Internet Association Blasts MPAA’s ‘Crony Politics’

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The Internet Association, an industry group that consists of several large technology companies, has lashed out against the MPAA. In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, they accuse Hollywood's main lobbying group of using the Facebook scandal for "rent seeking" and "crony politics" to further its own interests.

Last month, MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin used the Facebook privacy debacle to voice his concern about the current state of the Internet.

“The Internet is no longer nascent – and people around the world are growing increasingly uncomfortable with what it’s becoming,” Rivkin wrote in his letter to several Senators, linking Internet-related privacy breaches to regulation, immunities, and safe harbors.

“The moment has come for a national dialogue about restoring accountability on the internet. Whether through regulation, recalibration of safe harbors, or the exercise of greater responsibility by online platforms, something must change.”

While it’s good to see that the head of Hollywood’s main lobbying group is concerned about Facebook users, not everyone is convinced of his good intentions. Some suggest that the MPAA is hijacking the scandal to further its own, unrelated, interests.

This is exactly the position taken by the Internet Association, a US-based organization comprised of the country’s leading Internet-based businesses. The organization is comprised of many prominent members including Google, Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, Yahoo, and Facebook.

Several of these companies were the target of the MPAA’s criticism, named or not, which prompted the Internet Association to respond.

In an open letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, the group’s president and CEO, Michael Beckerman, lashes out against the MPAA and similar lobbying groups. These groups hijack the regulatory debate with anti-internet lobbying efforts, he says.

“Look no further than the gratuitous letter Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. Chairman & CEO Charles Rivkin submitted to the Energy and Commerce Committee during your recent Zuckerberg hearing,” Beckerman writes.

“The hearing had nothing to do with the Motion Picture industry, but Mr. Rivkin demonstrated shameless rent-seeking by calling for regulation on internet companies simply in an effort to protect his clients’ business interest.”

These rent-seeking efforts are part of the “crony politics” used by “pre-internet” companies to protect their old business models, the Internet Association’s CEO adds.

“This blatant display of crony politics is not unique to the big Hollywood studios, but rather emblematic of a broader anti-consumer lobbying campaign. Many other pre-internet industries —telcos, legacy tech firms, hotels, and others — are looking to defend old business models by regulating a rising competitor to the clear detriment of consumers.”

These harsh words show that the rift between Silicon Valley and Hollywood is still wide open.

It’s clear that the MPAA and other copyright industry groups are still hoping for stricter regulation to ensure that Internet companies are held accountable. Privacy is generally not their main focus though.

They mostly want companies such as Google and Facebook to prevent piracy and compensate rightsholders. Whether using the Facebook privacy scandal was a good way to bring this message to the forefront is a matter of which camp one’s in.

While the Internet Association bashes the MPAA’s efforts, they don’t discount the idea that more can be done to prevent and stop abuse.

“As technology and services evolve to better meet user needs, bad actors will find ways to take advantage. Our members are ever vigilant and work hard to stop them. The task is never done, and we pledge to work harder and do even better,” Beckerman notes.

The Internet Association’s full letter, spotted by Variety, is available here (pdf).

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