MPAA CEO Chris Dodd Visits Silicon Valley to Heal Rift Between Hollywood and Tech Industry

Issue 13 BIZ Christopher Dodd - P 2012
Erika Larsen

Issue 13 BIZ Christopher Dodd - P 2012

The scars from the battle over Protect IP and SOPA remain, the former senator admits, but now he is trying a new path based on mutual interests.

Former Senator Chris Dodd, now CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, was in Silicon Valley this week carrying a message of conciliation in an effort to heal the rift between content and technology companies left by the heated battle earlier this year over SOPA and the Protect IP Act.

“I am suggesting the path we took wasn’t productive,” said Dodd in an interview Wednesday with The Hollywood Reporter. “It didn’t really help in the final analysis.”

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One reason it didn’t help is that the proposed legislation to create ways to go after web sites outside the U.S. who pirate intellectual property was buried by the protests. Dodd said there will be no renewed effort to pass other similar legislation any time soon.

Instead, Dodd spoke to a tech crowd at the Commonwealth Club and held meetings at Lucasfilm and with technology executives to preach a new gospel of cooperation and mutual self-interest. He wants to find ways to achieve some of the key goals of SOPA and Protect IP without any more legislative battles.

“We share a belief in innovation,” said Dodd. “We call them audiences. You call them users, but giving them the best possible experience is a shared goal. In the end we all report to the same people.”

“This is much more than an ideological issue,” Dodd told the audience of more than 200 at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday, and others listening on radio, “it's an economic one that affects us all. If we can manage to work together to get it right, it will truly benefit us all.”

Dodd said more and more content and tech companies are coming together so there must be cooperation. He noted that every member studio in the MPAA has deals with Google, mostly for YouTube. Both, he added,  have an interest in the new digital platforms and in protecting what goes out over the air and the wires.

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Dodd was at Lucasfilm on Wednesday for a meeting with executives there (but not George Lucas). “They offered to host, if I want to purse it, meetings between the technology community and the content community to talk further in a quiet environment about how we can work with each other to achieve mutual goals,” said Dodd. “The Internet needs to work for everyone. We need to protect the internet but also protect the precuts available on the Internet. No one disagrees with either of those statements. We can all agree it is a new world.”

One place content and technology is coming together is in the cloud. Dodd was also talking about UltraViolet, a technology introduced last year that allows consumers to store a copy of their favorite movies and TV shows on a remote computer server and then access it where they want when they want on any device in the home or on the go.

Mitch Singer, chief digital strategy officer at Sony Pictures, joined with Dodd to talk about the value of the two sides working toward common goals.

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Singer said after about a year, five million people have taken advantage of UltraViolet, which is a relatively small number. First pushed at Christmas last year, the technology has had little impact and is not yet widely known or understood  He hopes they will have 7 million users by the end of this year.

Singer and Dodd believe that it is only a matter of time before UltraViolet and a similar service Disney will offer become widely adapted.

“We will hit a critical mass with ultraviolet,” said Singer. “It is going to become the standard. I’m not worried about the timing. You’re going to see more discs sold. You’re going to see more ways consumer can get those discs into the cloud into their own personal rights locker. This is just the very beginning of what I consider a long journey.”

You can probably say the same thing about Dodd’s efforts to heal the rift between tech and content companies. “We’re making progress,” said Dodd. “Its not making headlines every day like a battle in Congress does, but I think this is the right track to be on. These are two communities that respect each other, they work together and their both increasingly technology and content companies. I was up here to make that case.”

“We’ve got a long way to go. I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna here at all,” said Dodd, adding: “This country has great technology innovators and content providers’. We want to get back to that relationship that has been so healthy in the past.”