Three years ago, the entertainment industry led an all out assault against the free sharing of digital media via the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The initial strategy was to slip the bill under the radar at the end of the legislative session in 2011.
The would-be law allowed copyrights holders several tools to blacklist websites and thus censor the internet. The bill that was championed by the MPAA gave power to the entertainment industry to prohibit advertisement networks and payment facilities from doing business with infringing websites via court orders. With SOPA they could also prevent search engines from providing links to the site.
Much like the Copyright Amendment act of 2015 in Australia, SOPA was a blunt tool capable of blocking entire domains if any infringing material was found on a single blog or page. Despite their attempt to pull a fast one on the internet, organizations like EFF.org successfully sounded the alarm and mobilized the internet to fight against the bill. Within weeks SOPA fell flat on its face.
But the entertainment industry is not letting the fight go. They believe if they knock long enough, someone will let them in.
What the MPAA and its allies are trying to achieve in the US certainly seems attainable. There are other countries that have not only allowed this type of blocking, but now have laws on the books for exactly this. Australia has its freshly passed Copyright Amendment act of 2015. Canada recently passed a loosely worded bill known as C-51 that is aimed at terrorists but is riddled with loopholes that could allow distortion of the new law. And David Cameron of the UK has promised to introduce similar legislation in the next year.
MPAA Gloves Are Off
It seems that due to their previously unsuccessful efforts, the MPAA and others are resorting to more- how should I put this- Mafia-esque strategies.
Hey Google, I see you like your public relations ya got there.
It would be a shame if… anything should happen to it.
You see, The Interview wasn’t the only thing to come out as a result of the Sony hack back in November and December of 2014; personal data and private e-mails of celebrities and leaders of the entertainment industry were released too.
One of the biggest bombshells to come out of those e-mails was the revelation that Hollywood and the MPAA were plotting against Google. Together, they were attempting to coerce Attorney Generals (elected officials, by the way) to open an investigation into Google. Documents later revealed that they had succeeded in recruiting Attorney General Jim Hood from Mississippi into their plan to conduct a full tilt campaign against the tech giant.
I’m not talking about some sort of vague, read-between-the-lines- conspiracy-theory either. Oh no. This is as much of a smoking gun as you can get. The only thing that could be worse is if Attorney General Hood came right out and confessed to everything in a press conference- but he doesn’t really need to do that.
I’m talking about e-mails that included the following quote (emphasis mine):
We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The “live buys” should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google’s stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.
AG Hood’s role was as a final step, or fail safe if the PR attack didn’t work. Theverge.com summarized an e-mail from May 8, 2014 (emphasis, theverge.com):
We’ve had success to date in motivating the AGs; however as they approach the CID phase, the AGs will need greater levels of legal support.” He outlines two options, ranging from $585,000 to $1.175 million, which includes legal support for AGs (through Jenner) and optional investigation and analysis of (“ammunition / evidence against”) Goliath. Both options include at least $85,000 for communication (e.g. “Respond to / rebut Goliath’s public advocacy, amplify negative Goliath news, [and] seed media stories based on investigation and AG actions.).
In true Hollywood fashion, they used a codename for their target: ‘Goliath’ refers to Google. CID is not a codename, but legal jargon for an administrative subpoena (Civil Investigative Demand) that would require Google to give up any information in relation to the investigation.
But Wait! There’s More
Furthermore, if there was any doubt in your mind- if you’re a devil’s advocate like me- about whether the media is run by money and its Hollywood extensions then you can go ahead and lose those now. The e-mails not only gave evidence to collusion between entertainment and the AG; but it also showed that the media is a slave to money and its connections to Hollywood.
There can be absolutely no doubt now. The e-mails clearly show an effort to attack not only Google’s public image by funding fake editorials in the Wall Street Journal, funding a The Today Show segment, and bankrolling a non-profit through a third party to campaign against Google, but also disrupt its financial bottom line.
Any editorial precedence that the Wall Street Journal has had can now be rightfully questioned.
With these behind closed door politics it calls into question the integrity of the entire organizations of Comcast (who owns The Today Show) and News Corp (who owns the WSJ). Which is sad to say, because I am sure that most of reporters themselves have more integrity than what is to be suggested from these documents.
feature image courtesy of Bill Kerr via Flickr
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