Hollywood moguls haven’t given up on their goal of persuading Congress to adopt anti-piracy initiatives. But their lobby group the MPAA is promoting the controversial issue gingerly, issuing today its first-ever election-season memo of stats and talking points for candidates and “interested parties.” It extols Hollywood’s multibillion-dollar contribution to the economy and employment, as well as technological innovation. But it also promotes the need for new copyright protection strategies and opens the door to legislation similar to the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which were beaten back in January following vigorous opposition by the tech industry and free speech advocates. The document (read it here) says that copyright protection “is critical to ensuring” that entertainment companies can “benefit from their creations” online. It also says there’s no need to fear that the government might use new anti-piracy powers to crack down on dissident speech or legitimate Internet businesses. “We can protect creative works while ensuring that the Internet works for everyone,” the MPAA says.
Paul Brigner, whom the MPAA hired in January 2011 as its chief technology officer, has left the industry’s trade and lobbying organization, CNET reports. He’s now a major critic of legislation championed by the MPAA such as the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act that stalled in Congress earlier this year because of swelling opposition to bills that initially looked like sure bets. “I firmly believe that we should not be legislating technological mandates to protect copyright — including SOPA and Protect IP,” Brigner says. “Did my position on this issue evolve over the last 12 months? I am not ashamed to admit that it certainly did,” Brigner writes in a statement on CNET. “The more I became educated on the realities of these issues, the more I came to the realization that a mandated technical solution just isn’t mutually compatible with the health of the Internet.” An MPAA spokesman had no comment for CNET on Brigner’s about-face. Last month Brigner became director of the North American Regional Bureau of the Internet Society, an organization whose stated goals include “the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone.”
As many as 7,000 websites are participating today in protests of some form or another against the U.S. House Of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the U.S. Senate’s companion Protect IP Act. Some are going dark. Others are calling attention to the issue in less dramatic ways. Among the more prominent are Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, WordPress, TwitPic, Cheezburger, BoingBoing, several gaming companies including Minecraft, and Mozilla, source of the Firefox web browser. Wikipedia, BoingBoing and Minecraft have gone dark. Others, like Google, are displaying home page illustrations or visual statements about censorship and urging visitors to contact their elected representatives.
MPAA CEO Chris Dodd criticized the protesters for “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.” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), sponsor of SOPA, responded to Wikipedia going black: “It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill will not harm Wikipedia, domestic blogs or social networking sites. This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts. Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy.” Smith also said the House …