updated 06:05 pm EST, Wed January 25, 2012
MPAA only now edging towards balance
A new exposé of some of the actions behind the scenes of SOPA's rejection has shown the fundamental disconnect between the MPAA and differing points of view as well as signs that there may be progress, if slow, on an alternative. MPAA president and former Democratic senator Chris Dodd explained to The Hollywood Reporter that he had been "assured" there would be no major opposition from the White House and was caught unawares when the administration suggested it would veto either SOPA or its Senate equivalent PIPA if they passed a vote. MPAA members had started to "pick up signals" of resistance at the start of January, but they sincerely thought they had made concessions and felt "bitterly betrayed" as a result.
Follow-up conversations, however, suggest that the MPAA and those supporting it had little contact with, or understanding of, the technology industry side they saw as their opponents. California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein had reportedly been trying to have MPAA representatives talk to technology companies up to January 9, but they, including Disney CEO Bob Iger, had turned down conversations. The MPAA's senior executive VP for global policy, Michael O'Leary, has also made a more direct admission that the movie advocacy group doesn't have a strong grasp of the technology industry but was trying to push these measures past its gatekeepers.
"This was a fight on a platform we're not at this point comfortable with, and we were going up against an opponent that controls that platform," he told the magazine.
Many critics have pointed to the well-known November committee hearing on SOPA as an example of how little the technology field was consulted. While a wide range of supporting politicians, the MPAA, and other advocates were present, the only opposing force was Google's policy counsel Katherine Oyama. Those at the hearing joked about their lack of technical knowledge, made inaccurate statements about Google search results, and in many cases had never heard of the DNSSEC security initiative that SOPA would have compromised.
An insider has told the magazine that there might be signs of progress on reaching a balance. There is reportedly "incremental" movement on a compromise, the person said. Whether that was a heavily modified SOPA/PIPA, a new bill altogether, or something else wasn't apparent. However, Dodd has suggested that the measures weren't likely to be touched during an election year. Piracy has never been a major topic during US federal elections, and the uncertainty of who would be in office to vote on a bill makes discussions impractical.
Some of the blame has been put on President Obama wanting to cater to the $52 million in lobbying from technology companies. Dodd is well known for his debated claims that "big tech" had been influencing the opposition to SOPA and PIPA. It was publicly interpreted as an ironic statement, however, as it's commonly understood that the MPAA spends over seven times more in lobbying efforts. The ex-politician undermined his claim after the defeats of the two bills during a Fox News segment, when he directly asserted that the MPAA had been writing checks for campaign support with the assumption it would get the laws it wanted.
He has since partly backtracked, saying that he had just made an obvious statement, but has done little to quell accusations in a petition to the White House website which assert he was openly admitting to bribing politicians to pass laws.