Today we spoke to David Karp (pictured here with Takeaway co-host John Hockenberry), founder of Tumblr, about the new internet piracy act moving through Congress that could threaten the way websites like Twitter and Tumblr function.
After his on-air appearance, Karp spoke to us at length about the legislation, called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). He said that the law’s potential passage was the first time his company had been involved in advocacy, and that after reading the legislation more closely, his impression was that it hadn’t been vetted well by informed engineers. The new law would, he worried, present a nuclear option: a scenario where companies like Viacom could completely blackout not just singular posts but an entire site like Tumblr over just one user’s activities. That could have some disturbing implications for internet freedom, Karp said, and change significantly the traditionally open environs of an internet that thus far has offered more “surgical” solutions for preventing copyright infringement.
Karp noted that some of the large corporations pushing for the legislation could benefit greatly from shutting down entire sites. For example: Viacom might benefit greatly from YouTube being shut down—even for just a day—because in some areas, the two are competitors. A more extreme example—not offered by Karp but floated by us—could be imagined, where the a social media site like Twitter’s impact on pro-democracy efforts abroad could be undermined by just the type of shutdown that SOPA paves the way for.
It was an interesting discussion, and we look forward to having Karp back on the show. He and the rest of the people at Tumblr seem to have a new interest in the issues of internet freedom, and their company is growing (heck, we’re using it right now). We look forward to seeing what Tumblr does next.