San Francisco, California --The legendary Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway called for a private effort to combat internet piracy during a protest Wednesday at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. The protest was organized by Jonathan Nelson, founder of Hackers and Founders Group against the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) currently running through the House and Senate. Conway admittedly has made a great deal of money as an early investor in some major internet successes (Facebook and Twiiter, e.g.) but has lost a lot of money, as well (anyone remember the sock-puppet "spokesdog" for Pet.com?) He is, nonetheless, passionate about the importance of innovation and the internet claiming the industry represents 2 million jobs in the US alone. The accompanying video is an unedited record of his remarks, followed by his proposal to take internet piracy out of the hands of legislators and put it into the hands of the people it needs to protect, the technologists.
The day was marked by live protests around the nation as well as online protests. Wikipedia, Reddit and Wordpress among many others took their sites off line with only a request for visitors to write their representatives to pull support for the bills. the protest seems to have had some effect as bill sponsors, like Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio removed his name from the bill. The authors of both bills, Rep Lamar Smith of Texas and Senator Patrick Leahy have dug in their heels calling the protestors and the striking companies as "misinformed" about the bills.
Conway, in his remarks calling for a private effort to address the issue did not downplay the problem, but said the legislation proposed was ill-advised.