Predictions of Internet’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

by Paul Hortenstine 11/02/2011 08:29 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Currently, many opponents of rogue websites legislation are predicting that it will censor free speech or stifle innovation.  They’re even predicting that it will  “break the internet.” But this is nothing new. Since the early 1990’s opponents of content protection legislation have, time and time again, foreseen a doomsday.  

In this post on the site Copyhype, Terry Hart provides the long history of hyperbole about copyright laws.  And the critics began almost two decades ago and have not relented since then. 

Take for example the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.  Opponents of the legislation said that “free expression could be crippled.”  Now, many of those same critics agree that the DMCA is the “law that saved the web.”

Venture capital groups have also predicted dire economic consequences of content protection.  For example:

"The Supreme Court issued its decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster in 2005, holding that 'one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright' may be liable for the resulting infringing acts by its users. In its amicus brief to the Grokster court, the National Venture Capital Association warned that a rule holding Grokster liable would 'have a chilling effect on innovation.' "

However, since Grokster:

"[V]enture capital in the media and entertainment sectors grew faster than the rest of the VC market in four out of the six years. By comparison, in the five years before the Grokster decision, growth was lower in four of them. From 2000 to 2004, media and entertainment venture capital accounted for about 4.6 percent of total VC dollars invested. From 2006 through 2010, media and entertainment VC dollars grew to 7.1 percent of total VC dollars."

So, as opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate continue to predict the end of the internet, keep in mind their track record and the amazing innovation that has happened over the past 20 years thanks to content protection laws.


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