Sunk! How Hollywood Lost the PR Battle Over SOPA

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook

In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.


The messaging industry never had control of the message.

The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.

It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.

Also read: More Anti-Piracy Bill Co-Sponsors Bail

It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this. 

Five days ago, almost nobody knew or cared about SOPA. But with lightning speed, the leviathans of the Internet, including Google and Facebook and Wikipedia, managed to brand this battle as Bad and mobilize millions of followers.

By Wednesday morning as Wikipedia went dark, the SOPA is Censorship message was on the cover and home page of every news outlet around the country. By midday, four senators and one member of Congress had backed off the legislation.

What was Hollywood doing? By midday the MPAA sent a press release – a press release! – with background information that offered the following:

“The PROTECT IP Act: Combating Online Infringement;  Creating American Jobs, Promoting America’s Economy, Protecting American Consumers.”

Are you kidding me?

I’m not saying Chris Dodd did a great job speaking out on the subject  (he didn’t), but honestly – that’s not how you reach people today.

Also read: Hollywood's Anti-Piracy Campaign Runs Aground

Why didn’t Hollywood grab the tools of the Internet to explain that when artists get ripped off, everybody loses?

Why didn’t anyone call Will Ferrell and Adam McKay to post a hilarious, viral video that would make the point?

And where was the Creative Coalition when you needed it?

I’m not saying who is right and who is wrong in this fight. I’m just saying it’s a debate that has two sides. And it was news to me that the legislation only defines a website in violation as a website that is dedicated to infringing copyright.

Look, it’s never ideal when the government steps in to regulate speech of any kind. In fact, it’s exactly what Jack Valenti and the MPAA successfully fought decades ago, in adopting a voluntary movie ratings system and beating back attempts to have the government regulate.

But some heads have got to roll here. Hollywood showed today that it is completely clueless in leveraging the tools of the 21st Century.

The content creators who drive the business of the MPAA companies were failed by those companies today.