Michael O’Leary, Senior EVP for Global Policy and External Affairs at the MPAA, will exit at the end of June, staying on as an an adviser during the transition. O’Leary joined the Hollywood lobby group in 2005 and was promoted to his current position in 2011. He was also on the MPAA Board Of Directors, and helped build the organization’s domestic lobby team in Washington DC. Prior to joining, he was deputy chief for intellectual property in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
During O’Leary’s tenure the MPAA led the fight for two highly controversial anti-piracy bills known as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Entertainment and media companies pushed the bills hard, but their prospects collapsed in the face of vociferous opposition online and off organized by the tech industry and privacy advocates. SOPA would have enabled the government to block overseas websites that traffic in copyright-infringing content.
O’Leary also helped the effort that led China to increase its quota on movie imports to 34 from 20. In addition, he was instrumental in securing federal and state tax incentives to keep TV and film production in the U.S.
“Having accomplished most of my goals at the MPAA, I am excited to move onto new career challenges,” O’Leary says. He plans to “take some time in deciding on his next endeavor,” the trade group says.
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.
Related: MPAA’s Chris Dodd & NATO’s John Fithian Face Sundance Wrath Over SOPA/PIPA Read More »
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.”
Related: MPAA Names Paul Brigner Chief Technology Officer
EXCLUSIVE: Internet sites on their SOPA-Strike may be conducting a blackout but Hollywood studios are conducting a boycott. I’ve learned that Hollywood studio chiefs individually and as a group are drawing a line in the sand on the piracy issue with the Obama re-election campaign and refusing to give any more donations. The blowup came after President Obama on Saturday dashed moguls’ hopes that he would remain on the sidelines in the dispute over the U.S. House Of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the U.S. Senate’s Protect IP Act. In a posting on the White House web site, three of the Obama administration’s top officials for Internet and intellectual property matters said that they share many of the concerns that the Internet community has about the Hollywood-supported bills. The trio said that they “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 tried to soften the blow to Hollywood by acknowledging that that online piracy is “a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response.” They added that they plan to host an online event “to get more input” on the matter. But Hollywood moguls told me they “didn’t know it was going to be as over the top as it was” and took this as a declaration of war. “We just feel very let down by the administration and Obama for not supporting us,” one studio chief explained to me. “At least let him remain neutral and not go against it until we can get the legislation right. But Obama went against it. I’m personally not going to support him anymore and not give a dime anymore,” another movie mogul who’s also a well-known Obama supporter told me this week.
So far the most outspoken mogul against the Obama administration on this issue has been Rupert Murdoch who on Saturday told his new Twitter audience: “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” But I’ve learned that other moguls privately are having “direct and personal conversations” with Obama and his administration and the Democratic Party. Several moguls have informed Obama’s newly anointed Hollywood re-election liason to the entertainment community Nicole Avant and her husband who is helping her, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, that they are pulling out of major fundraisers planned over the next few days and won’t participate in any more headed by Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (whom they see as in the pocket of the Internet giants like Google).
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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 … Read More »
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
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Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone are among the honchos under attack by Anonymous — a group of so-called Internet “hacktivists” – The New York Times reports. Bewkes apparently has already been hit with threatening phone calls and emails after the group disclosed his home addresses and phone numbers on the Web. Anonymous also revealed contact info for people at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Disney. While it didn’t spread Redstone’s contact info, the group did circulate other material about his family. The attack is part of Anonymous’ “Operation Hiroshima,” a newly launched campaign to protest the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP Act — similar bills that would empower the federal government to block overseas Web sites that traffic in pirated content. Hollywood says they’re needed to stop rampant theft of movies and TV shows, among other things. But Internet and tech companies say the bills could end up being used to quash free speech or attack legitimate Web sites. “You take our speech. You take our Internet. You take our Bill of Rights. You take our Constitution. We fight back,” Anonymous said in a video that announced Operation Hiroshima.
Sen Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darell Issa (R-Cal.) were preaching to the choir today when they vowed at the 2012 International CES that they’ll try to blunt the Hollywood supported effort to give the government the power to block websites that traffic in pirated content. “Our hope is we can slow down this effort to pass two ill-advised pieces of legislation” Wyden said referring to the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and a similar bill in the Senate called the Protect IP Act. Consumer electronics and tech companies have opposed the bills, saying that they could be used to block legitimate Web sites and stifle free speech. Issa added that “we’re up against people who have a history of resisting technological innovation.” He says that at a January 18 hearing he’ll bang the drum for his Online Enforcement and Protection of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) which gives the International Trade Commission more authority to regulate piracy allegations. ”You’re going to hear venture capitalists talk about the real impact (on Internet investment) if Congress gets something wrong,” Issa said. Speaking of Hollywood he said that “if there were no SOPA they’d embrace this (OPEN) as a great idea.” He added that SOPA is “too flawed to be fixed.”
After some heated back-and-forth yesterday during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the panel adjourned today without a final vote on the contentious bill, which seeks to shut down access to foreign websites deemed to be infringing copyrights. The fight pits content creators — like Hollywood studios and networks — who want their wares protected against tech companies who fear censorship and a curb on innovation. The delay means a vote on SOPA won’t take place until House leadership is called back, which probably won’t be until January. (The Senate’s piracy legislation, the PROTECT IP Act, already has passed out of committee.) House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was well on his way to striking down various amendments to the bill, meaning it eventually is likely to be approved by the panel and head to the House for a full vote. “The Judiciary Committee’s overwhelming support for the bill shows that the legislative process, when allowed to work, can result in strong, bi-partisan legislation that will protect millions of American jobs and creativity,” Michael O’Leary, the MPAA’s policy chief, said today. The Hill blog said Smith was more open to a suggestion by members to allow a study by cybersecurity experts to weigh the impact of some of the proposed legislation — a concession that has heartened opponents of the bill. “NetCoalition is encouraged that Chairman Smith is considering the requests of … Read More »
Action on the Stop Online Piracy Act moved right along today in the House Judiciary Committee where one modification after another was defeated by lopsided votes — until a notoriously prickly Texas Democrat didn’t take kindly to remarks by a Republican. The remarks in question came from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who tweeted that: “We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Shiela Jackson [sic] has so bored me that I’m killing time by surfing the Internet.” The target of his disdain was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who’s so notoriously contrary that the Washingtonian magazine has dubbed her the “meanest” member of Congress. Jackson Lee objected. And the hearing ground to a S.T.O.P. It was unacceptable “to have a member of the Judiciary committee be so offensive,” Jackson Lee said. But King was not on the premises by the time she became aware of his tweet. If the two had been in the same room, that would have been entertaining. Jackson’s use of the word “offensive” proved even more problematic than King’s use of “boring.” It seems that parliamentary tradition doesn’t allow fellow members to describe each other as “offensive.” So negotiations began to persuade Jackson Lee to allow her comment to be deleted from the official record. She balked. The single offending word? Nope. SOPA co-author Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) explained that he was trying to “avoid making an official ruling” to the effect that Jackson Lee “impugned the integrity of a member of this committee.” Again, nope. She wanted King to “give the committee an apology.” Which he couldn’t do because he wasn’t there. Jackson Lee consulted Read More »