Behind The Scenes: How DC Decided To Regulate The Internet To Protect Hollywood From Innovating

from the tick-tock dept

Over the summer, the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter put together an absolutely brilliant look at the politics and lobbying behind patent reform. He’s now back… with a similar (and equally fantastic) look at some of the behind-the-scenes dealings concerning SOPA and PIPA. It’s a long piece, but well worth the read, highlighting a bunch of key points — including things like how the MPAA is being misleading about how many jobs there are in the movie industry:

“Behind Hollywood’s red-carpet image lays a blue-collar reality. Most of those 2.2 million jobs are held by middle income families and small-business owners, men and women whose names will never appear on a theater marquee, but whose efforts are critical,” Dodd said in a Nov. 16 speech before the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the organization responsible for the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” honoring film and music celebrities.

Dodd’s 2.2 million jobs figure, however, exaggerates Hollywood’s contribution to the American economy. According to supplemental data provided to HuffPost by MPAA, only 272,000 people work for movie studios and television companies. The lobby group claims that an additional 430,000 people work in related “distribution” jobs dependent on Hollywood, legal web streamers like Netflix, the few remaining video store clerks and cashiers checking out DVD purchases.

Wow. 272,000 is even less than the 374,000 number we’d seen. And this is from the MPAA directly. So how do they get up to 2.2 million jobs? By throwing in all sorts of crap:

But the vast majority of the jobs Dodd & Co. claim are threatened by online piracy are only peripherally related to the entertainment business. MPAA takes credit for nearly 1.6 million jobs at florists, catering companies, hardware stores and other industries that work with major movie studios, assuming that these jobs could not ultimately be out of a job without Hollywood help.

Of course, anyone who’s intellectually honest knows that those jobs are not in the movie industry, nor does it appear they’re threatened by file sharing. As we’ve noted, the number of movies being made (where those folks may get some business) has only been going up.

“This is a joke,” says economist Dean Baker, co-Director of the progressive-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research. “This bill will have very little impact on jobs directly. And of course the money that people don’t pay to the MPAA, they spend somewhere else. So this is about the distribution of jobs, not the number.”

What it comes down to, of course, is the amount of money that Hollywood continues to pump into DC. In fact, many of us wondered why SOPA was so bad, given that Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who is generally tech friendly, had promised to fix the problems found in PROTECT IP. Yet, Carter reveals that Lamar Smith pulled the crafting of the bill away from Goodlatte:

By October, Smith, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, who declined to comment for this article, stripped tech-friendly Rep. Goodlatte of responsibility for the House version of Protect IP, sparking panic among tech firms. Smith delivered for Hollywood, expanding Leahy’s bill to give governments and corporations the power to bring down foreign and domestic websites alike, and broadening the definition of a condemnable site to anything that “infringes or facilitates infringement.”

And, he notes that, on the Senate side, Hollywood has long been a “friend” to Senator Leahy, who’s leading the charge for PIPA.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) is Hollywood’s current favorite son in Washington. His top two career campaign contributors are Time Warner and Disney, according to data compiled by Center for Responsive Politics; Time Warner has even given him cameo appearances in Batman movies, an experience Leahy talks of proudly.

All in all, this is an excellent and detailed read about what’s been happening in DC when it comes to SOPA and PIPA.

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Comments on “Behind The Scenes: How DC Decided To Regulate The Internet To Protect Hollywood From Innovating”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“Dodd’s 2.2 million jobs figure, however, exaggerates Hollywood’s contribution to the American economy. According to supplemental data provided to HuffPost by MPAA, only 272,000 people work for movie studios and television companies. The lobby group claims that an additional 430,000 people work in related “distribution” jobs dependent on Hollywood, legal web streamers like Netflix, the few remaining video store clerks and cashiers checking out DVD purchases.
Wow. 272,000 is even less than the 374,000 number we’d seen. And this is from the MPAA directly. So how do they get up to 2.2 million jobs? “

Once again, it depends on what you consider and include. Huffpost did the most narrow possible of ways, looking only at people directly on the payroll of the companies.

It isn’t hard to get to 2.2 million. Theaters (they aren’t directly on the payroll), retail stores, distribution companies, makers of the physical products (DVDs, CDs, etc) and all those who work trucking the stuff around, etc… heck, you can include the guys who grow the popcorn, the guys who work for the soda companies, and all that too if you like. You could even include TV, radio, and cable companies in there if you looked at it one way or another.

The point is that while numbers don’t lie, people like yourself can narrowly define things or widely define things to get any answer they like. Your way (and the huffpost way) is no more valid or less valid than any other.

