This week, movie-studio executives will descend upon Washington D.C. for a week of back-patting symposiums, power lunches and lobbying. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, just try to keep in mind that these movie moguls have earned their right to a week-long retreat. As we’ve seen, the movie industry is just about the only industry that’s thriving amid the economic Sturm und Drang. Even so, it seems that our Hollywood friends won’t be able to resist the allure of asking for a few favors while in town. “We’re coming to D.C. to highlight the positive impact of our industry and show that we’re part of the solution,” MPAA executive vice president of Government Relations Michael O’Leary recently told CongressDaily. What exactly does this mean? A quick glance at the MPAA’s most recent policy wish list (PDF link) reveals a few topics that are likely to show up on the agenda:
- Selectable Output Control: All has been quiet on the Selectable Output Control (SOC) front since former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin decided not to entertain the MPAA’s petition. With the Agency still in a state of transition, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any action on the petition for some time to come. Still, don’t be surprised if the MPAA drops by the FCC to inquire as to the petition’s status.
- ACTA: We’ve seen some encouraging developments with regard to the transparency of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations process recently though, as we’ve noted, the battle for a more balanced ACTA is far from over. Hollywood clearly has a prominent spot at the negotiating table and it’s likely that the studios will spend a great deal of their political capital trying to weave mandates like copyright filtering and three strikes into the fabric of the multilateral treaty.
- Copyright Filtering: They already tried—and failed–to sneak copyright filtering requirements into the Stimulus Act but Hollywood has often displayed a Forrest Gump-like persistence when it comes to pushing its copyright policy agenda. Expect a repeat performance whereby the movie moguls insist that without invasive filtering powered by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), our homegrown creative industries will wither up and die (despite plentiful evidence to the contrary).
- Three Strikes: Thus far, lobbying for three strikes legislation has largely been the province of the recording industry, though we know for a fact that the MPAA would like a piece of the three strikes action as well (PDF link). Given the staggering defeats that three strikes laws recently suffered in both France and New Zealand, however, a three strikes law here in the States seems highly unlikely. But that probably won’t stop Hollywood from trying. After all, Director’s Guild of America vice president Steven Soderbergh was heard stumping for three strikes mere days ago.
As you can see, the MPAA’s current policy agenda can be boiled down to the following argument: digital piracy hurts American businesses, therefore, we need much stronger Intellectual Property laws and enforcement, with little regard for how such laws will affect fair use, privacy and consumer’s rights. This might have been an easy argument to make a few months ago but given Hollywood’s recent glut of good luck amid financial disaster, you’ve got to wonder if even the most sympathetic policymakers will buy the studios’ rhetoric this time around. After all, piracy of big Hollywood films continues unabated yet, somehow, movie attendance is at a twenty year high. Here’s hoping that instead of pressing their luck by pushing a pro-industry, anti-consumer agenda, the movie-studio executives choose to simply enjoy their good fortune for once–not to mention their week-long vacation.