Three years ago, Hollywood had a dream. That dream centered around new legislation that would deal a body blow to Internet piracy, one that would starve sites of their revenue and seriously cut visitor numbers.
But in early 2012, following a huge backlash from the public and technology sector, the dream turned into a nightmare. SOPA was not only dead and buried, but Hollywood had made new enemies and re-ignited old rivalries too.
In the period since the studios have been working hard to paint the technology sector not as foes, but as vital partners with shared interests common goals. The aggressive rhetoric employed during the SOPA lobbying effort all but disappeared and a refocused, more gentle MPAA inexplicably took its place.
Yesterday, in ongoing efforts to humanize the behind-the-scenes movie making industry as regular people out to make a living, “Beyond the Red Carpet: TV & Movie Magic Day” landed on Capitol Hill.
Among other things, the event aimed to show lawmakers that those involved in the movie making process are not only vital to the economy, but are the real victims when it comes to piracy. The message is laid out in this infographic from the Creative Rights Caucus.
As co-chair of the caucus, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. will be hoping to maintain momentum on issues such as tax incentives to keep film production in California, but yesterday the words of MPAA CEO Chris Dodd provided the most food for thought.
In comments to The Wrap, Dodd said that the MPAA is no longer seeking anti-piracy legislation from Congress.
“The world is changing at warp speed. We are not going to legislate or litigate our way out of it,” Dodd said.
For an organization that has spent more than a decade and a half tightening up ‘Internet’ copyright law in its favor, the admission is certainly a notable one, especially when the favored alternatives now include winning hearts and minds through education.
“We are going to innovate our way out by educating people about the hard work of people,” the MPAA CEO said.
“In this space everyone has to contribute to ensure that peoples’ content can be respected. Instead of finger pointing at everybody and arresting 14-year olds, the answer is making our product accessible in as many formats and distributive services as possible at price points they can afford. We are discovering that works.”
This tacit admission, that the industry itself has contributed to the piracy problems it faces today, is an interesting move. Over in Australia content providers and distributors have also been verbalizing the same shortcomings and they too have offered promises to remedy the situation.
But the development of new services doesn’t exist in a vacuum and time and again, across the United States to Europe and beyond, the insistence by Hollywood is that for legal services to flourish, use of pirate sources must be tackled, if not through legislation, by other means.
And here’s the key. Successfully humanizing the industry with lawmakers will provide Hollywood with much-needed momentum to push along its agenda of cooperation with its technology-focused partners.
ISPs will be encouraged to engage fully with the six-strikes “educational” program currently underway across America and advertising companies and big brands will be reminded to further hone their systems to keep revenue away from pirate sites.
But perhaps the more pressing efforts will entail bringing companies like Google on board. Voluntary agreements with the search sector can certainly be influenced by those on Capitol Hill, but with Google’s insistence that Hollywood moves first, by providing content in a convenient manner at a fair price, the ball is back in the movie industry’s court.
Dodd, however, is now promising just that, so things should start to get interesting. And in the meantime the MPAA can continue to fund groups such as the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit which regularly testifies before Congress on copyright and anti-piracy matters and of which the MPAA is a founding member.