I would say that if this is your major sticking point of the week (and it seems to be, this is the third or fourth time you hit this in 48 hours), I would say that you have already lost the battle. It’s a small issue of how you count things, and denying that an industry that generates billions of dollars of revenue employs a lot of people is just a joke.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hell, by your expansive logic I may even be employed by Hollywood! I write software, some of which is used in a variety of projects. I know for a fact that there are at least two record companies that do use my work, if every studio and label went under tomorrow, I’d still be able to find work. In the same unlikely scenario, the theater workers, rental store monkeys, and various other ancillary positions would still be able to find work on the virtue of their experience.

The only ones in trouble are the useless and morally corrupt Hollywood CEOs whose only marketable skill is taking advantage of people. But cheer up, executives! You can leverage that ability for a new and exciting career in Washington.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But a large portion of Nike’s labor force works overseas (often working in abusive labor conditions that the company has long vowed to end). Most of the firms lobbying on the legislation will not even publicly disclose the number of employees who actually work in the United States (Tiffany & Co., a supporter of the bill that does disclose, has 44 percent of their employees overseas).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And to think, it’s such a real issue that it only took several dishonest politicians to make it happen for you.

Lets face facts, if money had not changed hands, most of the politicians involved would have told the SOPA crowd to bugger off.

The fact that dishonest politicians were required to get SOPA this far is disgusting and is a sad statement on our government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Nor do those numbers include freelance crew, actors, drivers or the directorial teams that are hired on a project-by-project basis. It also doesn’t include the thousands of employees from special effects houses, post production picture and sound editing. The Hollywood unions have more than half a million member alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Don't forget....

But what about the truck manufacturers (for all those trucking stuff around), the road builders (that the trucks are driving on), the oil companies that produce the fuel the trucks run on.

There are also the corn farmers (producing the popcorn and sweetener for soda), electric companies that the others use to manufacture and produce their products.

What about the textile mills (all these people aren’t running around naked are they… this isn’t porn we are talking about) who produced the clothes that these people wear, the third world child labor where the clothes and costumes are assembled.

I’m sure I’m probably leaving out a few people, however with proper application of the “Magic Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Methodology” (patent pending..) we can show that everyone in the world (except that one guy hiding out in the cave in the middle east… that takes 8 degrees which we aren’t licensed to use) are only employed because of Hollywood and the Entertainment industry.

The point is that while figures don’t lie, liars do figure, and your method of “figuring” indicates that you are a liar…

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I wanted to get even pickier that HuffPo is being, according to you, I’d reduce that number even further by cutting out the casual and part-timers in the motion picture industry, who make up the vast majority of people who work on TV and film. Strictly speaking, even at the insanely high end, even that A list actors and directors are casuals.

At the end of the day, even your grabbed from the air “billions” is likely questionable coming, as it does, from the world’s centre of creative, questionable sometimes illegal accounting practices.

Removing movie theatres (one of the more infamous homes of minimum wage), retail (WHAT retail?), makers of physical medium and distributors of same (99.999% of which goes towards that other high IP value industry — tech — both at the industrial and consumer level who are opposed to all of this silliness) and those who truck the stuff about the continent who aren’t dependent on the MPAA or their product and the number of FTE’s shrinks even further.

Say to about the verified level of the 0.1% if American GDP, less if you include NAFTA GDP by tossing Canada and Mexico into the mix.

Numbers themselves may be incapable of lying but if the collection of those numbers is a lie all in itself (I could be kind and call it an exaggeration but I’m tired of enabling the RIAA and MPAA and their defenders like you) the result is a lie.

Yes, both industries do employ “a lot” of people but once you examine the numbers and convert them to full time equivalents the number drops off a very large cliff. And outside of the fantasy land called Hollywood employment is measured in full time equivalencies not pumped up with casuals and part timers.

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

“is there a guaranteed Right to Work for **AA?”

Two sets of rules.
Not unlike the justice system, those with influence and power are afforded the right to excessive income. Those who lack such attributes are not afforded anything other than a good tasing and pepper spraying. Stop your complaining and just get a job you lazy hippy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hollywood, and a host of other companies, are innovating. Services are being created that offer legitimate and legal products to those seeking content, be it consumptive or utilitarian.

What many seem prone to overlook in their criticisms of such companies is that these products require real money to produce the content, and that those who incur no such costs, but deal in the marketplace with those products nevertheless, engage in conduct that is free-riding at the expense of those who actually chose to make the investment necessary to bring those products to fruition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The basic tenet for investment is to maximize ROI. I am sure you do the same if you invest your money, or are you saying that you got a lot over the past few years (ignoring what has been happening in the investment markets), so there is no need for the investment company to give you any more? You are happy with what you have.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:



Congress spent that money already there is no 401(k), that is not an investment, that is downright government theft of funds.

Mutual funds.


