The forces of free speech, and for that matter everyone who has ever used the internet, won a major victory last week when after a protest shutdown by many major websites Congress changed its mind about passing legislation which would seriously damage the internet superhighway. Those bills, called SOPA and PIPA, have now lost much of their backing from their sponsors, in large part because readers of this site and others, people like you, took action. Unfortunately not everyone’s happy about it.
One of the biggest forces behind bills like SOPA and PIPA is and always has been the Motion Picture Association of America. Even before the protests this week the MPAA was quick to attack anyone who thought their bills were a bad idea, claiming they needed what basically amounts to total censorship control over the internet to protect themselves for piracy. Now that they’ve lost this round, they’ve started calling out all the politicians they’ve been paying off.
I’m not kidding. The MPAA is blatantly and publicly attacking the politicians they’ve bought for not staying bought. Rumors of this first started on Deadline earlier in the week when they claimed Hollywood Moguls were threatening to stop donating to Obama’s re-election campaign unless he did their bidding. This report was widely denied, however, and no one paid much attention to it. As it turns out, Deadline was completely right.
We know this because MPAA head Chris Dodd went to Fox News in order to publicly threaten the politicians he’s been paying. Here’s what he had to say, on live television no less:
Those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.
That seems pretty clear. What’s also clear is that Mr. Dodd doesn’t actually seem to understand the way campaign donations are supposed to work. See you give those to politicians not because they will then do what you tell them to, but because you believe in them and trust them to make the right decisions for our country. When you pay people off with the expectation that they will then do whatever you want, that’s called a bribe.
It’s also an incredibly tone deaf response to what’s going on right now. Millions of people just stepped up to tell their congressman that they don’t want what Chris Dodd and the MPAA are selling. For him to respond by suggesting that his money counts more than their votes is flat out disgusting. It’s also dangerous.
Dodd’s comments and other actions by the MPAA have prompted several different sources to start calling for a Hollywood boycott. It’s gaining momentum on the social site Reddit, and don’t forget it was Reddit which started the shutdown protest used to stop SOPA and PIPA. It’s a sentiment which is fast growing in other places too. The news site Y Combinator had this to say in a post titled “Kill Hollywood”…
Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.
Maybe this will be a boon for the independent film industry, as people look for ways to give their money to less onerous organizations, or maybe it’ll never amount to anything. But people love Facebook almost as much as they hate corruption and the MPAA seems only too happy to tread on both.
UPDATE! A petition has been launched on Whitehouse.gov asking the Obama administration to investigate Chris Dodd and the MPAA for bribery. See that petition here.