SOPA Witch-Hunters, Count Me Out

UPDATE: I was wrong in this post in saying that a boycott stifles free speech. A boycott is a form of free speech. I retracted that argument in a subsequent post a few hours later. *sigh*

The opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bill before Congress to punish websites that publish pirated songs, movies and essays, has united behind the theme of free speech.

But now in a turn worthy of the pigs in Animal Farm, Paul Graham, Chris Dixon, Fred Wilson and others are organizing a campaign to intimidate and silence those who support the bill, retaliating against law firms, journalists and investors alike.

Who knows who was the first to sharpen a stick at both ends, but many were clearly eager to join the fray. Joyce Kim encouraged entrepreneurs to fire lawyers who support SOPA. Chris Dixon wondered aloud if journalists from pro-SOPA newspapers should be excluded from press events (update: Chris in the comments has made clear that he wasn’t saying he was in favor of excluding journalists from anything). Paul Graham just joined the mob, immediately agreeing to block pro-SOPA investors from getting access to the startups he advises.

To which I can only say: please add me to the black-list. Not because I support the bill. As I’ve written before, it is flawed in exactly the way most democratic legislation is: it’s a dog’s breakfast of competing interests, force-fed to the innocent and guilty alike.

I just don’t like bullies. Especially hypocritical bullies. If you actually believe in free speech, and not simply the free distribution of other people’s intellectual property, you should let journalists, law firms and investors exercise their rights to it alongside your own. And yes, working on a bill in an open, democratic process is a valid expression of speech.

Instead, we are threatening anyone who disagrees with us. Like all ideologues, we have convinced ourselves that the other side is a wealthy special interest as if we are not very wealthy, very special and very interested. We imagine that we are trying to protect the Internet only for noble purposes, but it’s also true that we stand to make billions of dollars from the Internet staying just the way it is.

And like all violent ideologues, we have convinced ourselves that the issue is so pressing it demands extreme action. The stakes in this case are usually described as “breaking the Internet,” when in fact it’s already broken: not for the folks profiting today from the Internet, but for all the folks who create the beautiful books, articles, movies and music that the Internet is so often used to steal.

What we need is a discussion about how to make the Internet work for artists, software companies and regular folks alike. No one in software seems interested in that conversation: more than a month ago, we asked everyone opposed to the bill to suggest a better way to prevent piracy, and still no one has.

Now, we have taken this a step further. Not only are we refusing to engage in a constructive way, we are threatening anyone who engages in a way that is disagreeable to us. When no conversation is possible and no action from us is forthcoming, we can hardly blame the Luddites, bureaucrats, idiots and meddlers for being ill-informed or hasty.

Over the holidays especially, we need to stand down from the crazed ideological stances and self-interested politics that are ruining this country, and work together with people we don’t always like to figure out how the Internet — and everything else — can be made better, not worse.

Discussion

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  • Rqd

    Like still believing in Santa, your comment: “working on a bill in an open, democratic process” sounds so innocent. Exercising free speech includes all of the tactics you cite.

    Since Redfin would literally disappear overnight if the bill or anything like it passed, you might reconsider fighting the war with all available options.

    Robert
    @rqd

    • SubstrateUndertow

      “working on a bill in an open, democratic process”
      Come on now.

      Believing in Santa is far more reasonable!

      • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

        Your cynicism is self-fulfilling. It's part of the problem, not part of the solution.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692200565 Fred Ballard

          While perhaps cynical, their cynicism seems realistic. Do you have any idea how much money the pro-SOPA and pro-PIPA lobbyists are spending? Neither do I. Lobbying is not exactly a transparent process. I don't see where the cynicism is self-fulfilling. Does being cynical somehow trigger more lobbying?

          Also, the means the pro-open and free Internet people are using seem well within an open, democratic process. Trying to influence people in open and legal ways doesn't seem like bullying to me. It is part of the process. How is trying to influence the outcome of the legislative process part of the problem?

          • willaLavie

            Do you have any idea how much Google (and friends) are spending to protect their bottom lines?  The notion that it's a matter of big bad Hollywood versus a free internet is absurd.  Google is in this fight because Google makes big bucks on the current piracy for profit business model (in which the safe harbor provision of the DMCA essentially means “plead ignorance” and get away with it).  

            There are solutions to this problem and IMHO it's not about seizing domains, but rather cutting off the blood supply which feeds this pirate economy.   Under threat of litigation Google implemented a content management system on Youtube which works reasonably well.  Google still makes money on UGC, but the rightsholders have been given back control of their content.  They, not the uploader, can determine how their copyrighted content is used. They, not Google, can determine whether the content remains on Youtube (and earn money for both themselves and Google), is taken down, or blocked (by territory).  There's no reason on earth why each and every cyberlocker/UGC site cannot do the same.

            Technology enabled this online black market to evolve.  Why not use technology to solve the problem and mitigate piracy impact on content creators.

