MPAA's Dodd: We're No Dinosaurs

In one of his first major addresses atop the Motion Picture Association of America, former Senator Chris Dodd told a Media Institute audience that the TV and movie industries are not filled with dinosaurs not interested in evolving.

He was referring to critics who suggest they are being overly protective about their content when it comes to online distribution. But he also made it clear that to the degree those "new ways" included stealing content and distributing it digitally or otherwise, MPAA was a Tyrannosaurus Rex with its claws out.

"Nothing could be further from the truth.  As I've met with the visionaries and innovators who are at the heart of our business, I've seen an industry on the cutting edge-not only in developing new artistic and commercial content, but in finding new ways to deliver that content to consumers," he said in a luncheon speech.

That includes giving VOD distributors like Comcast access to high-definition copies of films earlier in the distribution cycle, something that has troubled theater owners concerned their value will be diminished and fair-use fans because of the FCC's decision to waive its prohibition on selectable output controls to allow studios to selectively block the copying of HD movies via cable set-top boxes. The studios and distributors argued successfully that to move up the multichannel video HD window while still protecting the DVD window, they needed to be able to prevent their being copied.

Dodd addressed that issue in his speech, trying to assuage theater owners in the process.

"Nothing about this plan changes the fact that the best way to see movies is in the theater setting," he said. "[Studios] don't produce movies for small, flat, plasma screens. The movies are made for large screens in movie theaters.  But this option could provide an alternative for those people, especially seniors, families with young children and those living in rural areas far from a movie screen, with an opportunity to view a recently released movie at home." Those are the same arguments that seemed to hold sway with the FCC.

Much of Dodd's speech was focused on the consequences of content theft to jobs and wages of the "blue collar" as well as the "red carpet" players in the film industry, and he was not leaving anyone out of his sights when it came to abetting the content piracy that threatened both.

"The online theft industry relies on advertisers, payment processors, Internet service providers, and search engines," he said, "legitimate businesses that in my view debase themselves when they act as accomplices to digital theft."

The Media Institute is a Washington-based First Amendment think tank supported by many major media companies.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.