Under immense pressure from powerful entertainment companies, in 2011 it looked almost inevitable that the United States would introduce powerful new legislation to massively undermine Internet piracy.
Championed by Hollywood and the world’s leading record labels, the Stop Online Piracy Act made headlines around the world for putting super-aggressive tools into the government’s arsenal. At the same time, however, proper consideration wasn’t given to their potential impact on innovation.
As a result, citizens and technology companies teamed up to stage the biggest protest the Internet has ever seen resulting in a back-down by the government – and Hollywood in particular – on an unprecedented scale.
The fallout became obvious in the months that followed. The usual anti-piracy rhetoric from the MPAA and RIAA was massively toned down, at times becoming non-existent. In its place emerged a new and softer approach, one aimed at making peace with the very technology companies that had stood in their way.
This week an intellectual property enforcement leader very familiar with the big studios and record labels revealed just how much damage the SOPA defeat is responsible for.
Speaking in Los Angeles at an event hosted by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp., UK MP and Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor Mike Weatherley said that it would be a very long time before anyone dared to push for new legislation in the United States.
“It’s going to be five years before anybody puts his head above the parapet again,” Weatherley told executives.
If Weatherley’s predictions are correct, that takes us beyond 2020 before any new legislation gets put in place, a comparative lifetime online and a timescale during which almost anything can happen.
But Hollywood and the labels aren’t sitting still in this apparent ‘quiet’ period. A new strategy has been adopted, one that seeks voluntary cooperation with technology-based companies, the “six-strikes” deal with United States ISPs being a prime example.
Cooperation has also been sought from advertising companies in an attempt to strangle the revenues of so-called pirate sites, a move that has been gathering momentum in recent months. Weatherley told the meeting that existing laws might need to be “beefed up” a little, but from his overall tone those tweaks seem unlikely to provoke any SOPA-like backlash.
Also generating interest is Weatherley’s attitude towards Google. The world’s leading search engine has been under intense pressure to do something about the infringing results that appear in its listings. At times the rhetoric, especially from the music industry, has been intense, and could’ve easily spilled over into aggression if Google had decided to bite back. However, the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor says he sees things differently.
“I know in America [Google] are considered much more of a pariah than they are perhaps in the U.K. But I have to say they are engaging with me and they recognize that something has got to be done,” Weatherley told the meeting.
But while Weatherley talks peace and cooperation and the MPAA and RIAA keep their heads down in the States, much anti-piracy work is being conducted through their proxies FACT and the BPI in the UK. Instead of tackling the world’s leading file-sharing sites from U.S. soil, the job has been transferred to the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Not only does it keep the controversy down at home, it also costs much less, with the British taxpayer footing much of the bill.
TorrentFreak has learned that only last week a new batch of letters went out to file-sharing related sites, with yet more demands for them to shut down or face the consequences. Things might appear quiet in the United States, but that doesn’t meant things aren’t happening.