Like the ones the banks did for mortgages?

IRA is the only thing that could be something useful if you don’t use insurance companies to do it, because if you use those than you get nothing in the end.
ROI for must people means “bend over and take it like a man”, when dealing with financial institutions, the government and big companies.

There is no good ROI in those cases.
ROI would be to end granted monopolies that would be a step in the right direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Services are being created that offer legitimate and legal products to those seeking content, be it consumptive or utilitarian.”

Really? Outside of perhaps Netflix, which Hollywood despises, can you name a single solitary service that exists or is being planned that isn’t so limited as to be useless? I can’t come up with one. This is a serious question.

“What many seem prone to overlook in their criticisms of such companies…”

I don’t think this is overlooked, but I think that the companies who are doing their damndest to restrain progress (**AA et al) think this is a bigger factor than it actually is.

To break it down: people who pirate just because they want free stuff are lost. There is nothing that can be done to get them to start directly paying (although you can monetize in other ways). Most people who pirate, though, don’t do so because they object to paying. They do so because it’s the only, or best, way of getting the content they want. They would certainly pay if there were an equally good, legitimate, option to getting that content.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: I'd watch your use of words, if I were you.

“Services are being created that offer legitimate and legal products to those seeking content, be it consumptive or utilitarian.”

I’d watch your wording if I was you. Consumptive and consumption was, and still is, a diagnostic cluster of a number of nasty conditions which include diarrhea, vomiting and other pleasant things all occurring at the same time.

And that doesn’t include a really, really, really bad and monstrous hangover.

Just a second, maybe consputive DOES describe Hollywood!

Anonymous Coward says:

Universal has 'Tech News Today' episode yanked

Hollywood censors the news.

?Universal has ‘Tech News Today’ episode yanked from YouTube for reporting on MegaUpload promo video? by Nilay Patel, The Verge, Dec 14, 2011:

. . . Universal had Monday’s episode of Tech News Today pulled off of YouTube for simply reporting on the controversy. Host Tom Merritt and crew played two clips of the “Mega Song” video while discussing the issue and MegaUpload’s pending lawsuit Monday afternoon, which was too much for Universal: it filed a copyright dispute and had the episode pulled from YouTube by Monday night.?.?.?.

Tom tells us he wasn’t informed of the video’s removal until a fan told him on Twitter, and that the episode was promptly restored when he complained using YouTube’s automated dispute process ? but Universal followed up with an official DMCA takedown request on Tuesday morning, and the show is currently down.?.?.?.

(Via Ars Technica)

Anonymous Coward says:

suggestion: attack Lamar Smith's conservative cred

Why is Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, taking money to do the bidding of Hollywood Liberals?

Why is Lamar Smith, a proponent of limited government, pushing a bill which would massively expand the powers of the federal goverment?

Why is Lamar Smith, an enemy of government intervention and advocate of free markets, pushing a bill which would force the government to directly intervene in free markets to give monopoly rents to moneyed interests?

Why is Lamar Smith furthering the interests of Washington Insiders at the expense of his own Texas constituents?

staff says:

job killing nightmare for America

“patent reform”

?This is not a patent reform bill? Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) complained, despite other democrats praising the overhaul. ?This is a big corporation patent giveaway that tramples on the right of small inventors.?

Senator Cantwell is right. Just because they call it ?reform? doesn?t mean it is. The agents of banks, huge multinationals, and China are at it again trying to brain wash and bankrupt America.

They should have called the bill the America STOPS Inventing Act or ASIA, because that?s where it is sending all our jobs.

The patent bill is nothing less than another monumental federal giveaway for banks, huge multinationals, and China and an off shoring job killing nightmare for America. Even the leading patent expert in China has stated the bill will help them steal our inventions. Who are the supporters of this bill working for??

Patent reform is a fraud on America. This bill will not do what they claim it will. What it will do is help large multinational corporations maintain their monopolies by robbing and killing their small entity and startup competitors (so it will do exactly what the large multinationals paid for) and with them the jobs they would have created. The bill will make it harder and more expensive for small firms to get and enforce their patents. Without patents we cant get funded. Yet small entities create the lion’s share of new jobs. According to recent studies by the Kauffman Foundation and economists at the U.S. Census Bureau, ?startups aren?t everything when it comes to job growth. They?re the only thing.? This bill is a wholesale slaughter of US jobs. Those wishing to help fight this bill should contact us as below.

Small entities and inventors have been given far too little voice on this bill when one considers that they rely far more heavily on the patent system than do large firms who can control their markets by their size alone. The smaller the firm, the more they rely on patents -especially startups and individual inventors. Congress tinkering with patent law while gagging inventors is like a surgeon operating before examining the patient.

Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

Please see for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

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