SOPA, PIPA backlash could hurt Obama in Hollywood
President Obama could face an anti-SOPA backlash from some of his traditional backers in Hollywood over his administration's stance on the controversial anti-piracy bills that have sparked a massive online protest.
Two senior entertainment executives and Obama donors, who declined to speak on the record, said they would not give the president's reelection effort further financial support because of his opposition to key parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
The two bills have been aggressively supported by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which is Hollywood's chief lobbying arm, and entertainment industry unions, as a way to combat global Internet piracy. But the two groups have received serious push back from a coalition of top Internet companies that argue the proposed bills are poorly designed and don't have adequate civil liberties protections.
Other executives in the largely Democratic community said that although they are unhappy with Obama's position on the bills, they do not plan to abandon their support. “I don’t like the fact that Obama is against this,'' said producer Mike Medavoy, a lifelong Democrat and major Obama supporter. "But, this is a single issue and I’m not a single issue voter."
Barry Meyer, Chief Executive and Chariman for Warner Bros. Entertainment, said he and his peers were "very disappointed" with the White House's response to the bills, but declined to say whether he would not support Obama.
"They seemed to have bought into all this furor that has been raised,'' Meyer said. "It’s important that we register both to the administration and to Congress that this is important to the industry and to the jobs it supports."
In a recent email to fellow entertainment industry executives, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, urged his peers to continue to their support for Obama despite his administration's opposition to the bills in their current forms, according to a person who has seen the email.
Sarandos' wife, Nicole Avant, is Obama's former ambassador to the Bahamas and is currently assisting with his fundraising efforts in Los Angeles. The couple will host a fundraiser for the president, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, at their Beverly Hills home on Jan. 31, according to a report in Variety.
Sarandos could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman for Netflix said the company is not taking a position on SOPA and said, "We are not commenting on Ted's personal political involvement."
As a tech company that is closely tied to the major studios, from which it buys the rights to movies and TV shows, Netflix is in a tricky position when it comes to SOPA and PIPA. Netflix appears to be remaining neutral in the fracas between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It did not take part in the protest Wednesday that saw other sites, such as Google and Wikipedia, shut down for the day or post criticisms of the legislation on their homes pages.
-- Richard Verrier and Ben Fritz
Photo: Wikipedia's home page on Wednesday. Credit: Wikipedia