Widely considered the show business capital of the world, Hollywood’s ability to maintain and build upon its carefully cultivated image is the product of more than a hundred years of filmmaking. For the last century exactly, the Motion Picture Association has ensured that less glamorous matters, such as legislation and taxation, have always trended in Hollywood’s favor.
Representing the interests of just six members – Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. – today’s MPA is the most powerful organization of its type anywhere in the world. In no small part it helps to maintain Hollywood’s sparkling, enduring, yet somehow untouchable public image, in and beyond the corridors of power.
Founded in 1922 as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), an early goal was to prevent government interference in filmmaking. One hundred years later, the MPA regularly calls on the government to interfere, not in the filmmaking process, but in any way it can – in any country – to ensure that Hollywood’s interests are never overlooked.
MPA and ACE – Partners in the Fight Against Piracy
One of the most visible aspects of MPA advocacy relates to its anti-piracy work, much of it now handled by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). The MPA provides ACE with the resources it needs to tackle piracy on behalf of its founding members, while dozens of rightsholders in the wider movie and TV sector are also required to support ACE financially.
In broad terms, ACE is effectively a department of the MPA with a remit to protect non-MPA member content, as long as the owners are paid-up members of the coalition. MPA members contribute more in financial terms but when a site is taken down to protect Hollywood, content produced by other ACE members goes down with it.
ACE has shown an impressive ability to get the job done since its launch in 2017 and its activities are regularly reported here on TorrentFreak. We do seek comment from ACE at appropriate times but the nature of the anti-piracy group’s work means that feedback is limited, leading to our own research and investigations taking precedence.
ACE does make its own announcements but only when it feels the time is just right, which rarely coincides with our intention to break potentially sensitive stories right now. More recently, however, ACE has been noticeably more active on the media front with more regular reporting of some (but not all) of its recent achievements.
At first, this didn’t seem especially unusual but then we learned that the MPA is working on something new that to our knowledge hasn’t happened before. In what could be a move to make best use of the financial costs associated with the ACE anti-piracy mission, the MPA intends to take the negatives of piracy, highlight them through the prism of ACE’s anti-piracy work, and combine both to create new opportunities.
In more brutal terms, piracy is a turd that not even the MPA can polish, but with some Hollywood charm and considerable help from the media, ACE’s anti-piracy achievements can be rolled in even more glitter, sprinkled with silver screen magic, then used as a Hollywood promotional tool. The only surprise is that the great minds of Tinseltown didn’t think of it sooner.
What Every Stealth Investigator Needs: A PR Department
Confirmation that the MPA is about to hit the anti-piracy mass-publicity button can be found in a job listing seeking a candidate for the position of Vice President of Global Communications, with responsibility for ACE, the MPA’s worldwide Content Protection Enforcement team, and the MPA-owned Trusted Partner Network (TPN).
“The VP will execute globally on communications strategy and tasks with the content protection teams in the U.S. and abroad, with a focus on media relations, press release writing, and digital media strategy. This position is salaried, exempt and reports to the Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Communications and the Executive Vice President, Chief Global Content Protection,” the listing reads.
For Hollywood, Image is Still Everything
Responsibilities attached to this new position are numerous, but one of the key tasks is to increase awareness of ACE, MPA, and TPN content protection enforcement efforts. How that will be achieved is laid out in black and white, with the successful candidate’s tasks including the following:
Generate and implement media opportunities and strategies to cultivate and enhance meaningful relationships with targeted audiences, including the media, internal and external influencers and constituents
Cultivate and enhance collaborative working relationships with the press, and with internal and external ACE, TPN and MPA stakeholders and members authentically and effectively, to build reputation, earn trust and achieve measurable results
Collaborate with the MPA digital team on strategy and content for ACE, TPN and the MPA’s online presence and social media activity
The successful candidate will also be required to “coordinate print and broadcast interviews by drafting talking points [and] key messages” while leading the “curation, development and delivery of ACE, TPN and MPA messaging documents [and] talking points.”
In an ideal world, the MPA is looking for someone with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, Communications, Journalism, Political Science, or Public Relations, with a minimum 10 years’ experience working in a press/media, public affairs and/or political capacity.
It would be cynical to suggest that the media might be viewed as a conduit for political messaging, or as third-party amplifiers of carefully prepared statements and press releases. But the unfortunate reality is that the sensitive nature of anti-piracy work does not easily accomodate probing questions from the inquisitive.
While investigations are underway, ACE is unfailingly professional, which means it gives away absolutely nothing. When investigations are over, sensitive settlement agreements prevent any of the parties – ACE, MPA, and pirates alike – from revealing anything that hasn’t been cleared by air-tight legal agreements.
Put bluntly, if journalists want to publish something unique, they’ll have to obtain their own information from their own sources. The alternative is to amplify pre-packaged takes on what tend to represent just one side of much bigger stories, stories that need to be told independently, whenever that’s possible.
News vs. Marketing and Advertising
None of this should be taken as criticism of the MPA and it’s certainly no criticism of ACE. As we’ve reported many times before, ACE is an extremely professional operation that even some pirates have expressed grudging respect for, even after being targeted themselves.
The key point is that ACE’s work is incredibly sensitive and if that unit is to be promoted to the world – by Hollywood itself – people will only see what Hollywood wants people to see. Successes will be accompanied by fanfare and tickertape, while less positive news will be pushed into dark corners. For big business this is entirely normal.
There are also constraints placed on sensitive information, especially when related to investigations that could turn into a lawsuit or criminal action. But on the flip side, and when the time is just right, less positive results will undoubtedly see the light of day as they’re rolled out in support of lobbying efforts to pass new legislation.
Real Fights Need Real Tools, But Beware of the Consequences
Tightened law undoubtedly improves Hollywood’s ability to fight piracy in the face of what can be extremely organized, determined, and in some cases, highly cynical piracy operations with no respect for Hollywood, or even their users. The problem is that tighter laws in the online space have a tendency to encroach on existing online freedoms. The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to tell all sides of the story.
Hollywood’s fight against piracy is very real, increasingly global, and in some areas unrecognizable when compared to the ‘sharing’ communities of two decades ago. Hollywood makes us laugh, and it can make us cry, and for that most of us are truly grateful. But when all is said and done, and if nothing else, there will always be a Hollywood ending for Hollywood.
So, as the story plays out and the dramas unfold, taking a peek and then reporting on events behind the curtain should be considered mandatory. The alternative is strapping on a supplied sandwich board and walking around town advertising a pre-printed message.
It might even be a good message but when there’s an opportunity to do more, we should do more.
One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles – Edward R. Murrow