The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Hollywood is shocked — Shocked! — that it lost SOPA battle

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At The Wrap, Sharon Waxman lays into Hollywood for not being able to convince Congress that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was a worthy undertaking:

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.

That's pretty well put. But of course it doesn't really get to the root of the issue, which is that California's two leviathan businesses — entertainment and tech — are running away from each other way faster than they're running together. And when it comes to the race for future economic viability and the hearts and minds of consumers, only tech is running in the right direction. 

In the battle of business models, tech is winning, as I noted a little while back:

[W]hy can't Hollywood and Silicon Valley get along?

Simple: Because their business cultures are completely opposed to each other.

Hollywood may talk a good game about technology, but the fact is that tech terrifies the entertainment industry. Tech has done nothing but disrupt a business that was shaped in the 20th century but has struggled to adapt to the 21st. 

Silicon Valley startup culture rewards a lean-and-mean approach to business and actively encourages completely obscure companies to disrupt powerful, existing players. Creative destruction isn't just wound into the Valley's DNA — it's pretty much the core of the region's being. 

There's a solid startup culture in Southern California, as well. But the region continues to be defined by Hollywood. And the last thing Hollywood is interested in is innovation. Hollywood's idea of innovation is 3D. Hollywood is classic rock. Tech is punk. You get the idea.

Waxman seems to think this was more of a missed opportunity: "...some heads have got to roll here. Hollywood showed today that it is completely clueless in leveraging the tools of the 21st Century."

Well, actually, it was clueless before. It wasn't difficult to predict, given the ethos of the Web, that Internet titans would collude to take down SOPA. Their entire business hinges on people thinking that privacy and copyright aren't that big a deal! That's how the Internet made it's first trillion! 

The mistake that Hollywood made was to get mixed up with SOPA in the first place. Crying to Congress just set it up for failure, given the ability that the technologist in Silicon Valley have to overcome their disdain for PR (Remember that scene from "The Social Network" where Sean Parker talks about how uncool ads are?) by rapidly disseminating a message, as Waxman properly notes. The smart thing to do would not have been for Hollywood to argue its side and spend money lobbying legislators, but to initiate a collaboration with Silicon Valley to achieve detente in the matter.

This was a case of Hollywood bringing a bazooka to a knife fight — but then finding out that the other guys had nukes that nobody knew about. Nukes that nobody knew about because they could be built in a matter of days. Wikipedia blacked out, like the sky after the bombs have been dropped in "Terminator" or "The Matrix" or any other post-apocalyptic celluloid wasteland that Hollywood — Hollywood! — dreamed up to scare us into buying more DVDs.

The sum of all human knowledge and plot summaries of every Hollywood movie since the talkies first arrived...gone dark. Dark...dark...dark...

You don't want to go to war against that.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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