If the MPAA was less diplomatic, it might have headlined its response to the Obama administration’s latest anti-piracy initiative, “Are You Kidding Me?” Even without the direct language, the studio lobby made it clear that it believes U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel served up thin gruel yesterday when she teamed with tech companies to promote voluntary best practices to reduce the flow of ad dollars to sites that traffic in pirated content. MPAA chief Chris Dodd called it “an incremental step forward that addresses only a narrow subset of the problem” and places “disproportionate amount of the burden on rights holders”. The response was a bit of a surprise: Just last month the MPAA praised the administration when it released its Joint Strategic Plan On Intellectual Property Enforcement, which called for voluntary initiatives to fight piracy. That was far less than Hollywood wanted last year when it lobbied Congress to pass tough anti-piracy legislation.
U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Virginia sentenced Jeramiah Perkins, the head of the IMAGINE Group, to 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and an order to pay $15,000 in restitution. And Hollywood’s chief lobby group says that’s justice delivered. IMAGINE “was responsible for more than 40% of all English-language theatrical movie theft,” says MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield. “This group was the most prolific English-language movie theft group in history, and shutting it down was a huge step forward in helping to reassure consumers that the movies and TV shows they watch online are legitimate and secure, not stolen. This was a significant victory in the effort to protect the hard work of creators online, and in the effort to protect an internet that works for everyone.”
Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
Add the News Corp COO to the list of Big Media execs who believe that they were simply misunderstood in the debate that led Congress to put aside the Hollywood supported anti-piracy bills. “Clearly this got turned upside down, the whole issue,” he said at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Despite the claims of opponents, including those in the tech industry, the proposals empowering the government to block overseas Web pirates “isn’t about censorship…If they did it in the U.S., they’d be shut down. So they moved it offshore. You should still be able to shut them down.” He seemed to take a subtle dig at the MPAA for not making the industry’s case more effectively as opponents turned the issue into a populist crusade. ”If you look at what went on, you’d say that was not a process to replicate,” Carey says. The creative community didn’t ”anticipate the viral aspect and message getting twisted.”
Incredibly, there’s still some chatter in the infotainment lobbying community about launching another effort this year to pass tough anti-piracy legislation — even though lawmakers decided more than a week ago to scuttle the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). After all, the thinking goes, even people who opposed the Hollywood-endorsed bills agree that the piracy problem needs to be addressed. The idea is to come up with a more palatable version of the proposals, and then try to gain traction with the public by running ads featuring A-list stars talking about how a new law would protect U.S. jobs. But don’t worry. Cooler heads probably will prevail as it sinks in that 2012 won’t be the year when Congress will adopt a variation of Hollywood’s proposal to let the government block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content.
Here’s one reason why the MPAA and other lobbyists may have felt blindsided last week by the outpouring of protests against the Hollywood supported anti-piracy bills: Young people cared about the subject far, far more than the rest of the population did, according to a weekly measurement by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The researchers found that 23% of people between ages 18 and 29 tracked the news about the debate over the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act more than any other story — making it No. 1 for the week for this group. By contrast, just 7% of all adults considered the dispute, which resulted in Wikipedia going dark for a day, to be the week’s biggest news. For them it ranked behind the Italian cruise ship accident, the elections, and the economy.
Here’s MPAA CEO Chris Dodd’s response to Sen. Harry Reid’s decision this morning to postpone the vote planned for next week on the Protect IP Act:
There’s still some life in the Hollywood-backed proposals that would empower the government to block overseas websites that traffic in pirated content. But it seems to be ebbing fast: Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Misouri), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) dropped off the list of likely supporters of the Protect IP Act, which is due to come up for a vote in their chamber next week. They and other lawmakers backed away on a day when websites and individual protesters coordinated their attacks on the proposal, which they say could dangerously chill Web speech and commerce. Blunt, who co-sponsored the Protect IP Act, said on Facebook that it ”is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.” Rubio, another co-sponsor, also used the social networking site to say that he has “decided to withdraw my support” while urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to ”abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor” and “come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.” Meanwhile, Cornyn co-signed a letter to Reid saying that “the process at this point is moving too quickly,” making a planned vote next week ”premature.” Meanwhile in the House Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) withdrew as co-sponsors of a similar bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). That bill is due to be marked up by the House Judiciary Committee next month.
The Hollywood lobby group has finally weighed in on the plan by Wikipedia and others to go dark tomorrow to protest the MPAA-supported anti-piracy bills in Congress. The money quote is at the end: CEO Chris Dodd says he hopes that “the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this ‘blackout’ to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.” The House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP Act would empower the government to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content. The MPAA says that will save U.S. jobs. But tech companies say officials might abuse their power by using it to punish legitimate sites.
Here’s the full MPAA statement:
WASHINGTON —The following is a statement by Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) on the so-called “Blackout Day” protesting anti-piracy legislation:
“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
The dominant search provider won’t follow Wikipedia by going dark tomorrow. But Google will use its popular home page to cite its reasons for opposing two bills designed to thwart overseas Web sites that traffic in pirated …
UPDATE, 12:10 PM: Diplomacy is the order of the day for the MPAA in its response to the White House. The trade group says it’s still willing to work on a compromise. It hopes that ”the Administration’s role in this debate now will help steer the attention to what can be accomplished and passed into law to protect American jobs,” says Michael O’Leary, MPAA’s Senior Executive Vice President for Global Policy and External Affairs. He adds: “Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines.” Failure to pass an anti-piracy law “will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America.”
PREVIOUS, 9:53 AM: An online statement today from three White House officials indicates that President Obama sides with the tech community — and against Hollywood — in opposing proposals that give the government the right to block overseas Web sites that traffic in pirated content. The administration “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and Special Assistant to the President Howard Schmidt write. Their concerns match the objections that tech companies have raised about two similar bills: the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect IP Act. The trio acknowledge that piracy is a serious problem that hurts “everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios.” But they called for new proposals that narrowly target ”sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law,” focus on criminal activity, and protect Internet intermediaries including
Based on a new report on the impact of unauthorized downloads, Switzerland seems to be saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The study, released by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, has concluded that piracy doesn’t have a negative economic impact on the nation and contends that the current legislation, which allows for copyrighted material to be downloaded for personal use, is sufficient. Chris Marcich, president of the Motion Picture Association, Europe, tells me it’s a “surprising and disappointing result.” In its investigation (in part based on a year-old Dutch study because the markets are similar), a federal council found that up to one-third of Swiss over the age of 15 download movies, music and games for free and that the majority do not distinguish between downloads that are legal and those that are not. Most compelling for the authors of the study, however, appears to be that users of file-sharing sites are still spending money on entertainment and the savings they realize by downloading free content is in turn being spent on movie tickets and games.
Obama administration officials unveiled today a series of TV, radio, print, and Internet public-service ads that link bogus goods including pirated movies and music with higher crime, lost jobs, and child labor. Intellectual property crimes “are anything but victimless,” Attorney General Eric Holder said, …
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation to provide the Justice Department with new tools to crack down on the theft and distribution of illegal digital movies, television shows and other counterfeit material by rogue websites on the Internet. The following is a statement by Bob Pisano, President and Interim CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA):