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MPAA to PTO: Voluntary Anti-Piracy Initiatives Are No Panacea

TV and movie studios Wednesday told the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) that voluntary initiatives to curb online piracy were good as far as they went, but were not a substitute for government action, particularly since, they argue, search engines aren't going far enough.

The Motion Picture Association of America commented on the current state of voluntary best practices and how to gauge their effectiveness. The comments included the so-called "six strikes" copy alert system (CAS), in which MPAA and major ISPS (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable) are participating.

The Obama Administration sought the comment in association with the release of its latest IP enforcement action plan in June.

"Voluntary initiatives [like "six strikes" are, and will remain, a complement to – not a substitute for – other anti-piracy initiatives," MPAA said. "[W]hen negotiating voluntary agreements, the parties are always bargaining in the shadow of the law. In other words, a party's willingness to commit to a particular practice will depend to a significant degree on what it perceives to be the legal consequence (or lack thereof) of continuing its current course of action, and not committing to any voluntary agreement," said the studios.

MPAA backed anti-piracy legislation in the House and Senate, but the bills -- the now familiar SOPA and PIPA -- were blocked by Google and other Silicon Valley forces concerned they were overly restrictive.

MPAA cited the cooperation of ISPs in saying that some voluntary measures worked, but cited what it saw as the relative lack of cooperation by search engines when suggesting they were not a cure-all.

"[V]oluntary initiatives are not a panacea, and they are not appropriate to address all forms of piracy," said MPAA. "Some voluntary initiatives work well; some have more modest success; and some are simply not effective. As noted below, some players, such as major Internet service providers, via the Copyright Alert System, and user-generated content sites...have shown admirable willingness to enter into voluntary agreements and take concrete and effective anti-piracy measures, and should be applauded for the constructive roles they have played. Unfortunately others, such as the major search engines, have largely refused to take a proactive role in addressing the problems of illegal activity online.

Google has said it adjusted its algorithm to demote pirate sites by taking into account how many infringement notices they had received, but MPAA told PTO that was an example of a voluntary initiative that had not been effective.