          • Jorge Rangel

            “There's no reason on earth why each and every cyberlocker/UGC site cannot do the same.”

            Yes, there's a powerful reason why only companies like Google can do that: It's very expensive. Small startups with limited human resources and capital cannot afford it. Any law that forced them to implement that would bankrupt them.

        • SubstrateUndertow

          That is not cynicism that is political-realism!

          Redefining political-realism as cynicism is simply a transparent attempt to blame the victims of political corruption for the corruption itself!

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      SOPA doesn't apply to US-based sites like redfin or to any other site registered under .com.

      Your comment is literally false.

      And even if redfin were an overseas site, SOPA wouldn't apply because it's not dedicated to the unlawful sale of US intellectual property.

      Here's a novel idea: read the bill before complaining.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      Do you really think Redfin would disappear overnight if the bill passed? I am not in favor of the bill, as I've stated here and elsewhere, but that seems overheated to me.

  • http://www.cdixon.org chris dixon

    I'm sorry are you referring to this tweet?? http://twitter.com/#!/cdixon/s
    I was wondering aloud whether Paul Graham's ban would apply to journalists too. I made no statement about whether I thought it should. That makes me a “witch hunter” and a “violent ideologue”?  

    Also, I assume you understand that “freedom of speech” is normally used to refer to government censorship. It is completely consistent to support the 1st amendment and private boycotts.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      Chris, what is your position? I think the folks in favor of a boycott are organizing a witch hunt; it just feels hysterical and intimidating to me. It sounds like you are not in favor of a boycott? I hope that's the case. You should just explain your position; in the meantime, I'll update the blog post.

      And no, I wasn't making a first-amendment argument. If you believe in free speech, you usually believe that censorship by governments and other entities is wrong, regardless of what is legal. But I may have been very wrong in arguing that this form of activism is censorship. I want to spend the night thinking about it. 

      Look for a full retraction or a blazing defense tomorrow.

      • http://www.cdixon.org chris dixon

        It seems perfectly reasonable and consistent to me for someone like Paul Graham to decide who his company (YC) will do business with based on their political stances.  I don't see how that is against “free speech” or the first amendment.  If anything I see Paul's actions as pro-first amendment: private citizens and organizations boycotting is an important form of free speech.

        As to me personally: I think SOPA is a really bad idea. I haven't actively supported any boycotts (that wasn't the intention of the tweet you cited) but would consider it. I don't think participating in a boycott would make me involved in a “witch hunt”. I think it would make me an active and concerned citizen.

        • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

          Yep. We disagree about whether the boycott is a good idea, and even whether your original tweet could reasonably be construed as encouraging Paul Graham to take the boycott one step further, but the boycott is an example of free speech. You were right and I was wrong.

          • andrewdeandrade

            Glenn, there is a big difference between censoring and censuring. What Paul did was censure. 

            Also, Paul's justification for not allowing SOPA supporters to go to Demo day makes financial sense as the primary advisor to the YCombinator companies.

            Demo Day is primarily an event for investors and others interesting in furthering the success of those companies in his portfolio. It's a high demand event, and in order for Paul to keep the best interest of his portfolio companies in mind should only invite those people who will add the most value. 

            Anyone supporting SOPA clearly is supporting an action that is at best not relevant to a company in his portfolio and at worst downright bad. This doest just apply to current YCombinator companies but all future companies.

            This bill does nothing but does nothing but give old businesses that have ceased to innovate a stick with which they can beat the innovative companies with. If you are in the business of innovation, you'd censure such people too. 

            I challenge you to go get anything Paul has said on this matter (ref: http://news.ycombinator.com/th… ) and try to show that he is being a bully and not simply supporting and promoting the most rational economic decision as someone on the change/innovation side of the economy. The law should never be used to determine winners and losers. It should be there to protect the public while letting the markets decide who wins and loses. 

            This post smacks of taking the tone of articles written by journalists expressing the journalists' own viewpoints and extrapolating those viewpoints to be extensions of  Paul's intent. 

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          Graham is hurting the startups who benefit from pitching to the widest possible audience of investors in order to make a point about a bill that he thinks he doesn't like (and probably hasn't read or understood.)

          He has no legitimate right to compromise these startups; they aren't his property.

          If he wants to spend his own money and/or time to fight SOPA, elect candidates he likes, or engage politically in any way he sees fit, but he's bringing third parties into his personal vendetta who really should be left out of it.

          That's the real problem here.

      • SubstrateUndertow

        Witch Hunt ?
        Are the supporters of the bill not openly decorative?

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      Question: Have you read the bill?

      • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

        I'll take your non-answer as a “no.”

        • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

          Sorry, I haven't read the bill. I've only read about it.

          • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

            Sorry, I was asking Chris Dixon.

            By my count, only about five people have read the bill, and most of the criticism addresses the first draft. It was amended after people complained about DNSSEC issues and over-reach. The amended bill is consistent with DNSSEC and doesn't apply to US-based and .com-based sites that are within the jurisdiction of DMCA and Pro-IP.

