Only Content Industries Can Create Content People Want, Says MPAA's Attaway

Copyright stamp at laptop computer

“Our industries do something that no one else can do,” the Motion Picture Association of America’s Fritz Attaway said at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting this morning. “We create content that people want to have.”

On a panel called “Content Industries in Digital Transformation,” Attaway was speaking for himself and others: moderator and AAP president and CEO Tom Allen, Business Software Alliance’s Robert Holleyman and Recording Industry Association of America’s Cary Sherman, all of whom grappled over whether legislation or collaborative approaches are the correct response to piracy.

“Among my friends in Congress, there is some alarm about what happened [surrounding SOPA and PIPA],” said Allen, who was previously a Maine congressman. “The woman who replaced me in the first district of Maine got 800 e-mails in two days, every one of them opposed to the bills. How in this environment can our respective industries do more to defend the principles of copyright when we’re confronting this wave of the public that goes every day to the Internet and downloads and reads all sorts of stuff for free?”

In general, panelists came down on the side of collaboration — though not necessarily collaboration with the consumer.

SOPA/Pipa Protests: A “Digital Tsunami”

“Right doesn’t always prevail,” Attaway said of SOPA and PIPA. “This time, it didn’t, because our opponents were able to energize a grassroots response. In my view, and I think all of us would agree, [the protest against SOPA and PIPA was spread] primarily through disinformation and spinning their interest in a way that captured the attention of a number of consumers.”

He added “we’ve been rather successful in negotiating with ISPs and other best practices that help protect our content on [user-generated content] sites….I’m very optimistic about our future.”

The Business Software Alliance, however, did not support SOPA or PIPA. “There was a tremendous amount of opposition and we can discuss how it was or wasn’t generated,” Holleyman said. “Shared responsibility and working with other industries is going to be the best, and maybe the only, solution we have, at least for the next several years. I hope we can build a climate where the rhetoric can be lower.”

The RIAA’s Sherman hopes further copyright discussions will be more “rational” than the debate over SOPA and PIPA. “The digital tsunami we encountered with SOPA and PIPA — we’re not going to get the same kind of engagement when we talk about statutory damages or open works,” he said. “We’ll have the opportunity for a more rational discussion. At the same time, I think we actually need to engage. We have criticized the other side for just saying no. We have an enormous piracy problem, and any solution we propose, they just say no. We [also] need to engage and not just say no.”

No, You Can’t Do Whatever You Want With That Movie

The music industry’s Copyright Alert program, which addresses piracy on P2P networks, will begin operation in the second quarter of the year, by July at the earliest, Sherman said. The software crawls P2P sites for pirated content, then works with ISPs to send notices to subscribers alerting them that they’ve been identified as possible copyright infringers.

“This is a concrete example of where we could go, and we would love to be following in your footsteps,” said the AAP’s Allen.

“Education is key,” Attaway said. “It is absolutely ridiculous that a movie that cost $100 million to create, a copy of which you paid $20 for, to say that you own that movie and should make any number of copies you want to. The intellectual base of the Copyleft is pretty flimsy, and we need to do a better job of pointing that out to the public. We need to do it from a grassroots base of the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on copyright protection. [Paying $20 for a movie] doesn’t mean you have the right to make all the copies you want and share them with all of your friends.”

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