When you have them by the bucks, their hearts and minds will follow

The House is expected to introduce their version of the PROTECT IP Act in the next few weeks.  If there’s one thing that is clear about the debate on PROTECT IP it is this–on the one side, you have people who profit from piracy and those who invest in those companies.  Do not underestimate the influence of the interlocking boards, portfolio companies, underwriters, equity funds and venture investors in Silicon Valley.  In the popular cant, Silicon Valley represents some of the best in American innovation.  True.  But Silicon Valley also is filled with rich people who want to get richer.  I don’t begrudge anyone the ability to make a buck.  Honestly.

On the other side you have people who are being robbed blind by unscrupulous companies, frequently backed by members of this group of investors.  If you had asked early Googlers if they though that within 10 years the company would be paying a $500 million fine with stockholder money to keep from being indicted for promoting the sale of illegal drugs online, you would probably have been laughed out of the room.  But I also believe that if you had told employees at Drexel in 1985 that within 5 years Michael Milken would be in federal prison on a RICO charge and their company would be bankrupt that you would have been laughed out of the room, too.

The pressure that this club of investors can bring to bear on “hot” Silicon Valley start ups to grow and “get big fast” is hard to imagine if you haven’t experienced it.  It’s the kind of pressure that could convince the “adults” in the room to pay a $1 billion premium for a company what was clearly engaged in theft.  It’s the kind of pressure that can make crafting campaigns to sell illegal drugs seem like it is acceptable business behavior (as Google employees did in seven different FDA sting operations).

It’s the kind of pressure that can make splitting profits from ad sales on pirate networks seem acceptable.  Particularly if those profits come from some of the top 200 websites in the world (like Megavideo, which publishes Ads by Google) Not to mention the thousands of people who “make money at home” by selling stolen content online (see ZDNet’s excellent article on this topic “Make Money Online By Selling Pirated Content“)

It’s the kind of thing that can make people sign their names to letters that are going to sound pretty silly in a year or two–or right now if you’re on the other side of the bill, the side where your works are being stolen and everyone in the theft chain is profiting from your misery.

But when the big boys pick up the phone and remind you of all the money they have invested in your company now and in companies you want to start in the future, you know what is expected of you.  They may not even need to remind you, just the phone call sends the message.

Because when you have them by the bucks, their hearts and minds will follow.

Listen to “Can Creators Call 911?”