Interstitial SOPA

As reported in CNet by Greg Sandoval, venture capitalist Fred Wilson has a new idea for combating “piracy”: Let an independent group identify the “good guys” and “bad guys” (we know who they are, he says), and have browsers, search engines, and social networks pop up a warning whenever a user links to one of the former.

“We’re not blocking people from the site,” Wilson continued. “The interstitial says, ‘You’re going to a site that’s on our blacklist. We believe this site contains almost entirely pirated content and by the way you can get that content legally on these whitelisted sites.'”

Terms like “blacklist” and “whitelist” cause an involuntary shudder, as does Wilson’s suggestion that participating services should “report to the world” how many people are linking to “MegaUpload and The Pirate Bay and the BitTorrent sites”. (“How many” would become “who” all too readily.) But much of what Wilson says strikes a reasonable tone:

“Our children have been taught to steal,” Wilson said, “and they have been taught not just by the MegaUploads, BitTorrent (sites) and Pirate Bays but have been taught by the content industry because the content industry has not let them have what they want legally, inexpensively, and conveniently.” … “We don’t need legislation,” Wilson said. “If we need legislation, we need legislation to undo the (Supreme Court decision in MGM vs. Grokster, which enables copyright owners sue companies for enabling people to illegally share intellectual property) …We need a negotiated solution between the tech industry and content industry. The minute you introduce Washington and lawyers and courts, it’s war. I don’t think that’s where we want to solve this problem. Let’s solve this problem in boardrooms and meeting rooms, not in Washington.”

Implicit in this approach is the idea that most people want to support artists who provide content conveniently, at a reasonable price, and in a form that’s flexible and easy to use. As game developer Robert Boyd said recently:

If people like you and like your work, they’ll buy your games. If they like your work but don’t like you, they’ll pirate them.

The key to Wilson’s proposal is finding the trusted independent group (hint: neither the MPAA nor the RIAA) whose assessment of good guys and bad guys will be accepted by enough of the Internet community to make a difference. Perhaps more than one such group would emerge, with individual users deciding whose pop-up to install, or a social-tagging approach might evolve.

SOPA crowdsourced?


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