  • mary_hinge

    Ah yes, stand down, my friends – everyone join hands and let's all pretend that a massive injustice isn't about to happen, or acknowledge what we stand to lose should it pass. After all, we don't want to be perceieved as being passionate about our stance, especially when we don't have the resources or the access to lawmakers the way that those supporting the bill do. 

    When people stand up, organize, and collectively speak with their dollars, speak with their voices, and speak with where they choose to take their business, suddenly it's called a “witch hunt.” Quite the contrary I think it should be called “organized protest.” No one is out to burn these people to the ground – they're simply opting to shop where the business aligns with their interests, rather than–as noted above–hypocritically support organizations, public or private, that actively work against them. 

    If that's a “witch hunt,” then count me in.

  • mcgarty

    Grab your eggnog and watch the SOPA link-bait fur fly.

  • http://twitter.com/xander76 Sasha Aickin

    Glenn, you know I'm usually right there beside you, especially on intellectual property issues, but the logic in this post is beyond muddled to me. As you well know, freedom of speech is about letting people express their beliefs free from government intervention; it's not about individuals supporting all people no matter what those people may say. 

    Morrison and Foerster absolutely has a right to speak out in favor of SOPA (as they have), but I absolutely have a right to stop doing business with them because of it. MoFo knew that they might offend some of their clients when they took that stance, and they accept the consequences of taking their position, which might include losing business. It's not bullying or intimidation or threatening; it's how arguments happen among adults in a free, democratic society.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      This is very wise Sasha. I'll think about it and post more tomorrow.

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      That's fine, you have a right to do business as you see fit. But you don't have a right to prevent others from doing business with whomever they wish to do business with. That's not just wrong, it's unlawful.

      • Sasha Aickin

        I'm confused. Who is preventing others from doing business with whomever they wish to do business with?

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          When Graham bans the people who support SOPA from coming to pitch day, he's preventing “his” startups from pitching to them and thereby hurting their chances of attracting investors. If Graham were doing creative work of his own – and not just taking a piece of other people's creative work – that would be his choice to make, but as it is he's directly interfering in the success of the firms he's supposed to be helping. He knows this, and has invented a rationalization for it: He says he's “protecting them from clueless investors.”

          Chances are, Graham is the clueless one and nobody asked him to protect them from investors in any case.

          • Sasha Aickin

            That's silly; Graham isn't preventing those startups from doing business with whomever they like. First, the startups can pitch to those investors at some other meeting. Second, YC startups freely accept Graham's money knowing he gets to decide who comes to the demo days; that's a condition that's always been part of the deal, pre- and post-SOPA. If the startups don't like the deal, they have no obligation to accept his money.

          • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

            He's erecting a barrier between startups and investors, much like the barrier that SOPA/PIPA erects between consumers and bogus web sites. In both cases, the barrier can be overcome.

            What's unique about Graham's roadblock is that it's based on a lack of understanding about exactly what the legislation actually does.

  • Jim Buzbee

    “it’s already broken: not for the folks profiting today from the Internet, but for all the folks who create the beautiful books, articles, movies and music that the Internet is so often used to steal.” 
    Citation please. Movie studios are making record profits, the music industry is thriving (just not the labels) and look at the Kindles flying off the shelves this season. All those Kindles will be used to purchase books.

    • willaLavie

      You seem to be ignoring the fact that independent artists, authors, filmmakers, and musicians are being ravaged by online theft for profit.  Under the law, these creators have legal rights, yet its OK that these be ignored?  

      If you spend time talking to individuals from these walks of life, you will find many stories of how piracy has impacted their livelihoods.  No matter the new and emerging business models, the fact is that when someone can steal your content and offer it free (monetizing it via ads, etc.) then it negatively impacts one's ability to earn a living.  Artists are not idiots and they ARE innovating and offering their work to consumers in a variety of efficient and low-cost ways.  Still, until something is done, they will be forced to essentially compete with free versions of themselves.  The cyberlocker business model thrives not because creators upload their content, but because others steal content and upload it. 

      Free is not a sustainable price point for content creators no matter how you slice it.  

      I also find it ironic that the very same companies that promote the “free speech” and “censorship” memes are the same ones first in line at the courthouse to defend their patent and trademark rights.  Respect the law when it works in your favor, but ignore it when it doesn't.  Is that really how we want to operate?

