We've Got Hollywood Covered

MPAA, Guilds on Net Neutrality: OK, but Don’t Ignore Piracy

Entertainment organizations remain wary of illegal downloads in statements filed with FCC

The Motion Pictures Association of America and a collection of major Hollywood guilds both issued separate statements of tentative support for proposed rules to ensure net neutrality on Thursday.

As the entertainment organizations encouraged a robust internet, they cautioned that it cannot come at the expense of the fight against content piracy.

The statements were in a response to a request for public comment from the Federal Communications Committee, which is considering policies on net neutrality.

Among the organizations weighing in on a joint statement were the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Moving Picture Technicians and the Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada.

Both the guilds and the MPAA refused to take a firm stand on the controversial issue. They stated their support for the broad princiapl of net neutrality with the caveat that broad access to the internet should not come at the expense of the FCC’s efforts to crack down on illegal downloads.

The MPAA seemed more lukewarm in its endorsement of net neutrality than the guilds, spending the bulk of its statement detailing the dangers that piracy poses to the entertainment industry.

This is not only a critical juncture for these regulations, but last week the future of net neutrality grew even murkier.

Last week in Washington, three appellate court judges suggested that the FCC may have overstepped its bounds in August 2008, when it ruled that Comcast acted illegally when it tried to block BitTorrent’s video downloads. Comcast is appealing the FCC’s August 2008 ruling.

The judges said (but have not yet ruled) that the FCC may not have enough authority from Congress to oversee the internet.

Here’s the MPAA statement:

"In a filing today with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of the network neutrality proceeding, the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) supported the FCC’s goals of preserving a free and open Internet. The MPAA also expressed appreciation for the FCC’s acknowledgement, in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, that copyright theft on the Internet is a critically important issue, and that “open Internet principles” do not apply to “activities such as the unlawful distribution of copyrighted works.”

In its filing, the MPAA emphasized that the benefits to all Americans of a robust broadband Internet will stem in part from access to compelling, high quality content. MPAA studios are embracing the digital future and already have begun to make their content available through many new, legitimate on-line distribution options. At the same time, content theft poses a serious threat, and the FCC’s proposed approach to network neutrality appropriately would permit Internet service providers to “take action to counter unwanted or harmful traffic” and to “decline to carry traffic if the transfer of content is prohibited by law, including copyright law.” The MPAA made clear in its filing, “if compelling content is to serve as a foundation for a thriving broadband Internet, creative works cannot be subject to rampant theft.”

The MPAA further explained that protecting creative works from online theft not only will help provide consumers with access to the content of their choice, but also help the nation’s creative industries continue to serve as an engine for economic growth and job creation. The motion picture and television industry, which comprises more than 115,000 businesses in all 50 states, is responsible for 2.4 million American jobs and more than $41.5 billion in wages to American workers. Online content theft directly and significantly erodes these economic contributions and the vital role that the motion picture and television industry, like all creative industries, can and should play in America’s economic recovery."

Here’s the joint statement from the guilds:

“The FCC has called for public comment on a set of proposed rules that address the concept of ‘network neutrality.’ While the Guilds and Unions support the principle that all lawful Internet traffic should be treated equally, no discussion of net neutrality can be complete without consideration of the effects of any form of Internet regulation on the illegal digital theft of copyrighted content and the resulting impact on jobs, creativity and innovation.

As Guilds and Unions representing more than 300,000 workers in the entertainment and media industries, we urge the FCC to ensure that any policies laid forth to preserve a free and open Internet also strengthen the distinction between the lawful and unlawful transmission of Internet content. We encourage the FCC to take all appropriate steps to keep the Internet from becoming a haven for the theft and illegal transmission of motion picture, audiovisual and sound recording works.”