Normally Hollywood is seen as being a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party (Clint Eastwood notwithstanding). So it was a bit of shocker when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) issued a statement praising the platform language of the Republican Party during the RNC:
“The Republican Party platform language strikes a very smart balance: it emphasizes the importance of us doing more as a nation to protect our intellectual property from online theft while underscoring the critical importance of protecting internet freedom,” MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said in a statement. “As the party points out, the internet has been for its entire existence a source of innovation, and it is intellectual property that helps drive that innovation. Copyright is the cornerstone of innovation; it allows creators to benefit from what they create.”
It was at first thought the MPAA went for the Republicans due to President Obama’s lack of support for the ill-advised Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). SOPA is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the websites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the websites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Opponents argue that SOPA threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to an allegation of infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. Library associations have expressed concerns that the legislation’s emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.
So it came as a second shock when Former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of MPAA, said in a statement during this week’s Democratic National Convention:
“I am extremely pleased that the Democratic Party’s platform language reinforces the critical importance of protecting America’s intellectual property while ensuring the free flow of information on the Internet.The Internet is a nearly unparalleled source of creativity and innovation, not just in the entertainment community, but across nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. Protecting that source of creativity, as well as protecting the rights of the people behind that creativity, is integral not just to our economy, but to who we are as a nation.”
So the MPAA likes both platforms, finally something has united this country, right? Well, the problem comes with the wishy washy language in both parties’ platforms on this issue that does not provide any real specifics, other than taking a shot at China for its failure to address the rampant piracy in that country. With the economy the way it is and the sharp social issues dividing the parties like abortion rights, gay marriage and healthcare, I am sure intellectual property is not exactly on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
But it matters people, it really matters. Though most Americans are unaware of this, it mattered enough that the Framers of the Constitution put it right in the first article. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. This was the first time in history to my knowledge that a government declared the importance of establishing intellectual property rights as part of its job. And today with the billions of dollars involved in the online community, the internet is well on its way to replacing television as the main source of media and information in this country. And if the next administration sides with the larger media influences to push through SOPA or something similar, the free-wheeling internet we know and love will likely come to an end. I am sure however that this will not even be mentioned in the upcoming debates.