      • Fp

        Too many, like you, are confusing natural business evolution with the “disruptive effects of the web”. One hundred years ago, artists that used to earn a living playing gigs and selling their music were also failing. The majority was, the majority still is, the majority will fail in the future. Guess what, for every example that you will cite of an artist that is “failing because of the web” I will show you a “Justin Bieber” that succeeds because of the web. The fact that more artists that YOU know are failing means little to this argumentation or that maybe you know the losers as opposed to the winners. Go see how the dance music industry is faring, if you want a glaring example of the positive effect of the web on the livelihood of artists. In 15 years, the economic expansion of this industry is around 10 000%(!), mostly built on “piracy”(I prefer calling it free, possibly viral, distribution of opportunity-building content) and actual talent. 
        The losers lose because they are bad, bad at business, bad at adapting, or they have actually no valuable talent. Bad. Pointing to the internet as the scapegoat for getting less money is the easy way out and I personally find that ironic to the extreme. How can the platform that allows you to reach everyone on earth makes you lose money? Why can't you get money from a performance if everybody on earth can know you? The answer to both question: you are bad. Nobody who is GOOD is actually affected negatively by the web. (Want to call Lady Gaga to ask why? I know, you don't have too, it's self-evident.)

        The truth is also that the old industry that you seem to cherish used to sell us albums made of 80% bad material and make us pay for the one song 10 times more. The web made the talent base much larger, the opportunities bigger, but made it harder for any artist to sale bad talent or performances. The web made it harder to con consumers into buying anything bad.

        Yes I'm artist, yes I now have to be a marketer as well, without the web I wouldn't make one cent, ever, it would never have happened.

      • http://twitter.com/vaporbook Aaron Miller

        The dispute is over the proposed solution, not over whether something should be done about illegal copying. This solution will damage the ability of independent distributors and curators to show, present, archive, sell, or otherwise make available copies of the work of legitimate artists because of its draconian, heavy-handed legal armaments. It's the equivalent of bulldozing or rolling over it with a tank, destroying all the grass roots in order to crush a few weeds. Talk to some independent distributors — people who run social networks or websites that allow folks to talk about their favorite albums or share bits of music. See how they feel about it. Those venues will disappear under SOPA. The only outlets for expression left will be the ones ruled by big media outlets. And the musical landscape will be full of Justin Biebers, not independent artists.

      • Jim Buzbee

        “…independent artists, authors, filmmakers, and musicians are being ravaged by online theft for profit”

        Citation please? I can provide many, many counter-arguments,

        e.g.

        https://plus.google.com/u/0/10

        And see my previous post that points to a study by the highly-respected American Bar Association that says “Revenues are on the rise for musical artists”. Warner Brother's reports record profits, etc. Not a good argument for being “ravaged”.

        “Under the law, these creators have legal rights, yet its OK that these be ignored?”

        Nope. We already have Copyright and Trademark laws. I know that these laws are ignored in places, but I'll argue that it's not a big problem (see my previous post detailing record-levels of profit). And I'm not advocating piracy or arguing that “Free” should be the totality of an artist's business model. But the world is changing and using a ham-fisted law is hardly the way to deal with it.

        As has always been the case in history, technology is advancing (see the printing press, radio, TV, VCR, DVD, etc.), and artists and industry will have to change with it and not try to force the world to stand-still.

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      Time Warner's operating income was down 1 percent in 2010, News Corp was down 8 percent, Viacom was down 57%. Disney and Sony were up, thanks to blockbuster releases. The overall trend is down.

      • Jim Buzbee

        Down 1% in a recession isn't too bad and you'll always have some companies up and some down in any one year. But how about the industry as a whole over a longer time-frame? The UK Film Council itself reports very, very rosy numbers such as 500% return on investment, growth of 50% over the last ten years, number of films released up 30% over ten years, etc. Hardly an argument for legislative relief:

        http://www.techdirt.com/articl

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          What does the UK Film Council have to do with SOPA? This is another one of Masnick's red herrings.

          Read a responsible source, like Hollywood Reporter:

          http://www.hollywoodreporter.c

          “Matthew Lieberman, a director in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ entertainment, media and communications practice, says 2010 “really was a mixed bag for studios,” with fewer franchise releases and flat theatrical attendance. The profit data doesn’t come as a surprise to Wall Street experts, who say that studio units tend to be among the least profitable businesses at media conglomerates and typically contribute less to overall profitability and valuation than cable-TV-networks divisions, which often contribute two-thirds of total profits.

          “The data also prove that U.S. box-office market-share rankings don’t say much about profitability. Case in point: Viacom’s Paramount came in second among owners of the big studios in market share but last in profit.”

          • Jim Buzbee

            I would counter that the health of the movie industry in the UK mirrors the health of the movie industry as a whole. As an example, Viacom must not be doing too bad as their CEO got a $50 million raise last year:

            http://money.cnn.com/galleries

            And if you measure the health of the industry in jobs, movie production employment went from 44,000 in 2002 to 77,000 in 2010. Where else can you see that much growth in an industry decimated by “pirates” ?

            http://www.techdirt.com/articl

          • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

            Masnick isn't a credible source, and I won't contribute link bait to his dubious enterprise. Consider it a boycott.

          • Jim Buzbee

            When you resort to criticizing the messenger instead of refuting the message, you've lost the argument.

