Dan Gillmor, among others, bemoans the lack of effective lobbying by technology companies. Exhibit A is their weak and disorganized response to various bills, such as the Hatch INDUCE/IICA Act, that would give the movie and music industries veto power over the development of new technology. It’s true that large tech companies have been slow and clumsy in addressing these issues; but that’s not the whole story.
The other part of the story is that the interests of a few large tech companies don’t necessarily coincide with those of the technology industry as a whole, or of the users of technology. Giving the entertainment industry a veto over new technologies would have two main effects: it would slow the pace of technical innovation, and it would create barriers to entry in the tech markets. Incumbent companies may be perfectly happy to see slower innovation and higher barriers to entry, especially if the entertainment-industry veto contained some kind of grandfather clause, either implicit or explicit, that allowed incumbent products to stay in the market – as seems likely should such a veto be imposed.
Just to be clear, an entertainment-industry veto would surely hurt the tech incumbents. It’s just that it would hurt their upstart competitors more. So it’s not entirely surprising that the incumbents would have some mixed feelings about veto proposals, though it is disappointing that the incumbents aren’t standing up for the industry as a whole.
What can be done about this? I don’t see an easy answer. In Washington, it seems to be standard procedure to mistake the voices of a few incumbents for those of a whole industry. Certainly, the incumbents have no interest in contradicting that assumption. Our best hope is that the incumbents will see it in their own long-term interest to foster a fast-moving, highly competitive industry.