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MPAA chief says technology firms and big media need to reach an "understanding"

It was a curious juxtaposition.  After seeing many of his top donors -- notably big media and tech giants like Google Inc. (GOOG) -- at odds over Congressional punitive proposals of copyright enforcement, President Obama's administration threw its weight behind sinking the Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261).  In the end, it left copyright watchdogs like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) coming up empty after pouring out nearly 10 percent of active Senators election costs.

In a post-mortem interview about SOPA, the MPAA's new chief, ex-Democratic Senator Chris Dodd seemed to threaten President Obama for appearing to join the push against SOPA.  But that warning seemed a bit suspicious, given the record $4.1M USD members of Hollywood's elite -- top actors and companies -- had given U.S. President Barack Obama in his reelection bid.  Whether MPAA chief Dodd and the President were truly enemies was further called into question when the President approved the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an executive order that many saw as a way of sneaking in SOPA-like permissions without Congressional approval.

In a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Sen. Dodd drops former hints that his former colleague might really be on board with the MPAA and RIAA's goals, and that his former rhetoric might have merely been a clever bit of social engineering designed to divert public vehemence over SOPA away from his close ally President Obama.

Chris Dodd
MPAA's corpulent CEO Chris Dodd
[Image Source: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom]

In the interview Sen. Dodd says that he is "confident" that Obama is working to bring technology firms on board with a SOPA-like proposal.  The interviewer asks, "What is the status of the Stop Online Piracy Act?...Are there conversations going on now?"

He first responds, "I'm confident that's the case, but I'm not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive."

But when asked about the President, he unexpectedly cites him as a supporter in such efforts, stating, "I'm not going to revisit the events of last winter. I'll only say to you that I'm confident [Obama is] using his good relationships in both communities [tech, big media] to do exactly what you and I have been talking about."

Obama flag
U.S. President Barack Obama [Image Source: SFGate]
The optimism echoes that of the RIAA's CEO Cary Sherman who in a New York Times opinion piece mocked the SOPA protests as "demagoguery", not "democracy".  In the piece Mr. Sherman expressed hopes of a SOPA revival, stating that he believed the public's outrage was a "one time" performance.

Indeed, it is feasible to think that Congress could bea bit more subtle in terms of slipping SOPA-like provisions into other bills, rather than bundling them together into one easy target for opponents.  Likewise, if such efforts were sweetened by offers of money for tech companies -- from either the big media themselves, or by government supplied tax breaks -- they could get behind the idea.  In fact, telecoms have recently bit at precisely such a scheme (media providing the cost of enforcement), when offered.

So will the RIAA and MPAA get there way?  We won't know for some time.  But former Senator Chris Dodd is confident they will.

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, New York Times

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Major Corporations, Government, and you...
By pv on 4/8/2012 10:23:26 AM , Rating: 3
For the people who can see the cycle, its actually a beautiful example of how systems that previously work start to fail.

1) You have a society that has suddenly become media and communications rich. 100 years ago, information traveled as fast as the mail. Now information travels at the speed of light (even faster in some cases :P ). Our system of law and representation was created in an era were communications took time - up to two weeks - to reach the most far flung areas of the US (which weren't all that far flung by modern standards). Our system of representation was based on that ideal, because people had to elect local representatives who were then sent to the capitol to do their work.

2) Because of the uptick in social awareness, and the prevalence of mass-media, communications, and instant communication, Media giants have a massive amount of control in the electoral process. Instead of having to go and meet your representative in person to get a feel for what they're going to be doing for you in office, you don't even have to leave your living room - because they're broadcasting their intent to you through media channels. This costs money, money most representatives aren't willing to part with out of pocket. Therefore campaigns must raise immense amounts of money in order to compete.

The largest source of money for most campaigns are the rich and powerful. They are giving their money not because of genuine support - but because it is an investment. The money invested is used to create advertising campaigns, which feed the media markets. How the media markets present these campaigns determines whose message is a) heard most often and B) seen in the most positive light.

The money investment forces campaigns to give special consideration to the rich and powerful. It also forces the rich and powerful to invest - because the alternative is not having their interests listened to if their supported candidate fails to win. However, both sides know it is the media systems that have ultimate control over victory - because without the media, a candidates message becomes that much harder to hear.