            Sorry.

      • http://lifeisathrill.com mrshl

        If piracy is the retreating tide lowering all boats, how are companies that produce blockbusters not also suffering losses? Are the pirates only targeting content nobody likes? How is a blockbuster even possible, if no one's paying for anything?

        I am confused about what's being protected here.

  • http://eyejot.com/users/davidg davidgeller

    Well said. I'm in agreement with you. Hate the legislation. Also hate the organized and highly polarizing and sometimes invective commentary.

  • http://www.clickbrain.com ClickBrain

    To somehow equate boycotts and firings of service providers with suppression of free speech is beyond illogical and silly, it's actually dangerous. These are the ideal tools for those working for a point of view to use in a capitalist society. How ridiculous to think that we can't use the power of the almighty dollar to negatively impact those we think are endangering our freedoms and the very fabric of our incomes. Really? They are permitted to use their billions of dollars in revenue to suppress our ability to earn a living, but it's somehow unfair of us to use our financial power to penalize them for harming us? You are way off the ranch.

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  • Ss Savage

    Uninformed … stealing? … that is so wrong as to be ridiculous .. can you not read !! Inform yourself before posting this nonsense.

  • http://dlwillson.wordpress.com/ im2b_dl

    There was a middle ground.  Everyone plays this like the entire congress was paid into ignoring the bad parts.  That is just stupid on it's face.  What congress needed to see was a way to address a better model for the studios and content creators problems… Let us not forget entertainment is arguable the second largest industry and therefore salary provider in the world..It is the US's second largest export. (Ideas and architectures in front of congress … …say like cubic narrative that is multi-platform and harder to pirate, or hypervideo which enables retail integration..that would change the content production and distribution model to a “push” rather than a “limit” distribution model…both of these ..which are coming..will make the piracy/censorship debate mute/minimal)…  But instead we act like a bunch of protective lunatics like the extremists in congress.   Everyone
    on both extremes now looks like an ass to the general public and to
    congress. Black lists never play well with congress..go look at history.
    oy. Everyone screaming how bad the other side is. 2 results … The bad
    SOPA/PIPA goes thru and there won't be anyone looking at the opposition
    as reasonable to listen to go back and fix it. or SOPA/PIPA gets
    defeated and the studios will not listen to reason when they attempt to
    shut ALL content down being used for free through the judicial branch.
    Who the heck is running this show anyway. ugh

    • http://www.clickbrain.com ClickBrain

      Hogwash… Here's how this works… They put up an extremist bill. We get ourselves justifiably angry and worked up and they back off and then shazam, they hand Congress a “great compromise bill”, which is exactly what they wanted in the first place. Congress says “see, they are reasonable” and we get a slightly less dangerous law that stifles freedom and capitalism on behalf of “all the jobs we will lose” if we don't protect the studios…. etc. etc. Watch….

      • http://dlwillson.wordpress.com/ im2b_dl

        Clickbrain ..all I can say is…your wrong.  As browsers like Firefox and Chrome etc…  implement hypervideo in their HTML5 video design to implement some form of new hypervideo interactivity (finally) over the last year, and content is slowly catching up to build things that are cubic and “drillable” from the screen (convergent transmedia)… the business model changes.  Reasonable people can see they don't have to protect anyone within the next year really… but no one talks about that, has talked about it.. or even attempted to have that reasonable explanation that gets rid of 90% of  the urgency in  this stupid fight.

        It is ALL about the money.  The money is all in the business model.  If content becomes the platform to carry “more” ..and it becomes more difficult to follow /interface with the experience because of it's “cubic” architecture inherent in the new communication form… Piracy becomes more difficult and you have a model where they want to push it and share rather than rely solely on the sale of the object. 

        If they pass the bill …all bills could be fixed if everyone acknowledged what the other side was giving them.  I am hoping they do not pass this piece of trash…but I can see why now it may. It's been handled pitifully on both sides… If they do not pass the bill and this is the line people wanted to draw in the sand… I'll tell you, call it a game but extremes won't be the ones who protect the internet.. or get us a better internet.

        • http://www.clickbrain.com ClickBrain

          I'm not sure how you explained what I am wrong about in my reply. I am speaking from the point of view of the political process and politicians that are bought and paid for just looking for a way to seem reasonable. This is how the process works whether you think it makes sense or not. Legislation is written by lobbyists, not staff or representatives and I can guarantee you that I am absolutely right and that “compromise bill” has been the goal all along. Sure, they will gladly take the most extreme version, but they knew what the response would be. This is how politics work. Period. Whatever you think they are protecting is irrelevant to my points of view in this discussion. Just like anyone else, I am likely to look out for my own self-interest first and my points of view here are about the politics and the right to fight using capitalist tactics.

