Hollywood and the entertainment industry are “shooting themselves in the foot, or maybe worse than the foot” by pushing the current anti-piracy legislation, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
He said the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act that Hollywood has been lobbying for would have led to the U.S. using the same technology and approach it has criticized China and Iran for using.
Brin made the comments in an exclusive interview with the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.
The entertainment industry, he said, is failing to understand that users will continue to download pirated content as long as it is easier to acquire and use than legitimately obtained material.
“I haven’t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like, it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops (to buy legitimate content), the walls created are disincentives for people to buy.”
Brin’s criticism of Hollywood was part of an alarming portrait he painted of the current Internet landscape. He said that the principles of openness and universal access that fostered the creation of the Internet three decades ago are under greater threat than ever.
There are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world. I am more worried than I have been in the past … it’s scary,” Brin said.
He said the threat came from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access by their citizens, the entertainment industry attempting to crack down on piracy and the rise of Facebook and Apple, which he said tightly control software on their platforms.
He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the Internet for long but he had been proven wrong.
“I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle,” Brin said. He cited China, Saudi Arabia and Iran as the greatest threats.
He said that Facebook and Apple can stifle innovation and “Balkanize” the web with their proprietary platforms and controlled user access.
“There’s a lot to be lost,” he said. “For example all the information in apps — that data is not ‘crawlable’ by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”
Some will take Brin’s comments on its rival Facebook, which has seen huge growth and now has more than 800 million members globally, with a grain of salt. The social network has announced plans for a $100 billion IPO.
Had Facebook existed, he and Google co-founder Larry Page could not have created Google, Brin said.
“You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive. The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules that will stifle innovation.”