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Jan 26 2012

Bribery by MPAA in the lobbying for SOPA / PIPA?

Via reader AliasAlpha, evidently Chris Dodd might be attracting a certain sort of unwelcome attention from the White House if this petition catches their ear:

Closing a tumultuous week of wide protest against PIPA and SOPA – two MPAA backed anti-piracy bills – Dodd threatened to stop the cash-flow to politicians who dare to take a stand against pro-Hollywood legislation. Clear bribery, the petition claims, and already thousands agree.

[...]

Talking to Fox News, the MPAA’s boss threatened to stop contributing to politicians who don’t back legislation designed to protect Hollywood.

“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. 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,” Dodd said.

[...]

“This is an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal. This is a brazen flouting of the ‘above the law’ status people of Dodd’s position and wealth enjoy,” the petition reads.

Money talks, and the entertainment industry — well, the MPAA in particular at least — is surely swimming in such money, considering it keeps topping its own record profits year after year. Don’t like it? Well, do something about it — you know, like hire a lobbyist. Like everyone else with any sort of pull with the government.

Erm. Sorry. That might have been a little too close to a nerve for you to catch the sarcasm there. It’s difficult to calibrate such things when there are so many aggravating aspects of a story.

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  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    What Dodd did was probably not illegal: slimy & unethical, but within accepted Beltway practice.

    It was, moreover, a brazen flaunting of the ‘above the law’ status people of Dodd’s position and wealth enjoy…

  2. 2
    peicurmudgeon

    And some people can’t understand the ‘Occupy Movement’.

  3. 3
    Erin

    This is not bribery so much as a threat. What he’s really saying is, “don’t expect the big cheques and ‘show up’ support come election time if you’re not going to support this bill.” There is a fine line between political support and outright bribery. Many industries/companies walk it rather adeptly and wind up with all sorts of decisions in their favour. Dodd’s mistake was saying it out loud which triggered suspicion in hordes of people already inclined to think ill of the MPAA.

    We all know that politicians and big business are in bed together. What makes it bribery is if the support starts (at the suggestion of the business/industry/etc.) in order to bring about a particular bill and then is pulled if that bill does not come to pass or the politician drops support of it. Yes, that sounds like what’s happening, but the MPAA and various other interests in the industry have probably been supporting politicians for longer than PIPA and SOPA have been in the works. This leads it to being more like the support that an ordinary person gives (with a lot more money and star power) where the politician woos us – usually for votes unless it’s JFK or Clinton – and then disappoints so next election, we go looking for a new candidate to back.

    This is not to say that I support the MPAA, PIPA and SOPA. I consider the whole thing a huge waste of time and money all to fight progress. If they’d just consult their ‘customers’ and put all that time and money into efforts to bring about positive changes instead of trying to recreate AOL for the entire country (among other things) they’d probably be less hated and wind up with a workable solution that doesn’t involve government interference.

  4. 4
    karmakin

    Agreed with Erin.

    Look at it this way. In the past, you’ve given politicians who’ve shared your views the legal maximum limit blah blah blah. They are planning on doing something you don’t like, so you write them a terse letter letting you know that you will be pulling your support for them. This is a pretty standard thing really.

    “Corruption” is a really lazy argument that gets nobody nowhere most of the time. It’s pointless. Do you really think that politicians are being bought for such low amounts? Really? Isn’t it plausible that politicians do things because they innately agree with those who donate to them and as such those people are donating because the politicians agree with them?

    On this particular topic, is it so unthinkable that certain politicians really do think that piracy really does shrink the economy and as such costs and threatens jobs during a time of such unemployment and as such something should be done about that. Is that so unthinkable? I don’t think so. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think this is both dead wrong and a complete misreading of cultural traditions and norms. Piracy doesn’t change aggregate demand very much one way or the other, it just shifts it around a bit..or even a lot. (Some people might save money they otherwise would have spent on pirated cultural goods, but these people are obviously in the minority) That shifting might be an issue, but considering how well some cultural markets are doing (movies and games), it doesn’t seem like piracy is a blanket issue, especially when you consider that one of the hardest hit sectors (books) is also not really pirated.

    Which leads us to cultural traditions and norms. I’ll just throw it out there. Piracy is little different from legal, culturally protected activities such as public libraries, loaning cultural goods, reselling cultural goods, renting, etc.

    Until we change the terms of these debates from protesting “corruption” to trying to explain WHY well-meaning people are simply wrong on the issue, there cannot be any progress.

  5. 5
    InfraredEyes

    On this particular topic, is it so unthinkable that certain politicians really do think that piracy really does shrink the economy and as such costs and threatens jobs during a time of such unemployment and as such something should be done about that.

    It’s not unthinkable. But consider how many legislators, including some of the sponsors of the two bills, flipped their position when faced with the black-out protest and all the resulting calls and emails. Their reaction doesn’t suggest to me that they had carefully thought out their position before supporting SOPA and PIPA. It suggests that they signed on to whatever Dodds was pushing, without thinking about it at all.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    I fully agree with both of you, Erin and karmakin. I also, further, believe that piracy is at its core an expression of distaste for the licensing method the media company has chosen. It is, in my estimation, an attempt at telling the media company their chosen license is wrong, and they should use some other license instead. Piracy goes up not when price goes up per se, so much as availability, which is almost always a function of the license. To some smaller degree it goes up when prices are viewed as exorbitant, I’d expect, but that’s again a function of the licensing scheme.

    There will also always be some baseline level of piracy. But it’s more important to go after people who are, say, selling bootleg DVDs than individual downloaders, though.

  7. 7
    karmakin

    Yup. And the reason why you go after bootleggers is that is a very real distortion in the market. People are willing to spend real money on a given cultural product and a third party is draining that money.

    (Strangely enough, live recordings are often referred to as bootlegs, and often those groups have quite high standards to ensure that as little money as possible is made off of them..I like these bootlegs)

    @Infra:I don’t think they really thought the bill through, but that’s because of how much of a no-brainer it really does look like. Piracy is bad, right?

    Well. No. It’s both creating real competition for monopolistic goods, ensuring a more competitive marketplace for said goods as well as restoring some of the lost consumer value that comes with a monopolistic marketplace.

    Where Big Music and Big Fiction (to a lesser extent) went wrong, as an example of this, was in trying to pretend that the entire music market was simply a series of interchangeable, rapidly degrading, widgets as that made them the most theoretical profit. The problem is that people don’t really want rapidly degrading widgets, they want long-lasting cultural connections. As such, the alternative to buying expensive Album X isn’t to buy cheaper Album Y…you have no cultural or social interest in Album Y…it’s to find another way to experience the same content.

  8. 8
    Marshall

    Well. No. It’s both creating real competition for monopolistic goods, ensuring a more competitive marketplace for said goods as well as restoring some of the lost consumer value that comes with a monopolistic marketplace.

    Where Big Music and Big Fiction (to a lesser extent) went wrong, as an example of this, was in trying to pretend that the entire music market was simply a series of interchangeable, rapidly degrading, widgets as that made them the most theoretical profit. The problem is that people don’t really want rapidly degrading widgets, they want long-lasting cultural connections. As such, the alternative to buying expensive Album X isn’t to buy cheaper Album Y…you have no cultural or social interest in Album Y…it’s to find another way to experience the same content.

    Thanks for this, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite as clear an elucidation of this particular aspect of things before.

  1. 9
    Stop CISPA

    Stop CISPA…

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