          • http://dlwillson.wordpress.com/ im2b_dl

            ClickBrain there is lobbying coming from both sides.  I know a fair share of congress and the Senate.  I know them as people.  They actually aren't all zombies as you think.  They have many issues put in front of them… right now this is in front of some of them… some will vote blindly on the issue..but most of them would like to see how to fix the problem.  Yes their staff informs them of details… but they themselves want to look like they found an answer.  ..& there is a problem.  (Only the most extreme out there argue that piracy is not a problem).  They are put between a rock and a hard place.  Unfortunately no one is showing them a way out.  But they aren't drones as is this popular fallacy … they can be informed, and make up their minds from that information…but often protectionism gets in the way.  & yes then they go back to their staff and the lobby.  They're not dumb.. pre-disposed sure… but not dumb.

            Yes the studios over reached. Duh.  Of course… but what comes back… people who want congress to ignore the problem rather than fix them problem the way they don't want it to be.  Polarity out of reactionary protectionism… no address/answer to the issue and / or they just say all of it will completely destroy the internet on it's face.  So very little work gets done on resolutions because no one is giving reasons/answers to resolve …the problem… that won't avoid the problems of SOPA/PIPA. It becomes simplified into Sofie's choice and they need to see it is not.

          • SubstrateUndertow

            im2b_dl  - wrote:”They actually aren't all zombies as you think”

            I don't hear ClickBrain calling them zombies. I hear him calling them financial realists.

            They understand the costs involved in getting elected and around this particular issue they have caved to that endemic corruption in the extreme.

          • http://www.clickbrain.com ClickBrain

            Perfectly summed up.

      • Mark

        My hackles always go up whenever someone claims that the other side is “extremist” while they are “justifiably angry”. From my experience, most ideologies have people who are justifiably angry, and people who are extremist. Painting an entire group with a broad brush can often be unhelpful to discussion. 

        That said, let's try to view this from the point of view of the other side (pro-SOPA content producers). The current state of affairs allows people to steal the content that they work hard to make and distribute it without rewarding the producers. For instance, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol cost $145 million dollars to make, yet I can download it for free. This is unfair* and the government can do little to stop this from happening.

        So, pro-SOPA folks might feel that the current state of affairs is already unacceptable. Anti-SOPA folks don't need to put up extremist bills, because extremist views are already in place. How much easier could it be for pirates? Movie studios pay them to steal?

        Pro-SOPA people want an extremist world where pirates are ruthlessly punished. Anti-SOPA people want an extremist world where pirates are free to pirate (which is pretty much what we already live in). Compromise is all about not getting everything you want. Perhaps SOPA isn't perfect, and perhaps it needs to have some things changed, but it sounds a lot like you're saying that the anti-SOPA folks should get everything that they want and nothing less. And that's going to leave the pro-SOPA folks “justifiably angry”.

        *You might be tempted to counter by noting that the movie made tons of cash for its creator, piracy notwithstanding. But this does not make an individual act of piracy any less immoral; just because the victim of a crime is wealthy does not give license to the perpetrator to steal from him.

  • HadToComment

    I usually do not comment on blogs, but this is just ridiculous. Witch hunt? since when a group of consumers organizing to boycott or ban a product or a company is a “witch hunt” or is a violation of free speech? It's also so naive to think that the “law is being openly discussed” most lobbying is done behind closed door and most of us have no clue what dealing is really done behind those doors. How is that different from consumers deciding not to buy from Walmart because of their abuse of employees, or from Nike back in the years when they were abusing child labor? or are these ok but when it comes to banning companies supporting a non democratic law that will have ramifications that we do not really understand yet, is that forbidden?

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      I mostly agree with you, but this isn't a consumer boycott, it's a boycott by large businesses who control much of the Internet, and who have a financial interest in the outcome of the legislation.

  • http://www.bhagwad.com/blog/ Bhagwad Jal Park

    You misunderstand what censorship is. Action by private individuals to fight for their platform is not a violation of free speech. Censorship/Free speech issues only arise when talking about laws limiting free speech and laws requiring censorship.

    A private individual has every right to support those who hold his/her views as long as it's done openly.

  • Nelica

    Using this page as an example of “How to write like a wanker.” 

    “Make Shit Up.
    Are your arguments getting shot down because you can't back them up? No problem: just pull some statistics out of your ass and go nuts. “Well, the crime rate goes down by 33 to 37 percent in states with gun control, so clearly pro-gun control people support mugging little old ladies.” If anyone ever asks you where you get your figures, make vague references to articles, journals, or even television programs. “I read an article in the paper a few months ago that showed the earth was only six thousand years old because carbon-dating is bogus.” When challenged, make vague references to shadowy conspiracies hiding the truth.Another good way to make yourself look like a total wanker is to twist other people's positions beyond credibility. If you're arguing with a member of the NRA, for instance, assume that they support private ownership of main battle tanks and rebut appropriately.”

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  • billmoore

    Wow.  Last time I ever use Redfin.  What an idiot stance to take.

