Entertainment Industry

Category: SOPA

MPAA's former tech officer now argues against SOPA, PIPA

PIPA protesters SOPA

[This post has been updated. See note below. ]

The MPAA's former chief technology policy officer is speaking out against anti-piracy bills that were a top priority for his former employer. Paul Brigner, who resigned from his job last month as senior vice president for the MPAA, said he has changed his tune on the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protection Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

"I firmly believe that we should not be legislating technological mandates to protect copyright -- including SOPA and Protect IP,'' Brigner said in a statement posted on CNET.

The bills, which were intended to crack down on foreign websites trafficking in pirated goods, sparked a massive online protest from Wikipedia, Google and other tech giants, which argued that the bills would lead to censorship online and force some websites out of business. The protest effectively derailed the bills, dealing a blow to the MPAA, which had lobbied heavily in favor of the measures.

But Brigner told CNET that his year-long experience at the MPAA caused him to change his views on the anti-piracy bills, concluding that they would not work.

"Did my position on this issue evolve over the last 12 months? I'm not ashamed to admit that it certainly did," Brigner posted on the technology website. "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."

A spokesman for the MPAA, which lobbies on behalf of the major Hollywood studios, declined to comment on Brigner's statement.

The MPAA's Chief Executive Chris Dodd, the former senator from Connecticut, has not abandoned the issue entirely. He has had conversations with representatives of the tech industry about ways to fight online piracy, such as working with internet service providers to send out alerts to consumers to deter online copyright infringement. It's unlikely any new bills would introduced until after the presidential election.

[For the record: an earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted a statement attributed to Brigner. The post has been updated.]

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Photo: Protesters in New York recently demonstrate against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act proposals. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Petition demands probe into comments by MPAA chief Chris Dodd

MPAA chief Chris Dodd targeted by online petition

As if former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd needed another headache. Last week the Internet lobby defeated anti-piracy bills in Congress heavily backed by the entertainment industry. Now, the Motion Picture Assn. of America's chairman is under fire for remarks he made on a news program.

On Sunday, an online petition claiming more than 10,000 signatures demanded that the White House investigate comments made by the Dodd last week in an interview on Fox News. During the interview, Dodd suggested that lawmakers who don't support tougher anti-piracy laws could lose financial contributions from Hollywood.

"Those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake," said Dodd. "Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."

Those comments, the petition stated, represent "an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal. This is a brazen flouting of the 'above the law' status people of Dodd's position and wealth enjoy."

MPAA spokesman Howard Gantman responded: "Senator Dodd was merely making the obvious point that people support politicians whose views coincide with their own. When politicians take positions that people disagree with, those people tend not to support those politicians."

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Photo: Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

 

SOPA, PIPA backlash could hurt Obama in Hollywood

WikiSOPA

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.

PHOTOS: Sites on strike

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.

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Photo: Wikipedia's home page on Wednesday. Credit: Wikipedia

SOPA blackout shows little hope of peace with Hollywood

WikiSOPA
Little more than an hour into the first "Internet strike," major websites like Wikipedia and Craigslist remained dark to protest controversial anti-piracy legislation and more promised to follow in the morning.

Many sites such as the social news aggregator Reddit and Mozilla.org, home page of the maker of the Firefox browser, planned to launch a 12-hour strike starting at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Most websites experience their heaviest traffic during the day when consumers are at work.

Hundreds of smaller sites planned to join the protest as well, according to SOPAStrike.com, demonstrating the widespread opposition in the tech community to bills that opponents claim amount to censorship.

But none carry the weight of Wikipedia and Craigslist, which began their strike at midnight, or of Google, which blacked out the logo on its home page in protest.

The overwhelming majority of initial reaction on Twitter appeared to be against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and its companion PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act. Some users put "Stop SOPA" and "Stop PIPA" stripes over their Twitter photos. In one protest much linked to on Twitter, the racy website Suicide GIrls used "STop SOPA" stripes to cover up an otherwise naked woman.

It appeared casual Web surfers would have a very hard time finding any pro-SOPA and PIPA perspective online. Most sites that were blacked out contained links to pages with dire warnings, such as: "There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet" (Reddit); "Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet" (Wikipedia); and "the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would certainly kill us forever" (BoingBoing).

Only Google offered a fig leaf to the much-maligned entertainment industry that supports the bills. The SOPA/PIPA information page linked on the search engine home page starts off by stating, "Members of Congress are trying to do the right thing by going after pirates and counterfeiters," before adding, "but SOPA and PIPA are the wrong way to do it."

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Wikipedia, Craigslist, other sites go black in SOPA protest

GoogleSOPA
Following through on their threats to shut down for a day over controversial proposed anti-piracy legislation, a coalition of websites including the hugely popular user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia went black as midnight struck the East Coast.

Visitors to English-language pages on Wikipedia, regularly ranked as one of the five most popular sites on the Internet, with an estimated 2.7 billion monthly pageviews in the U.S., instead found only a headline stating "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge." Stating that the proposed SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills "could fatally damage the free and open internet," the message said Wikipedia would be blacked out for 24 hours and asked visitors to contact their congressional representatives, providing a search box to look them up by ZIP code.

Other sites that shut down and displayed similar language included classified listings site Craigslist and technology blog BoingBoing, while a note on the social news website Reddit said it would begin its blackout at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Hundreds of other websites were scheduled to go dark, according to SOPAStrike.com.

Google, meanwhile, didn't shut down but blacked out the logo on its home page and featured a message that said "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the Web!"

Opponents have argued that SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the similar U.S. Senate legislation PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, may be an attempt to stop international piracy of intellectual property but amount to censorship because they don't have proper protections for sites unfairly accused of enabling piracy and would "break the Internet" in the way the legislation blocks them.

Supporters, who believe the laws are needed to stop "rogue" websites that make it possible for Web surfers to illegally download or stream movies and television shows, went after organizers of Wednesday's Internet blackout, demonstrating the ongoing public battle between large media and technology companies.

"[S]ome 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," Motion Picture Assn. of America Chairman Chris Dodd wrote in a blog post.

On Twitter, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch wrote, "Nonsense argument about danger to Internet. How about Google, others blocking porn, hate speech, etc? Internet hurt?"

The Obama administration this weekend announced its objections to SOPA and PIPA in their current forms, meaning it's unlikely the bills will be passed soon. Supporters continue to hope, however, that a compromise can be reached.

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Photo: Screen shot of Google's home page protesting SOPA and PIPA.

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.
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