Hollywood’s Top Brass Lobby For Anti-Piracy Laws In Washington, D.C.

Global Health Panel | Los Angeles, Feb. 10
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Fox’s Jim Gianopulos (left) and Sony’s Michael Lynton.

Fox’s Jim Gianopulous, Warner Bros. Barry Meyer and Sony’s Michael Lynton met with top administration and Congressional leaders to promote new Internet policing legislation (which tech companies oppose).

Top Hollywood executives including Fox's Jim Gianopulos, Warner Bros. Barry Meyer and Sony’s Michael Lynton were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday for the annual board meeting of the Motion Picture Association of America – the first chaired by former Sen. Chris Dodd -  and to hold meetings with top Congressional and administration leaders including Vice President Joe Biden.

They were joined at many of the meetings by leaders from entertainment industry unions, including DGA, IATSE, SAG and AFTRA, with the main point of discussion the need for strong anti-piracy legislation.

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Bills are currently being debated in the U.S. House and Senate that would create new ways to enforce the anti-piracy laws against foreign companies and web sites who illegally distribute copyrighted content like  movies, TV and video games, as well as other kinds of merchandise.

Those bills are opposed by Google, Yahoo, Amazon and eBay  and a number of other high tech companies and cable operators on the grounds that it raises free speech issues and that they would be forced to enforce the law and police the Internet, which they are loath to do. The tech companies are lobbying against the proposed law and the entertainment industry has launched an all out effort to get the legislation passed.  The meetings in Washington are part of that effort.

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One unusual thing is that the annual MPAA meeting is in Washington at all. Even though it is where Hollywood’s top association and lobbying group is based, in the past Jack Valenti and Dan Glickman, who held the job before Dodd took over earlier this year,  often came to Los Angeles to hold the confab, because that is where most of the top idustry leaders are based.

Under Dodd, however, there is an effort to ramp up the presence and visibility of the industry in the nation’s capitol.

Dodd issued a statement on Wednesday to support the effort to get the legislation made into law: “Content theft is not a victimless crime. At this time of great economic uncertainty, it makes no sense to allow this state of affairs to continue.  The movie and the TV industries aren’t just about big studios and stars.  More than 2.2 million hard working, middle-class people in all 50 states depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs.  They work behind the scenes in production, and in small businesses like equipment rental, transportation, construction and food service.  Millions more people work in theaters,  retail, restaurants and other businesses that depend on entertainment.  For all of these workers and their families, digital theft means declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits.”

It was also unusual to have top labor leaders joining for meetings as well. They did not attend the MPAA board meeting but sources say they were part of the meetings the Hollywood CEO’s have had with Biden and others in Congress and the White House.

An MPAA spokesman said the annual board meeting is being held but would not confirm the outside meetings or supply the names of any of those who attended.

However, among the labor leaders said to be there are Jay Roth, Paris Barclay  and Taylor Hackford for the DGA, David White from SAG,  Matt Loeb of IATSE and executives from AFTRA.

It used to be that the MPAA would have a wide range of items to discuss at a board meeting but in recent years, as the industry has consolidated and changed, that agenda has narrowed. Today with some MPAA company members in broadcasting, cable and consumer electronics, as well as movies and TV, the one thing they can all agree on – for the most part – is that they oppose theft of the intellectual property they create.

That is why  piracy is at the top of the agenda this year and for the foreseeable future.