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  • Kris Avery

    This post, and what it reveals of Redfin's thinking is so utterly backwards. I have immediately ceased the use of Redfin. I called two of my friends, one in DC, and one in Boston, who I had previously turned on to Redfin to let them know of the reason why I would no longer use Redfin. They've agreed with me, and will be cancelling their use of Redfin for the sale of their house and their condo, respectively.

    I've also asked them to speak to the three others whom they've told about Redfin.

    • http://twitter.com/xander76 Sasha Aickin

      Kris,

      I respect your right to choose not to use Redfin (in fact, I defended that very right upthread!), but you might want to hold off just a bit before throwing us out completely. Check out Glenn's retraction: http://blog.redfin.com/blog/20

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  • phxees

    It's awesome that you're allowing comments, but taking a stance on this issue in the way some have is about putting your money where your mouth is.  A stance only has teeth, if you're willing to do something a least a little radical to defend it.

    That is all this is about, Redfin has one position and tatic and the anti-SOPA collective has another.

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  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Thank you for having the balls to stand up for free speech and democratic engagement, Glenn. It's obvious to me that the more hysterical critics of SOPA either haven't read the bill or don't understand now to read a bill.

    There's nothing in it that would affect sites like Redfin, and certainly nothing that would affect any legitimate, U. S. based Internet service with the exception of the service providers that would have to do some mild filtering. If you're not operating a store that sells Hollywood movies without a license or pushing bogus drugs, for the most part you're not affected.

    This is the stage in the legislative process when the bill should be getting trimmed down and tightened up. SOPA started off much larger than PIPA, and it's already been trimmed down a lot. But this over-the-top meltdown by the boutique VCs, landlords, tech wannabes and others looking to earn some good guy points at the expense of Congress is only going to make the sponsors dig in and refuse to compromise. Who wants to negotiate with an angry mob?

    Nobody in Congress, that's for sure.

    PS: I love Redfin.

    • http://twitter.com/kevinmarks Kevin Marks

      Have you read the bill Richard? Section 104 explicitly gives us immunity from “voluntarily blocking access to or ending financial affiliation with an Internet site, in the reasonable belief that–

      (1) the Internet site is a foreign infringing site or is an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property”
      If GoDaddy is happy to hand over our paid-for domains on someone else's say-so, then 'theft of US property' applies.

      • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

        Section 104 gives immunity to service providers who take actions pursuant to *court orders issued under section 102(c)(2) and 103(c)(3)*. These two secs are limited to “foreign infringing sites.”

        The sec 104 reference you cite is left over from the previous draft that applied to both foreign and domestic sites, but the language that makes the domestic site portion operative has been deleted from the bill. This section should be cleaned up for stylistic reasons, but in the totality of the bill it doesn't do what you think it does. There is no domain filtering without a court order, it's not “somebody's say-so.”

        GoDaddy and any other US registrar is required to cooperate with ICE wrt domain seizures under ,com per existing law; that's why ICE is able to run “Operation In Our Sites” today. SOPA doesn't apply to .com, it applies to foreign TLDs such as .ru and .ch.

        You're obviously confused, Kevin, about that current law (Pro-IP) allows and the new powers and obligations that come down under SOPA.

    • willaLavie

      Thanks for your comment.  It takes work to build consensus.  Our political system is so polarized that it's hard to hear reasonable voices through the partisan din.  Certainly legislation to address online piracy should be revised and crafted so that various interests are protected.  Isn't that what the political process is supposed to be about?  

      The problem with SOPA is that reasonable voices (from both sides) cannot be heard through the flood of inflammatory rhetoric that abounds.  Most people haven't read the bill, only Tweets that include red herring terms like “break the interent” or “censor the web.”  

      People need to pause, read the bill, and discuss what's wrong and what's RIGHT.  We can make steps to solve the problem, but not if we don't talk about what is really going on, what's at stake, and exchange ideas about how best to tackle it.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jarober James Robertson

    Private shunning is not censorship.  The bill is censorship.  Backers of the bill deserve as much shunning as possible.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NRVGCJXLRIKSCBS5RRPHOK3SJA Daniel

    Time to boycott Redfin – for the sole reason that its CEO is ignorant. Sorry about the name calling, but there is no better way to put it. Freedom of speech is not about sitting down while others try to push things like SOPA or Nazism down your throat. While I will support the RIGHT for people to defend SOPA, I don't need to do business with them. Empowering people who support SOPA is the same as empowering SOPA itself. And empowering Redfin is empowering a CEO who is clueless about technology and freedom of speech. Thus, bye bye Redfin.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NRVGCJXLRIKSCBS5RRPHOK3SJA Daniel

      Hmm, apparently Glenn recanted the comments above – and based on his words, it was just temporary insanity :). Well, one must respect those who change their opinions after they think more about them. “If I changed my mind, it's a sign that I'm thinking”, someone said. Alright, not boycotting Redfin any longer ;-)

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  • Tohe

    Paul Graham, Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson are my new heroes.

