MPAA Recruits “Surrogates” to Support Extradition of UK Student

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Following on from an MPAA memo that leaked yesterday, TorrentFreak has obtained an even more revealing document which shows that the movie group is experiencing problems finding "allies" to support the extradition of UK student Richard O'Dwyer. According to the "communication plan" the MPAA is recruiting "third party surrogates" to write op-eds and blog posts which back their position.

Yesterday we covered a leaked MPAA memo with talking points on the TVShack case.

The MPAA successfully lobbied the Department of Justice to demand the extradition of the site’s former operator, UK student Richard O’Dwyer. However, in recent months public opinion turned against the authorities, a point now being noted by the mainstream media.

A new MPAA leak (embedded below) shows that this is worrying movie industry bosses. In a “communication plan” the MPAA explains why these talking points are needed and how the group plans to counter the opposition.

“The overall media coverage has been and will continue to be challenging,” the MPAA writes.

They mention the petition of Wikipedia founder jimmy Wales, the Demand Progress campaign, and note that a recent survey showed that 95% of the public does not support the extradition. According to the MPAA, public opinion is skewed because people are being led to believe that TVShack was operating perfectly legal in the UK.

“To counter these assertions, the MPAA and its allies need a coordinated effort to focus more on the criminal activity involved in the operation of TVShack and other similar linking sites,” the MPAA notes.

Interestingly, the movie industry group appears to be having a hard time finding “allies”.

“Ideally, this would be done through third parties – but finding third parties – especially in the United Kingdom – has been very difficult so far, so the MPAA must be prepared to respond to media requests on the issue and set the record straight to counter the misinformation campaign by our opponents.”

As the leaked “talking points” memo revealed yesterday, the MPAA prepared a case background to be handed out to journalists. In addition, the group drafted responses to the “misinformation” that’s being spread by Jimmy Wales and others.

The MPAA further notes that staffers Mike Robinson and Mark Miller are ready to speak about the case in public. However, they also want to recruit “allies and third parties, both in the US and abroad” to help them get the message across.

“We are also working on an oped as well as blogs by third-party surrogates,” they later add.

While the MPAA never admitted to getting surrogates to report for them this is not totally unexpected. We previously spotted a pro-SOPA op-ed by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that used phrases that were previously uttered by MPAA people.

The main message these surrogates will be asked to deliver is that Richard O’Dwyer is a criminal. The MPAA continues to point out that an operator of a similar site was recently found guilty in the UK, and will feed this information to journalists.

“We will seek to make sure reporters know about the parallels – and the proof that this kind of copyright theft is illegal in the U.K.,” MPAA notes.

Of course, they don’t mention that the U.K. case they refer to wasn’t about copyright infringement. Neither do they explain why O’Dwyer wasn’t charged with any crimes in the U.K.

To hear the other side of the story TorrentFreak contacted Richard O’Dwyer’s mother Julia, who was baffled by the MPAA’s strategy. According to her, it’s the MPAA who are spreading misinformation.

“It’s rather worrying that the MPAA is behaving in this unnecessarily vindictive way, trying to portray Richard as someone he is not in order to further their own interests,” Julia O’Dwyer says.

“Richard has fully cooperated with the Police at all times and has never told a lie. Lying is something he just won’t do. In contrast the MPAA peddles misinformation about the details of the alleged conduct.”

Among other things she notes that TVShack fully complied with takedown requests, that the site never hosted any copyrighted content and that MPAA member Warner Bros. even asked if their content could be featured on TVShack.

With both sides determined to be heard, the case will continue to make headlines in the coming weeks. The controversial extradition is currently awaiting an appeal to the High Court later this year.

MPAA’s communication strategy is embedded below:


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