MPAA Wants More Transparency in Anti-Piracy Quest

Hopes to diffuse opposition to the Obama administration’s trade-agreement efforts.

"Transparency" seems to be the new keyword in the Motion Picture Association of America’s quest to gain larger support for its anti-piracy campaign.

The MPAA moved on Thursday to try to diffuse some of the public interest group opposition to the Obama administration’s pursuit of anti-counterfeiting trade agreements with other countries by making details of what is being sought in the agreements more public.

Public Knowledge and other groups have questioned the need for the pacts and the secrecy around the exact curbs being sought. They have warned that this could have “draconian” impacts on consumers.

In letters to Congess Thursday, MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman strongly defended the stepped-up enforcement its is seeking … but conceded that the secrecy around them has fostered “apprehension” and created “a distraction.”

He urged additional steps be taken to make the exact anti-piracy language being sought far more public.

“Outcries on the lack of transparency are a distraction,” he said in the letters. “They distract from the substance and the ambition of the [trade agreement] which are to work with key trading partners to combat piracy and counterfeiting across the global marketplace.”

Glickman wrote that while the U.S. government has already taken some steps to become more transparent on the enforcement language it wants, it needs to go even futher.

“We appreciate the U.S. government’s efforts thus far to broaden its consultative process," he wrote. "Despite these exceptional efforts, the protests persist, fostering apprehension over the agreement’s substance. We understand that the parties agree on the desirability to provide meaningful opportunities for the public to provide input. We support this objective and encourage the U.S. government to direct that process so that we can engage in a meaningful dialogue on substance rather than procedural matters."

Glickman also questioned the motives of those opposing action.

“The ability to finance, create and distribute entertainment, and the livelihood of the talented and dedicated men and women who work in our industry are dependent upon our ability to protect the intellectual property that is the lifeblood of our industry. Opponents are either indifferent to this situation, or actively hostile toward efforts to improve copyright enforcement worldwide.”

He suggested they are trying to portray enforcement as “anti-consumer and anti-innovation.”

Art Brodsky. a spokesman for Public Knowledge, urged the MPAA to contact the U.S. Trade Representative rather than Congress to open the discussion. He also questioned whether more details will show the MPAA wanting “draconian” and unneeded restrictions.

“Secret negotiations on behalf of special interests are unacceptable,” he said.