  • http://www.twitter.com/biggiesu Mike Su

    Glenn – I think your sentiment of engaging productively rather than combatively is directionally sound. However, I don't see anything wrong with the boycotts. If my lawyer refused a client based on race, I would boycott them. The boycott is a fundamental way in our democracy to get a point across, especially if the other side is not actively open to discussion. Calling a boycott a witch hunt seems just as inflammatory as the boycott itself.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      You're right Mike, and I am wrong. Excellent point.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kehnin Kehnin Dyer

    So… were the blacks who boycotted buses during the civil rights movement unreasonable? as a personal call, or organized, not doing business with a company that dis against something you are for or vice-versa is in my mind completly reasonable…. but then i am biased.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      No, you are right Kehnin, that is why I published a retraction…

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  • Oliver Maxwell

    This is so out of context.

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  • Marlokeno

    The Supreme Court has ruled (Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission) that money is free speech. Therefore, to give money, or business to some, and not to give to others is free speech, too.

  • MaxZero

    Supporting free speech seems to me different than contributing to the bottom line of people and organizations that you disagree with.  Denying financial support is a time-honored method of protest and is nonviolent. I can't see this form of opposition as “bullying”.  We all have a choice (though not as much as we would like to believe) about whom we choose to do business with.

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  • Vinay Pai

    Your argument is absurd.  Nobody is denying GoDaddy or any of those other people's rights to free speech.  That doesn't mean anyone should continue to do do business with companies that take views you strongly oppose.

  • Tox

    Calling yourself the “E-Trade of Real Estate” is a violation of E*Trade's intellectual property.  If SOPA were law today, Redfin could be taken offline with a phone call to a magistrate.

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      Nope, SOPA doesn't apply to US-based sites like Redfin.

      • http://twitter.com/vaporbook Aaron Miller

        Actually, its language does not exclude US sites, if they meet certain vague criteria.

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          Prove it.

      • Jim Buzbee

        Supporters commonly claim that SOPA won't have any effect on US sites. Not true. The legal burden alone will put many small US sites out of business:

        http://www.techdirt.com/articl

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          US-based service providers are required to take certain actions per enforcement, but they are the means of enforcement rather than the targets. Redfin is not one of the US-based companies that would be involved in any way.

          • Jim Buzbee

            “US-based service providers are required to take certain actions”

            Yep. That's the problem. In the article referenced, Reddit's (US site) General manager makes the case that this requirement alone will be enough to eventually put him out of business. How many little startups have the legal teams to deal with those newly required enforcement actions? How many new US-based two-man startsups will never get off the ground when they realize the legal and reporting burdens that this new law will impose?

          • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

            User-generated content sites like Reddit have no new obligations under SOPA; DMCA, touted by opponents of SOPA as a near-perfect law, is where all of Reddit's hardship comes from.

            UGC sites have the burden of removing infringing content per takedown requests, but that comes with the territory.

          • Jim Buzbee

            I don't pretend to know Reddit's business model and full responsibilities, but if their General Manager publicly says SOPA will put him out of business, I'll take his word for it.

          • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

            Why take his word for it when he clearly doesn't understand what the bill does?

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      If it's a violation, it doesn't have anything to do with SOPA. E-Trade could complain regardless of whether the bill passes.

  • http://twitter.com/pceasy PC Easy

    Ok we'll count you out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632699763 Felipe Surnamewitheld

    Bullying? I'd ascertain that the behavior of the RIAA and MPAA in this matter is bullying.  Taking your money elsewhere when a company supports policies you disagree with is part of the beauty of capitalism.

    I'm not paying for lobbyists to help force laws that the people don't want upon them. I'm encouraging my peers to make known that fact that we'll not stand for this kind of behavior by taking our business elsewhere.

    • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

      Paul Graham is clearly bullying his startups to support his inadequate reading of SOPA. That's un-American and unsound.

      • Nick

        I don't think you've understood this correctly.
        Graham is taking action at startup events that he is organizing. He has chosen not to do business with Pro-SOPA companies. The startups are free to do business with Pro-SOPA companies at other events as they see fit. 

        • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

          Yes, I'm aware of what he's doing. My point is that the startups are affected by his action, not just the investors. So this is not a “boycott” in the proper meaning of the term, it's a measure that prevents the startups and investors from speaking with each other at these events.

          I don't approve of this as a political action tactic, regardless of the cause. Those startups have worked hard to develop their products and services, and they shouldn't be cannon fodder.

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  • Athox


    working on a bill in an open, democratic process is a valid expression of speech.”

    Yes, except this bill isn't being worked on in an open, democratic process. It's being paid through congress by the copyright industry. Lamar Smith, the main sponsor, receives “donations” (known as bribes in the rest of the world) up to $50 000 per year from these companies.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      I think both sides spend money lobbying Congress. Democracy is flawed, but that's the way it always works, and there isn't a better system.

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