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Piracy Bill OpponentsWilling to Talk

ANTIPIRACY LEGISLATION—with bipartisan support and apparent
momentum—has been put on the back burner after
pushback from Silicon Valley succeeded in tabling the bills.

Markham Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, which has
been battling the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Protection
Act (SOPA) on behalf of members that include Google and Yahoo!, says
he is ready to talk directly with the
studios, but he adds that they need
to make the first move.

For its part, the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA),
which supported the anti-piracy
bills, says it is willing to talk with
anyone that offers constructive
suggestions, and a willingness to
address what they say is a serious

Michael O’Leary, senior executive
VP, global policy and external
affairs for the MPAA, took the lead
for the studios on the push for
antipiracy legislation, a push he
suggests remains key to protecting
present and future digital content.

In separate interviews, these
key players in the PIPA/SOPA opera
that has played out over the last two years spoke with B&C and
Multichannel News last week about what happened, what’s next and why
it still matters. (MPAA spokesman Howard Gantman also participated
in the MPAA call.)

Given the success of the Web “blackout” protest, did the studios
underestimate the power of the Web?

O’Leary:I think it was certainly successful in achieving their underlying
goal, which was to not do anything about this problem.

Do you think the talk of the bills destroying the open Internet
was a red herring, or were there some legitimate issues like
the lack of due process?

O’Leary: Specifically, since you raise it, I don’t think there is a due
process beef. The due process provisions in this bill are the same ones
that apply in existing law today. I think what you saw here was a very
effective campaign that motivated people through misrepresentation
and distortion. I think if you throw around loaded words like censorship—
there is no one that can point to any part of this bill that equates
with censorship. Due process is a part of the bill. The problem is that
it became about the rhetoric and not about the substance.

Our hope as we move forward
is that we can set that aside. If
people have legitimate concerns
that they can articulate, then we
are more than happy to discuss
that. Simply stepping back and
saying something is going to
quote-unquote break the Internet
is not a substantive discussion
that is going to lead to any type of
cogent policy.

You talk about defining the
scope of the problem. Don’t
you agree that piracy is a
huge problem?

Erickson: Well, piracy is obviously
a problem. How big the
problem is has never been defined
by an independent body.
The [Government Accountability Office], which investigates issues for
the Congress, put out a report about a year and a half ago saying that
the MPAA’s piracy numbers were overblown and unverifiable.

The MPAA’s Website says nine out of 10 instances of movies that are
pirated and put on the Internet are being stolen out of movie theaters
from people who are camcording them and that there are only 19 sites
that they are concerned about. It depends on what you defi ne as a huge
problem. Nineteen sites is a fairly small part of the World Wide Web.
And if nine out of 10 instances of piracy are happening in the movie
theaters, maybe there might be solutions in terms of putting more responsibility
on theaters to be proactive that could stop the piracy from
happening in the first place.

We ought to have a data-driven process to look at how big a problem
piracy is and how we work as partners with the content industry to
tackle that issue.

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