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5 Questions With: Ben Huh On Net Neutrality

BOSTON, April 11, 2011 – During the Free Press National Conference on Media Reform in Boston over the weekend, Managing Editor, Jonathan Charnitski sat down with Cheezburger Network owner and CEO, Ben Huh, to find out how the debate over net neutrality shapes one of the largest – and funniest – user-generated content networks on the Internet.

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BOSTON, April 11, 2011 – During the Free Press National Conference for Media Reform in Boston over the weekend, Managing Editor, Jonathan Charnitski, sat down with Cheezburger Network owner and CEO, Ben Huh, to find out how the debate over net neutrality shapes one of the largest – and funniest – user-generated content networks on the Internet.

JC:  As the owner of a user-contributed content network, what is the importance to your business model of maintaining an open Internet?

BH: For us, we’re one of the small guys.  We’re relatively large in terms of what we do – there are companies that are a lot bigger than us.  I would hate to see the internet prioritized for the status quo instead of for innovation and for new ideas.

JC:  Since you bought icanhascheezburger.com in 2007, have you seen the landscape change with respect to net neutrality?

BH: In terms of access and broadband, it hasn’t changed that much for us, but it’s one of those big fears we have down the road as more people access our site through mobile devices.  It’s difficult to know how those companies are going to allow or restrict access.

JC: Have you received any complaints about ISPs blocking your sites?

BH: We’ve had some corporate networks block us – you know because they don’t want people looking at us during work – but we haven’t had any significant complaints that I know of.

JC: Does government intervention provide more or less security for you as a content producer?

BH: I wish it were a lot stronger.  The mobile part of this is a big loophole in the system.  You have the emergence of non-cable, non-DSL, non-fiber mobile – and mobile is going to become a big part of the landscape going forward. As you’re sitting there using Wi-Fi, the company running that actually has the capability to restrict point of access.  It’s ironic that they’re leaving this big loophole for mobile, because the airwaves are communal property. We’re letting them own a public right of way.

JC: What are your thoughts on the FCC’s Open Internet Order? Did it go too far?  Not far enough?

BH: I think the part that worries me the most is that there’s no clear public guardian when it comes to broadband.  That worries more more than the Order because companies can erode this right.  The FCC has tried to exert their right, but some in congress don’t think that’s correct.  We need to clearly establish who is in charge of protecting the consumers when it comes to all of the internet – not just cable and landline, but also wireless.

Ben Huh is the owner and CEO of the Cheezburger Network, which owns more than 50 user-generated content websites, such as failblog.org and icanhascheezburger.com and boasts more than 16 million unique visitors.

Jonathan began his career as a journalist before turning his focus to law and policy. He is an attorney licensed in Texas and the District of Columbia and has worked previously as a political reporter, in political campaign communications and on Capitol Hill. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Villanova Law School, where he focused his studies on Internet and intellectual property law and policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he roots for Seattle sports teams and plays guitar in his free time.

5 Questions With

5 Questions With: Gerard Pannekoek On Trading Patents

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 — Gerard Pannekoek is President and CEO of the Intellectual Property Exchange International (IPXI), a company set to launch the first financial exchange focused on intellectual property rights. The Chicago-based company was created in 2008 and is currently looking to launch its initial public offering (IPO) between the summer and early 2011. In late 2010, IPXI recruited Pannekoek, who was then retired, based on his prior experience as president and chief operating officer of another start-up, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) which traded emission credits.

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WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 — Gerard Pannekoek is President and CEO of the Intellectual Property Exchange International (IPXI), a company set to launch the first financial exchange focused on intellectual property rights. The Chicago-based company was created in 2008 and is currently looking to launch its initial public offering (IPO) between the summer and early 2011. In late 2010, IPXI recruited Pannekoek, who was then retired, based on his prior experience as president and chief operating officer of another start-up, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) which traded emission credits.

Contributor Christina Lee checks in with the CEO on the company’s progress toward an IPO.

CL: What criticism and feedback has the company received from possible participants?

Over last year, I think there’s been a tremendous shift in acceptance of our model by the corporate and industry world, due to a number of facts. Probably the most important is the industry feedback that we have received through our outreach to large corporate IP owners and universities. What we’ve done is really listened to corporations rather than label them as skeptics, and we’ve worked with them to provide adequate answers. In the end, no new business model is going to work until industry buys in. You need to take their concerns into consideration and adapt your model. I think that has been a big part of our progress and what I would consider an overall change in the attitude of the corporations toward IPXI. It’s changed from skepticism to cautious acceptance, which is terrific. Now it’s all going to gear toward proof of concept, which we will see in the next 12 months.

 

CL: Can you tell me about one of the significant changes in the IPXI model in adapting to industry concerns?

GP: One of the biggest issues that we had originally modeled in the IPXI model was the issue of enforcement: How do you handle litigation within this IPXI model? We had anticipated a great role for the exchange or an exchange subsidiary to be actively involved in that. With the help and feedback of industry, we’ve changed that model from the exchange perspective to a much more objective role, whereby either the IP sponsor or third party funders will finance litigation. In other words, to make the long story short: IPXI will not benefit from any litigation. I think this was one of the very important outcomes of industry feedback.

 

CL: What conditions do you need in place to go to market?

GP: Ideally, I’d like to go to market with a diversified offering of about five to eight ULR (Unit License Right Contract) offerings from different IP owners – so large corporates, maybe a medium sized company, maybe one or two universities, a national lab – all in different industries to be really diversified. That is, if I were king for a day.

 

CL: What sort of trading volume do you expect?

GP: Like any other startup market, it’s going to start extremely slow. That does not really scare or concern me. Like with the Climate Exchange, we did 500 tons on day one and then we didn’t have any trades for two weeks. Ultimately, that grew to become a tremendously liquid market. I think we, by definition, have a captive buyers market because those are the active licensees. Licensees that should’ve taken a license under the traditional licensing model, should under IPXI as well. If you combine that with one or two liquidity providers, I think that will be a good start of a market.

I want to be absolutely clear that this will be, for a long time, a work in progress. To use an analogy, I think that we have built the Wright Brothers attempt at the first plane but we certainly don’t have the Boeing 747. And that will be the most interesting work over the next couple of years but we have something that industry, as well as ourselves and even the financial world, to a certain extent, believe can fly, and that’s exciting.

 

CL: Do you have any second thoughts about coming out of retirement?

GP: Actually, every day (Laughs). It’s been a very interesting 12 to 14 months. I always expect things to go faster than they really do. Am I happy with the progress? Absolutely. Would I have wanted it to happen sooner? Absolutely. It’s been a really interesting challenge so I guess from that perspective, I don’t regret it. It has had an impact on my quality of life. A lot of travel and a lot of long days, weeks and months but that’s what’s part of starting a new company.

 

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