Hollywood Urged Cameron to Keep DVD Ripping Illegal

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A few months ago the UK Government legalized copying of MP3s, CDs and DVDs for personal use, as that would be in the best interest of consumers. A common sense decision for many, but leaked emails now show that Hollywood fiercely protested the changes behind the scenes.

uk-flagTo most consumers it’s common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this was illegal until late last year.

After consulting various stakeholders the Government decided that it would be in the best interests of consumers to legalize copying for personal use.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all copyright holders were in favor of the legal changes. In fact, emails published from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack reveal that Hollywood wanted to stop the plans by urging UK Prime Minister David Cameron to keep Hollywood’s interests in mind.

The first email mentioning the issue was sent January last year. Here, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton was informed that MPAA boss Chris Dodd wanted him to give Cameron a call.

“Essentially, Dodd thinks (and we agree) it would be helpful for you to call Prime Minister Cameron if you are willing in order to ensure our position is fully considered,” the email from Sony’s Keith Weaver reads.

According to Weaver it was still uncertain whether Hollywood’s concerns would be properly heard in Parliament.

“This is because prior interactions with the U.K. government over the last few months have left us with no certainty that our concerns will be addressed in the proposal that will be presented to Parliament for an up or down vote in February,” he explained.

Hollywood’s stance is that copying for private use should remain illegal if there are legal options available.

“A private copy exception must not apply in the event there are commercially available services that achieve the same need,” Weaver wrote.

Examples such as UltraViolet show that there is no market failure in the UK, and that private copying exceptions aren’t needed, in Hollywood’s view.

On the contrary, technical protections and restrictions are needed for legal services to flourish.

“We need to rely upon a legal framework that respects the technical protections necessary launch new consumer-oriented commercial services – this is key to our ability to make investments in films and great new TV shows,” Weaver added.

From the emails it’s not clear whether or not Sony’s CEO called Prime Minister Cameron at the time.

However, a few months later in June 2014 Lynton and Cameron had a meeting where the issue was prominently listed on the agenda, along with other anti-piracy issues.

Despite the lobbying efforts at the highest level, the protests of the MPAA and Sony Pictures were not successful. After a brief delay the private copying exceptions eventually became law in October.

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