The late Steve Jobs’ negotiations with the recording industry are now the stuff of legend. He famously told clueless music executives who refused to offer their product digitally that they had their “heads up their asses” and needed to start selling their content in the least restrictive way to save their industry.

It took the music industry nearly a decade to even offer digital downloads, and another five years to finally understand that customers will gladly pay for their music if it is sold without copy restrictions and made available through high quality subscription streaming services. Along the way, however, the record companies sued children for millions of dollars in damages, vilified their fans and alienated the very people who helped to build and support their industry.

With broadband speeds now allowing for the rapid distribution of movies, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is taking a similar approach by threatening to turn the Internet into a corporate police state. MPAA Chairman and Former Senator Chris Dodd, whom I have tremendous respect for, is actively working to convince Congress that the only way to solve the piracy problem is to impose a layer of private regulation on the Internet that will employ the same censorship practices the Chinese government uses on its citizens.  The MPAA’s proposals will change the very fabric of how the Internet operates and threatens free speech by placing a tremendous amount of power into the hands of private corporations.

Two bills, one called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the other the “Protect IP Act” (PIPA), give copyright holders the ability to block foreign and domestic websites from public view by forcing Internet service providers to “de-list” sites with the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). The bills also give corporations the ability to go after publishers who link to the alleged infringers in any fashion, and force payment processing and advertising networks to immediately cut ties with alleged violators under threat of federal charges.

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