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Hollywood tells lawmakers to back U.S. efforts in copyright trade talks

Hollywood urged key lawmakers Thursday to support trade negotiations that would set rules for policing copyright laws.

The Motion Picture Association of America wrote a letter to several lawmakers including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Va.) and House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, asking them to support the Obama administration's efforts in the trade talks, which are being conducted behind closed doors in Seoul. Other countries participating in the negotiations include the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea, along with European Union members.

In its letter, the MPAA said that new global rules are needed to protect films from Internet piracy. As more people illegally trade content online, the movie studios businesses suffer.

"The ability to finance, create and distribute entertainment, and the livelihood of the talented and dedicated men and women who work in our industry are dependent upon our ability to protect the intellectual property that is the lifeblood of our industry," wrote MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman. "Technological advances have enabled more copyrighted works to be disseminated to more people in more countries through more media than ever before."

The appeal comes amid protests of the trade talks by public interest groups and legal scholars, who say such negotiations shouldn't take place in secret. The countries are crafting a set of rules known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which would address, among other things, illegal distribution of copyrighted material over the Web.

As reported, sources who have seen drafts of the trade agreement have expressed concern that rules under consideration are too stringent and could lead to Internet service providers filtering content. If the ISPs fail to stop copyright infringements by their subscribers, those ISPs could be held be held liable by the movie, music and publishing industries, according to sources.

Glickman called the protests a "distraction" and said that they flout efforts to deal with a need to figure out how to enforce online copyright.

"Opponents of ACTA are either indifferent to this situation, or actively hostile toward efforts to improve copyright enforcement worldwide," Glickman said.

Similar letters were sent to:
Ranking Member Jeff Sessions, Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee
Ranking Member Charles E. Grassley, Senate Finance Committee
Chairman John Conyers, House Committee of the Judiciary
Ranking Member Lamar Smith, House Committee on the Judiciary
Chairman Charles Rangel, House Committee on Ways and Means
Ranking Member Dave Camp, House Committee on Ways and Means
Chairman Henry Waxman, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Ranking Member Joe Barton, House Committee on Energy and Commerce

By Cecilia Kang  |  November 20, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  copyright  
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This was Public Knowledge's response to the MPAA letter (link:

"We are pleased to join MPAA in asking for more transparency in the deliberations over the anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). That request is long overdue. We hope the MPAA sends its message to the U.S. Trade Representative in addition to its letters to Congress.

"However, we do not agree that the dispute over the backroom deliberations of this agreement are a 'distraction.' The disagreement about public involvement goes to the heart of an open and responsible government. Allowing a select few non-industry observers, including Public Knowledge, to view the contents of the ACTA proposal under strict non-disclosure terms is not a substitute for full public participation. An open and transparent government was one of the first promises made by the Obama Administration.

"We also take issue with the assertion that opponents of the treaty are 'indifferent' or 'actively hostile,' to use MPAA's terms, to improving worldwide copyright enforcement. Public Knowledge is not. We endorse a focus on commercial reproduction of DVDs and other hard goods, which is a more serious problem.

"We do want to make certain, however, that the rights of Internet users are not trampled by overwhelming government power asserted at the behest of a single special interest. What PK objects to is imposing unreasonable burdens on civil liberties and innovation, particular where these have such limited impact. In particular, it is inappropriate to ask ISPs and application designers to do what the studios themselves have found impossible to do, manage security to prevent all illegal copying.

"And while the MPAA may be correct in its statements about the economic impact of its industry, we also note that despite the constant threat of 'piracy,' the industry has reported that the number of motion pictures released in 2009 so far (and the figure is incomplete) is higher than last year, and that the number has grown in the past five years. Box office receipts, as well, continue on an ever-upward pace."

Note: Techdirt has a summary of motion pictures produced:

Posted by: artbrodsky | November 21, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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