MPAA/RIAA Lobbied Extensively In Favor of Domain Seizures

The recent action by US authorities against so-called rogue websites comes on the heels of significant lobbying efforts by two well known anti-piracy groups. In the last quarter the MPAA and RIAA together spent a total of $1.8 million on lobby efforts in Washington. Public records reveal that the industry groups focused heavily on legislation and authorities involved in domain name seizures.

In recent months the topic of domain name seizures has been reported heavily in the news and discussed widely. US authorities took down dozens of ‘copyright infringing’ domains and the ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act’ (COICA) was drafted to make such takedowns even easier in the future.

Both the recent domain name seizures and the proposed COICA bill were encouraged by the MPAA and RIAA. However, the role of the RIAA and MPAA has not been limited to passively applauding the actions of the Government. On the contrary, both groups lobbied extensively for more Government control over domain names.

A look at public filings reveal that the outfits spent more than $1.8 million in the third quarter of 2010 on lobbying efforts directly targeted at the COICA bill and the authorities that carried out the recent domain name seizures. Money, that as it stands now, was well spent.

The RIAA’s filings at the Office of the Clerk reveal that the music industry trade group invested the most, $1.29 million in total. This money was spent on a variety of subjects, including the COICA bill and ACTA. In total, the RIAA listed nine copyright/trademark lobbyists including its CEO Mitch Bainwol.

The MPAA on its turn spent $520,000 on lobbying efforts in the third quarter. Part of the money went to lobbying efforts at the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the authorities that were responsible for the recent domain seizures.

In addition, the MPAA lobbied for three-strikes anti-piracy initiatives such as ‘graduated response’ and legislation that targets digital piracy on ‘rogue sites’ such as COICA. The MPAA lists three lobbyists including Michael O’Leary who previously served as counsel to the former Senator Joe Biden.

Indeed, the same Joe Biden who is now the Vice President and declared war on digital piracy earlier this year. “Piracy Is Theft, Clean and Simple,” Biden said at the time.

Although it is no secret that the MPAA and RIAA spend millions of dollars in Washington every year, it is worth looking into where that money goes. From public filings it becomes apparent that the US Government’s move to commercial censorship is also reflected in the lobbying efforts by the entertainment industry.

And that’s just part of the influence. Aside from trying to influence lawmakers and the authorities, both groups are also playing their role in law enforcement. As we reported last Friday, the MPAA helped out Homeland Security with the application for the seizure order of Torrent-Finder and other sites.

It is of course impossible to measure if any of the lobbying efforts did indeed have an effect on the increased anti-piracy actions by the US Government, but considering the money that the MPAA and RIAA spent on lobbying, it wouldn’t come as a total surprise.

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