This week Google-backed attorney (and fellow at the New America Foundation) Marvin Ammori wrote a piece for Slate, “Hollywood’s Copyright Lobbyists Are Like Exes Who Won’t Give Up” bashing efforts by the rights holders and their representatives to build voluntary consensus to fight online piracy. Ammori argues that such efforts are actually a veiled effort to reintroduce SOPA, the anti-piracy legislation that went down in flames two years ago.
Apparently Mr. Ammori believes (or those paying him do) that we shouldn’t address this issue at all. Legislation is bad and voluntary agreements are bad too. It seems that even talking about the subject is bad.
In his Slate piece Ammori condemned “copyright lobbyists” for discussing such agreements “in hearings and little information-gathering events—the equivalent of an ex just trying to catch up over drinks.” His lame “ex” analogy aside, I must say it’s beyond ironic to see a known confederate of the #1 lobbyist in DC actually condemn lobbying. Just pull back the curtain and you’ll see that Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt is actually the Chairman of the Board for the New America Foundation. The foundation also lists Google as one of its funders.
According to the website Open Secrets, Google spent 15 million dollars lobbying in 2013. 14.6 million of that was for lobbying on issues related to “computers and the internet.” It’s likely that some of those expenditures included sending representatives to “hearings and little information-gathering events” in DC don’t cha think?
Initially Slate failed to disclose Mr. Ammori’s ties to Google, but was forced to “update” the piece with this disclaimer:
Update, March 11, 2014: Disclosure: The author represented Google and other companies fighting SOPA/PIPA in 2011 and 2012. He currently represents Google and other companies on several issues, including copyright reform. These views are his own.
The fact that Mr. Ammori neglected to initially mention his many ties to Google undermines the very gist of his arguments. Sons of Anarchy writer Kurt Sutter wrote a great rebuttal in Slate to Ammori’s piece which begins:
Let’s consider the March 11 anti-copyright rant in Slate by Marvin Ammori, a lawyer working for Google (which somehow he forgot to mention in the article). He compares Hollywood to that insidious “ex who won’t give up” pursuing you and making your life miserable. As a guy with more than a few exes, I have to tell you, Marv, the most insidious ex is the one who hides the truth, steals your money, and lies to all your friends. That’s what Ammori and Google are doing.
I recommend reading Sutter’s entire piece in which he lays bare the true motivations behind Ammori’s post (and Google’s lobbying efforts).
…when Hollywood tries to impede that thievery, it’s presented to the masses as a desperate attempt to hold on to antiquated copyright laws that will kill your digital buzz. It’s so absurd that Google is still presenting itself as the lovable geek who’s the friend of the young everyman. Don’t kid yourself, kids: Google is the establishment. It is a multibillion-dollar information portal that makes dough off of every click on its page and every data byte it streams. Do you really think Google gives a shit about free speech or your inalienable right to access unfettered content? Nope.
Another excellent response, “Slate’s Anti Copyright rant sounds like a letter from your psycho ex” was published on Adland.tv by a user named Kidsleepy.
To blame Hollywood copyright lobbyists for trying to influence law when google does the exact same thing is either ignorant or hypocritical. And to ignore the fact it isn’t just “Hollywood Copyright Lobbyists” but entire countries that are reacting to what they see is Big Tech run rampant, suggests once again the narrative is being controlled in Big Tech’s favor.
Ammori whines about SOPA and he whines about new efforts to create “voluntary” agreements as a possible path forward in the ongoing battle against content theft. Apparently we are essentially damned if we do and damned if we don’t? What are content creators supposed to do? Are we supposed to sit on our hands and watch as tech behemoths like Google continue to enable (and profit from) an illicit online economy that is bleeding creators dry?
Ammori points to the fact that payment processors like PayPal have pulled their services from various websites and warns,
…copyright holders can starve websites of their funding, strip them of their domain names, and remove them from search. The sites at risk include those that enable users to store and share content—if even a fraction of those users might violate copyright. So these agreements can threaten free expression and innovation online for all of us, just to target a few infringers.
Oh please…he really doesn’t have a freakin’ clue does he? Has he ever actually researched online piracy and examined these websites and to see how they operate? Does he really that only a “fraction” of Megaupload or Filesonic’s users were violating copyright? At this point the poor guy is clearly trying to gin up the same tired, hyperbolic, deceitful anti-SOPA rhetoric the tech-industry employed to work web users into a lather. Problem is, it ain’t gonna work any more. As Sutter’s rebuttal makes clear, creators from all walks of life are fed up with piracy profiteers being propped up by companies like Google–tired of the b.s. We’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more.
We’re sick of companies like Google spending millions to defend their business model, acting like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We’re tired of Google pretending this is about “free speech” when, in fact, it’s about their bottom line. We’re tired of the hypocrisy of a company that spends millions to undermine artist’s rights while being the first in line at the courthouse when it comes to protecting its own IP. We’re tired of watching our livelihoods whittled away while others steal our work to make millions. We’re tired of folks like Mr. Ammori pretending to defend the web’s users when they’re really defending the web’s oligarchy.