on Slashdot:
Chris Dodd's recent statements complaining that congressmen who receive donations from the RIAA and MPAA should toe the line has spawned a firestorm of anger on the internet. Among the bits of fallout: a petition on the White Houses “We the People” site to investigate him, the RIAA, and the MPAA for bribery! This petition gained more than 5000 signatures in 24 hours and is still growing. When the petition reaches 25,000 signatures the White House is obligated to respond to it in an official capacity.
Marco Arment mentions two organizations that support campaign finance reform in order to reduce the influence of industry money in politics:
Their websites are well done and to the point. They make it very easy to donate to their causes.
Furthermore, it’s great to see that the lobbying by Wikipedia et al. on January 18 has had an effect. So there is a way for the people to fight back.
It’s safe to say that the switchers didn’t do so because they saw reason, but because they were afraid of not being reelected. The 31 opponents on the left, however, are more likely to oppose SOPA out of principle.
- Why The Verge and Vox Media are opposed to SOPA
- “Throwing Hollywood under the bus could pay dividends for GOP” by Timothy B. Lee for Ars Technica [each party is influenced by different industries]