MPAA's Dodd says Hollywood is pro-Internet but anti-piracy
Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Christopher J. Dodd sought to counter criticism that Hollywood is trying to censor the Internet via pending legislation to crack down on online piracy, telling a liberal Washington think tank Tuesday that the industry's fate is tied to technology.
"Hollywood is pro-Internet," the former Democratic senator from Connecticut told the Center for American Progress. "So I want to make it clear right at the outset that our fight against content theft is not a fight against technology. It is a fight against criminals."
His comments came as the House Judiciary Committee is poised to approve legislation Thursday aimed at shutting down foreign websites that offer pirated movies, music, medicine and other products. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved similar legislation in May.
Hollywood strongly backs the legislation, which would grant new authority to the Justice Department to block so-called rogue sites. The legislation also would give movie studios, music companies and other copyright holders the ability to seek court injunctions against Internet companies they believe are aiding in copyright theft.
But major Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, EBay and Facebook, are fighting to water down the legislation because they fear it opens the door to censorship on the Internet. They argue that the piracy bills are too heavy-handed and would even threaten the technological stability of the Internet through new mechanisms to block access to piracy sites.
Speaking in Washington on Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the content industry has "over-reached" in the legislation and filtering technologies that companies would have to develop could be used by some countries to curb free speech.
Dodd has taken heat for recent comments that Internet censorship by China showed that blocking rogue sites was possible.
"When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn't do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites," he told Variety.
But Dodd said Tuesday that the industry opposes censorship of free speech by repressive governments and that any comparison of the legislation to such efforts was "absolutely reprehensible."
"We stand with those who strongly oppose foreign governments that would unilaterally block websites, and thus deny the free flow of information and speech," he said.
But Dodd said that a free and open Internet also must contain strong copyright protection.
"There is a difference between believing that the Internet should be free and open, and believing that just because something's on the Internet, it should be free," he said.
-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington
Photo: MPAA chief Christopher J. Dodd. Credit: Associated Press