SOPA Opera

Do Startups Lack Political Klout? Pushing the Innovation Agenda

Image via The Guardian

 

Tumblr’s 32.5 million users woke up last week to a vision of a dystopian future. ““WTF,” a frustrated fashionista working on her own startup wrote to Betabeat. “I can’t see any of my god damn archives. UGGGGHHH.”

Logging in to their dashboards, where they browse the stream of posts from the blogs they follow, users were greeted with text and images that were blacked out like the redacted sections of a classified briefing.

Those obscured blogs represented Tumblr’s take on American Censorship Day, a protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was going before a hearing of the Congressional Judiciary Committee that afternoon. The bill would allow companies to sue service providers like Tumblr or Facebook for hosting content like copyrighted music files or movies, a big reversal from the safe harbor provisions which had long defined internet piracy law.

The startup community, both entrepreneurs and the investors who back them, had been raising the alarm for several weeks about their concerns that this bill would cripple their ability to innovate and damage the internet economy. But if SOPA was the first real test of the political muscle of the entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are driving the tech sector, it was a test they would fail. Whether SOPA eventually becomes law or not, the issue provided a clear illustration to many in the startup world that they may be frighteningly unprepared to navigate the dangerous waters of Capitol Hill, where buttonholing trumps beta-testing and hard-nosed lobbying beats “likes.”

“We’ve got all these blogs and these Twitter followers, but when it comes to politics, I worry that we’re the tree falling in the wood and nobody is hearing us,” said Fred Wilson, New York’s most prominent venture capitalist and an outspoken opponent of the SOPA bill. Read More

Can the Internet Save the Internet

The Internet’s Big Guns Join Startup Land In Protesting SOPA Act

Surveillance nation.

For the last couple of weeks venture capitalists and startup founders have been raising the alarm over new anti-piracy legislation making its way through Congress that would fundamentally endanger the functioning of a free internet.

Betabeat chatted with Fred Wilson yesterday, who said that this fight is part of a broader attempt to protect the innovation economy. “I hope that that big tech companies see that and join us in making our voice heard on this issue.”

Mr. Wilson and his partner Brad Burnham went down to D.C. to put in facetime with politicians. “We’re at a disadvantage here. The entertainment industry is a lot older, more mature, with deeper influence in Washington.”

The best chance for the tech industry? Getting the word out through those powerful online networks. “We’re hoping the internet can save the internet,” Mr. Wilson said.

Well, consider the call answered. Today, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla Corp, Twitter, Yahoo! and Zynga all signed on to a letter to Congress opposing SOPA: Read More