3) the modern voting process is media rich, you are basically supporting a candidate that is - for better or worse - what their media image is. You have just spent the last 9-16 months being bombarded by media information from your favorite party (democrat or republican) and are so angry and ticked off at your opposing party that you're willing to break your neighbors legs (if you can get away with it) to keep him from voting if he votes for the other team. (I've seen people who wanted to vote end up with slashed tires, had information about polling stations stolen from their door, people create fake information about polling stations... (that one was done to me, but I knew where my polling station was) all to keep the people they think would vote against their favorite party from doing it. There is even a large contingent of Americans that have registered with the other party for the express purpose of messing with the primary process). The end result is that you blindly vote for the person who a) has the most media cash and b) is strongly supported by the rich and powerful, c) has the most support for popular media outlets.

Do you really think that any politician is going to follow the will of the people when the people really have no say in who gets elected because of the ultra-smooth marketing system that is in place - one that most Americans believe in more than any act of government? Angry Americans tend to be fanatical about their supported party. You can't argue with them, you can't convince them they're wrong on any issue. You say one negative thing about their party of choice, you might as well be Lucifer himself. When people are referred to "sheeple" this is the reason why. And the modern campaign is designed to take aim at people, divide them on cultural, emotional, racial and religious lines, and keep them glaring at each other from opposite sides of the fence - so angry that they can't see that their vote is just being used, and that their real concerns will never be addressed. In the end, people become so apathetic that they refuse to vote - in which case they don't deserve to get their issues listened to anyways.

This is how a system gets corrupted people. And every American has a ringside seat.

RE: Major Corporations, Government, and you...
By DrizztVD on 4/9/2012 5:32:21 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree that your arguments do, for the most part, have a sound basis. It's increasingly clear that political campaigning is a popularity contest. This much is known. Your argument that media companies act as the channeling medium for this contest has merit, yet falls apart on the premise that because they are the medium, they dictate the politician’s choices. It’s not true that the media can magically determine how to present a politician to the people, so that he/she gets re-elected. Amount of exposure does not really translate directly into popularity. In the end it’s still the people who cast the votes.

While you point out that people can be very fanatical about their political beliefs, it merely is a standard human trait, and not indicative of the health of the system necessarily. I would argue that there are enough clear-thinking individuals to counter this phenomenon.

The main argument is the health of the political system in the light of large media corporation intervention. While I have stated that I do not believe that these companies can really dictate politics by their own individual will, money is powerful and does have some influence. My counter argument is not that media influence is ineffectual, but rather that there is minimal harm to society due to their intervention.

If their sole purpose is to provide legislation that can limit the uncontrolled copying of intellectual property, I really don’t see why anyone’s life is in danger. Their purpose could be self-serving (massive profits) but in reality no company can indefinitely receive abnormal profits in a market without it generating a lot of competition. My argument time and again has been that the indiscriminate copying of media has made the market such that the only companies that could survive in the market are the ones that use indiscriminate tactics to generate profits. Now we have a situation where the demand side of the market (the people) are complaining of the very tactics they had a hand in necessitating.

This is not an example of the failing of the electoral system. This is an example of the response to long-term exploitation of companies by people without the fear of retribution. This problem would not exist if the people did not create it in the first place- by having stuff they don’t have a right to own. Now I can already hear the multitude of arguments that want to justify such action. The question you have to ask yourself is: what if there is no excuse for this? I can assure you that the fruits of good actions are good results. What results do we see in the market? Bad? What type of actions caused it?

By Invane on 4/9/2012 12:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
Your argument that media companies act as the channeling medium for this contest has merit, yet falls apart on the premise that because they are the medium, they dictate the politician’s choices. It’s not true that the media can magically determine how to present a politician to the people, so that he/she gets re-elected. Amount of exposure does not really translate directly into popularity. In the end it’s still the people who cast the votes.

Yet to deny that the media has a large effect on the results is foolish. There are millions of dollars spent determining the best way to manipulate the American populace via mass media. In most cases, this is done for marketing purposes to determine how best to part them with their money, but you can bet your ass this is applied to the best of their ability for political gain as well.

The people's vote is done based on the information provided to them (or not provided to them) by the media. This simple fact has given the American ruling class an unprecedented level of control over the political process.

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