Justice Department Helping Hollywood With Copyright Enforcement

August 23, 2010
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to Newsmax.com

In January 2010 the Record Industry Association of America asked the FCC to adopt rules that would require Internet service providers to deny service to repeat offenders as a means of dealing with copyright infringement of the Internet piracy kind.

Trade groups have been lobbying Congress to pass laws that make Internet providers crack down on customers who are suspected of piracy. This is because, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an Internet service provider is generally not liable for copyright infringement if the provider is only acting as a conduit for content created by another.

The dynamic has set up a feud between Northern California technology companies and Southern California entertainment firms.

While many argue that copyright infringement should be dealt with via civil law, i.e., settling matters between private parties, the Justice Department is assisting in making Hollywood dreams come true by emphasizing copyright enforcement under the federal criminal law umbrella.

The same Eric Holder-led Justice Department that selectively dropped certain election intimidation cases, neglected missing persons and identity theft cases, and went about conjuring up ways to challenge Arizona’s immigration law is making Internet piracy a top priority.

Joe Biden hosted a “piracy summit” back in December 2009. Although the vice president claimed “all of the stakeholders” involved were present, no tech industry or consumer group reps were there.

Attendees were strictly from the entertainment industry.

Top executives from the largest companies in Hollywood met with Biden, Attorney General Holder and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, among others.

Head Hollywood honchos who attended the 75-minute White House meeting included Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman-CEO Michael Lynton, Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman-CEO Barry Meyer, Time Warner Executive Vice President Carol Melton, Viacom Chairman-CEO Philippe Dauman, NBC Universal CEO Jeffrey Zucker, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman-CEO Daniel Glickman, Directors Guild of America President Taylor Hackford and AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth.

Interestingly, a couple of months later the AG created an “IP task force” within the Justice Department, which would be charged with dealing with “the rise in intellectual property crime.” In June the administration announced the first ever coordinated program utilizing all federal agencies in intellectual property enforcement.

How does Hollywood rate in being given its own group of piracy policing prosecutors to go after Internet downloaders?

We get a hint when we look at the fact that the president has made several trips to Tinseltown to raise cash for beleaguered Democratic candidates.

Hollywood stars, executives, and various entertainment industry types have consistently cued up to attend Obama events and millions of dollars have been raised.

The same donors that are invaluable to Obama come 2012 must be very pleased with the administration’s piracy policy.