You probably noticed that Wikipedia recently had their 24 hour blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA. If you're wondering what SOPA and PIPA are all about, I recommend that you read these 2 articles on techdirt: The Definitive Post On Why SOPA And Protect IP Are Bad, Bad Ideas and An Updated Analysis: Why SOPA & PIPA Are A Bad Idea, Dangerous & Unnecessary. These articles are very detailed and present a very solid argument against SOPA and PIPA, so I am not going to try to re-explain what these acts are and why they are generally a bad idea (since I agree with the stance the author is taking). What I want to do instead is explain why I personally take affront to SOPA and PIPA by talking about how it goes against everything I have ever done in my professional life.
I started my first Internet company while I was still in college. During the decade and a half since then, I have gone on to start 2 more Internet startups which have employed hundreds of people. I worked very hard on these three companies, but I have done nothing else professionally. In fact, I never even once considered interviewing or taking employment in another company. I have always felt lucky to have been born just at the precise moment that getting a computer science degree could be put to great fruition by creating business revolving around the magical Internet, which was just invented. This is what I was born to do, and it has always driven me.
I understand that my path is not a typical one. While there are a lot of people who have started companies like me, there are an even greater number of people who have not. The reason I just shared my professional history is that it directly relates to my perspective on why these acts are very scary propositions. I see SOPA and PIPA as an attack on the essence of what I do.
The part that gets to me the most about these acts is not what it could do to existing companies; including Finch (Yet I do not think these acts would directly affect Finch). I get most upset thinking about the business ideas that do not exist yet. Yes, I have only started three companies in about 15 years. The thing you have to realize though is that before each of them started, there were countless ideas explored by the co-founders and myself. There certainly were many, many more ideas explored than just three! I believe this is typical and that any Internet business founder will tell you: Lots of ideas are explored and tried before deciding on the one that is run with.
This period, the genesis of the startup, is a very fragile, creative time that is full of unknowns and wild imagination. Speaking as one who has been there before, this is a very difficult process as you are trying to pre-determine many things that are impossible to know yet: Do you have a viable idea; is the problem you are trying to solve the right one; are you on the right track with the solution to solve it; does the market exist or can it be created; can you monetize the idea into concrete and timely revenues; can you find the right people to help scale the company – the list goes on and on.
Right now the Internet is a wide-open medium providing almost infinite possibilities. My biggest problem with the SOPA and PIPA acts is that they suddenly limit the realm of possibilities. Starting a company is hard enough as it is. Imagine if every new idea you come up with now has to be considered against the implications of SOPA and PIPA. The way the government is proposing to deal with the Internet through these acts puts a huge damper on any new idea. You now have to be paranoid that the government or some corporation will squash you and your idea. This could happen in the beginning, or even scarier is that it happens later when you grow into something hugely successful, like YouTube.
I understand why the media companies support SOPA and PIPA. But just as LPs gave way to 8-tracks, which gave way to cassettes, which gave way to CDs, which gave way to MP3 – music has now evolved to the Internet. Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, and others like it are now the leaders. They make your life better through innovation on the Internet, whereas the old school media companies still want you to get in your car, drive to the mall, and buy a CD. I am a capitalist at heart and believe in the right to grow your business; however this should be done by providing the better product, not via strong arm tactics such as the SOPA and PIPA acts, which do nothing but protect entrenched businesses and their inferior products.
If you want to read more about the SOPA and PIPA acts and sign a petition against them, you can find more information on Google.