(MintPress) – Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has a theory about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): It is corrupting the government. Dotcom, who has been accused of costing the entertainment industry $500 million through his pirating website, has been in a long-standing battle with the MPAA over copyright infringement charges. And the MPAA’s anti-piracy push has only been made stronger by its lobbying efforts, which have exceeded $1.1 million for the year thus far.
As a result, the MPAA has become a powerful entity in Internet legislation and entertainment censorship.
In August, MPAA memos were leaked that revealed the trade association that represents six of the biggest Hollywood studios was lobbying for studios to pay increased attention to criminalizing filesharing websites. The memo made references to Richard O’Dwyer, founder of the website TVShack.net. The British student faces up to 10 years in prison for alleged copyright offenses – a case the MPAA is incessantly trying to push through. The MPAA details how it is looking to counter media reports of its cases by building a coalition of entertainment business to help fight cases.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Dotcom asserts that the MPAA’s lobbying efforts have created a cozy relationship with politicians and United States attorneys who oversee the rulings on federal cases. Dotcom says the MPAA is already given near limitless power because its new CEO is former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, which he attributes to the attack on Megaupload.
“The MPAA made the ultimate hire with former senator and Joe Biden’s best friend Chris Dodd. They now own the ear drums at the White House. And Chris Dodd is using his influence,” Dotcom said. “The U.S. Attorney [Neil MacBride] leading this case was a former copyright lobbyist and lawyer of Joe Biden. He is also a buddy of Chris Dodd. This gang of friends plotted the takedown of Megaupload in bad faith.”
Over the winter, participating websites went dark to protest the MPAA-influenced Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The legislation would have shut down websites that used copyrighted material without permission, while penalizing advertisers and any other entity that did business with the infringing site. Opponents to the bill included Google, Facebook, Yahoo and the Mozilla Corporation – creator of the popular web browser Firefox. After initial hearings of the measure, a majority of the amendments were rejected, resulting in the bill failing to come to a vote.
The defeat resulted in a verbal backlash from Dodd, who told Fox News that the MPAA would consider pulling campaign contributions to politicians if they failed to act in the best interests of Hollywood’s lobbying arm.
“Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake,” Dodd said. “Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”
In 2011, the year SOPA was written, the MPAA spent a total of more than $2.1 million in lobbying expenditures – its highest total since 2008. With lobbying figures approaching that total again this year, speculation of a reworked SOPA-like legislation for this coming winter has been rumored. In an interview with Variety, Dodd said a future bill would likely look the same, only be marketed to the population differently. Dodd strategized that “we’re going to have to be more subtle and consumer-oriented. We’re on the wrong track if we describe this as thievery.”
The frustration of failing to protect their corporate interests has also been taken out on President Barack Obama, who the MPAA said stood against their anti-piracy measure. The group said he should have supported it or remained neutral on the matter because of their financial contributions to him and have also threatened to pull funding if he does not respond with more support.
During debates over SOPA, the White House came out against the legislation, saying it “censored lawful activity” and said that a bipartisan effort would be the only way to draft anti-piracy legislation without impeding on Internet rights.
In a statement, the MPAA aired its grievances with the Obama administration, saying its longtime support of both Obama and the Democratic Party is in jeopardy if the association is not allowed to pass legislation it feels necessary through.
“God knows how much money we’ve given to Obama and the Democrats and yet they’re not supporting our interests,” the MPAA said. “There’s been no greater supporters of him than we’ve been from the first day and the first fundraisers continuing until he was elected. We all were pleased. And, at its heart institutionally, Hollywood supports the Democrats. Now we need the administration to support us. This is a very important time for Hollywood.”
Public Knowledge, an Internet advocacy group, said the MPAA’s efforts to push through objectionable legislation are misguided and that the MPAA is not being truthful in its intentions with its legislative efforts.
“We suggest that in the meantime, if the MPAA is truly concerned about the jobs of truck drivers and others in the industry, then it can bring its overseas filming back to the U.S. and create more jobs,” Public Knowledge said. “It could stop holding states hostage for millions of dollars in subsidies that strained state budgets can’t afford while pushing special-interest bills through state legislatures. While that happens, discussions could take place.”
The MPAA’s panic to push through legislation may stem from its drastic loss of revenue over the past few years. Tax filings from 2010 show that the MPAA went from a $92.8 million in revenues to $49.6 million after a three-year span. While that has resulted in wage cuts from staffers and a decrease in funding paid to law firms, lobbying funding has remained unaffected, with a total budget of $4.6 million.
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