Changing the Copyright Debate

Rob Hof

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Grokster decision, a lot of tech folks in Silicon Valley are licking their wounds over the apparent rebuff to their ability to release technology that might allow copyright infringement. Wrong attitude, Jotspot CEO Joe Kraus told the audience at a panel at AlwaysOn's Innovation Summit at Stanford. Kraus, who previously founded to lobby Washington for less restrictive copyright laws, said the Valley needs to reframe the debate. "Stop fighting on Hollywood's turf," he said--that is, stop trying to make copyright the issue, because Hollywood has too much ammunition behind it. Instead, he said, the Valley needs to point out that unfettered technology means jobs, jobs, jobs. That, he thinks, is the only thing that will get legislators' attention.

Unfortunately, he didn't sound any more sanguine that the Valley will come through than recent stories about the slim chances of legislative efforts to rethink copyright. "We are political teenagers in the Valley," he said. "We're not a culture that understands politics. We're an engineering culture." So if someone disagrees with techies, they just assume that their opponents haven't understood their argument. "That's not how politics works," Kraus said. What works, he said, is big names, and the Valley loses there too. He noted that with one phone call, Hollywood lobbyists could get Disney's Michael Eisner to fly to Washington to press their case anytime they wanted. But can the tech industry get Steve Jobs to do the same? Not a chance.

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