Movie Industry Regroups After Setbacks

And the Oscar for best lobby campaign in the past year goes to … well, definitely not the Motion Picture Association of America.

The movie business lost a big showdown last month when the House and Senate postponed votes on anti-piracy bills.

The industry’s efforts in Washington were overwhelmed not only by the lobbyists for tech companies such as Google, but by the millions of web users who sent emails and signed online petitions voicing their opposition to the legislation.

But as the losing nominees tell themselves the morning after, it’s now a new year with new possibilities. The industry isn’t done by any stretch.

When former Sen. Chris Dodd (R-CT), became president of the Motion Picture Association last year, he proclaimed piracy as his top priority.

In the wake of last month’s web revolt, he’s now looking for ways to reach agreement with Silicon Valley.

“Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet,” Dodd said last week in an appearance at the Atlanta Press Club. “I firmly believe that our industry cannot survive without the innovations that come out of Silicon Valley every day – and I know that we must have a free and open Internet to keep those innovations coming.”

But copyright protection is vital, he said, promising to continue pushing for a crackdown on rogue web sites trafficking in stolen content.

“There is a broad consensus – one that includes us in the film and television industry – around the idea that we must keep the Internet free and open. But there is also a broad consensus around the idea that we must act to stop the theft of intellectual property online.”

The Motion Picture Association is the trade group for the major studios. Its members include Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros.

Last year, the association spent $2.1 million on lobbying, through its own Washington office and through contracts with nine outside firms:

  • Miller & Chevalier, Chtd
  • Capitol Tax Partners, LLP
  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Michael Torrey Associates, LLC
  • Cassidy & Associates, Inc.
  • The Nickles Group. LLC
  • Mitch Rose Strategic Consulting LLC
  • Capitol Consulting Group Illinois, LLC
  • Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis LLP

The relationship with Miller & Chevalier was terminated in the fourth quarter.

The association lobbied on nine bills, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Senate version, “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property,” or PIPA.

Spending spiked at the end of the year, with quarterly expenditures of $850,000, as public awareness of the legislation escalated.

We anticipate a strong lobbying effort in 2012. Earlier this month, the group added four people to its D.C. office, three of them to the government affairs team:

  • Alex Swartsel, former communications director for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and former press assistant to Dodd, was named director of global policy.
  • Brian Cohen, formerly with the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Office, was named director of external state government affairs.
  • Lauren Pastarnack, former senior staffer with the Senate Judiciary Committee, is director of government affairs. Pastarnack registered as a lobbyist in 2011.

Legislation lobbied by the Motion Picture Association in 2011:

112 H.R.3078: United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act
112 H.R.3080: United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
112 H.R.3261: Stop Online Piracy Act
112 S.1641: United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act
112 S.1642: United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
112 S.968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011
112 H.R.2471: To amend section 2710 of title 18, United States Code, to clarify that a video tape service provider may obtain a consumer’s informed, written consent on an ongoing basis and that consent may be obtained through the Internet.
112 S.1572: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012
112 S.968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011

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