MPAA: SOPA critics are wrong

The Motion Picture Association of America came out swinging against critics who believe the Stop Online Piracy Act would disrupt Internet security and harm businesses. The trade organization’s Paul Hortenstine targeted the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week, calling the group’s objections “sky is falling rhetoric.”

MPAA: SOPA critics are wrong

“The EFF is currently warning that the Stop Online Piracy Act will squelch free speech and threaten the existence of many well-known websites such as Etsy, Flickr, and Vimeo,” said Hortenstine. “The EFF was wrong about content protection law in 2004 and they’re wrong again now.”

Writing at the MPAA blog, Hortenstine pointed to the EFF’s criticism of the Induce Act as proof of the group’s tendency to exaggerate. The non-profit’s lawyers posited that if passed, the proposal could “kill the iPod.” The act’s stated goal was to outlaw any device which could potentially be utilized for copyright infringement.

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To illustrate its point, the EFF drafted a mock complaint naming Apple as a manufacturer of a copyright infringement-aiding device.

“The complaint, which mimics the format of an actual complaint that record companies might draft, points out that Apple advertises that its 40 GB iPod can hold ‘up to 10,000 songs,'” explained the EFF. “This amount of capacity far exceeds the total CD collection of the vast majority of Americans. This suggests that Apple knew and intended that iPod owners would be getting their music from elsewhere, including P2P networks.”

Hortenstine said that while the act did not pass, aspects of it were later referenced to decide a big music piracy case involving defunct file-sharing service, Grokster.

“In June 2005, the Supreme Court issued its decision in MGM v. Grokster, declaring that ‘one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,'” he said. “This essentially implemented important parts of the Induce Act that EFF criticized a year earlier.”

Apple’s music player succeeded nonetheless, Hortenstine added.

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The EFF didn’t take the critique lightly. The organization’s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry issued a statement via email to MyCE in response to the MPAA spokesperson’s comments:

Really? Big media — which has repeatedly condemned new technologies, from the player piano to the VCR to mp3s and so on — is accusing EFF of exaggerating? Please. As for the dangers posed by PROTECT-IP and SOPA to online innovation and expression, you don’t have to take our word for it: just ask VCs, law professors, the ACLU, the human rights community, leading technology companies, Internet pioneers, and a broad array of public interest groups.

Earlier this week, several companies, including Google, AOL and Twitter voiced their disapproval with SOPA in a letter (.pdf) sent to the bill’s author, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

A formal hearing on the proposal was held Wednesday. Five SOPA supporters spoke on the need for online copyright protection. Only one dissenter, Google’s Copyright Counsel Katherine Oyama, was there to present counter-points.

Film critic Roger Ebert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have since both come out against SOPA. The bill is still pending further review.

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