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Glickman Seizes MPAA Spotlight

Daniel Glickman's government expertise earned him a plum job. In September, he became MPAA president and CEO, Hollywood's top lobbyist. But it was his passion for films that fueled his desire for the post.

“Movies have always been a big part of my life,” says Glickman, who replaced the legendary Jack Valenti. Members include the studios that produce both films and TV, and Glickman is an avid media consumer. He and his wife see 100 movies a year.

A love of movies, though, isn't the only lure in the MPAA job. Running the trade group is one of the most lucrative opportunities in Washington. Glickman's salary hasn't been revealed publicly; it doesn't need to be filed with the federal government until next year. His predecessor, though, was the highest-paid trade-group chief in town, earning $1.3 million a year in 2002.

The post is also a natural progression for Glickman, since it taps the skills he acquired during his 35-year career in government, including 18 years in Congress and six as President Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture. His experience in trade policy and intellectual property will be invaluable to the MPAA. Movies—like the wheat and soybeans that occupied his attention at Agriculture—are a huge export product.

They are also in need of protection. As a member of many trade delegations, Glickman pressed the case for copyright protections so critical to overseas movies and DVD sales. During a portion of his nine terms in Congress, he also was a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees copyright-protection laws.

The issue is so serious that safeguarding intellectual property has become Glickman's top priority. In addition, the threat of unrestrained duplication due to peer-to-peer file sharing, coupled with various types of Internet distribution, threatens to suck huge amounts of profit from producers.

Glickman's appointment caused a stir on Capitol Hill. After an offer to former Republican House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin fell through, the MPAA tapped Glickman, a Democrat. The choice enraged many Republicans, particularly GOP activists who had been pressing Washington trade groups to hire from within the party's ranks. Grover Norquist, a founder of the GOP's K Street Project, called Glickman's hiring a “studied insult” that liberal Hollywood would regret when favors were needed on Capitol Hill.

But Glickman, a Kansas native, points out that he hails from one of the most Republican of states. “I was a red-state congressman, and here I am in what is called a blue-state industry. There is red and blue in all of us. That's true in government, and that's true in the entertainment industry.”

His detractors may take some comfort from his hometown approach to films.

“It's funny how you get your start,” he recalls. “When I was a kid, my dad had a fetish about movie popcorn. He took us to the Crest Theater in Wichita every night during the 1950s just to buy the popcorn. Sometimes, we didn't go to the show.”

That nightly ritual created a familiar, comforting association with movies that lasts to this day.

“The movie theater is a very positive experience for me. It was a joyful place to go and still is.” (The love of Hollywood also rubbed off on son Jonathan, president of Spyglass Entertainment and producer of Mr. 3000,Rush Hour 2 and Shanghai Noon.)

En route to his MPAA job, Glickman graduated from the University of Michigan, attended law school at George Washington University and worked as a trial lawyer before entering politics.

He admits his favorite film, Animal House, might speak to his lack of “intellectual acuity,” but he sees value in the shared national experience of movies. “In many respects, movies are the face of America around the world,” he told GWU law students recently. “It's really a part of our national soul.”

As he travels the country, he takes time to speak to college students, the demo most notorious for violating anti-copying restrictions through peer-to-peer programs. While slow online speeds discourage Internet duplication of movie-quality videos, Glickman knows it's only a matter of time before bandwidth is large enough to allow transmission of the latest release.

That's why he wants the first generation of content swappers to rethink their cavalier attitude toward consuming the hard work of writers, actors and producers without paying for it.

“Why do some people think it's wrong to steal a movie from Tower Records but don't give a second thought to illegally downloading a new movie?” he asks.

He concedes that there may be an emotional difference between walking out of a record store with a CD in your hand versus downloading a movie, but it's a distinction he wants eradicated.

Are college kids starting to get his message? Glickman thinks so. His goal is to get them to see downloads as a tangible product that should be paid for. “[Stealing] should not be a part of our culture.”