No, Netflix Has NOT Formed A Pro-SOPA SuperPAC

from the bad-reporting dept

Update: Netflix has confirmed through its official Twitter account that the PAC was not set up to support SOPA/PIPA.

Okay, can we kill this story quickly? There’s a ton of buzz going around claiming that Netflix has built up a Super PAC to promote a pro-SOPA agenda. As far as I can tell, this is simply not true. It started from a report in Politico, which mentioned (accurately) that Netflix had formed a PAC called FLIXPAC, and is getting much more aggressive in the lobbying/legislative front. This follows Netflix’s trend of spending more and more on lobbying in the last few years: $20,000 in 2009, $130,000 in 2010 and $500,000 in 2011. Where it gets odd is that Politico tries to tie this to SOPA/PIPA by listing out those amounts and noting that the $500k in 2011 was spent “as legislative debates over the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act and Video Privacy Protection Act raged.”

In turn, the folks at RT played a game of bad reporter telephone and spun it into Netflix funding a pro-SOPA super PAC, “whose main goal is to promote SOPA-like legislation.” I don’t know what’s up with the folks at RT. While their TV reporting can be quite good, their online reporting is abysmal at times. They clearly exaggerate stories or write from a position of ignorance.

The truth is that Netflix was basically neutral on SOPA, knowing that it had to balance its technology side and the fact that it is constantly negotiating with the big Hollywood studios on deals. Politically, it basically had to take a neutral position. But the company knows better than to out-and-out support really bad internet legislation. The company has been active on things like net neutrality and the Video Privacy Protection Act — things that do have a direct impact on it. Sure, it would have been great if Netflix had been a strong anti-SOPA faction, the fact that it stayed neutral and is now ramping up its lobbying does not, in any way, mean that it’s suddenly pushing for pro-SOPA legislation. The company appears to have a lot of other things on its legislative agenda.

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Comments on “No, Netflix Has NOT Formed A Pro-SOPA SuperPAC”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The reality is that Netflix will obviously do whatever is necessary to create a better bottom line for itself regardless
of politics, but the answer is how they will view what is necessary. Their obvious disconnect with the end consumer gives me no confidence that if push comes to shove, they will make the right choice for the end customer. More likely, they will raise the costs and restrict their services, as they have shown to be their business plan so far. So for Netflix, just because they have not done political evil that we know of yet, doesn’t mean they are not capable of it.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: How stupid do they think we are?

For those that can’t read or reason, I guess your reaction is typical. However, for those willing to look into the situation, the reason for forming this PAC are quite clear.

There’s been some speculation around the creation of FlixPAC. PACs are commonplace for leading companies in big, growing markets, and Netflix is no exception. We did not found FlixPAC for the purpose of supporting SOPA or PIPA. Instead, FlixPAC helps us engage in other issues including network neutrality, bandwidth caps, usage based billing and reforming the Video Privacy Protection Act.

Digital Consumer (profile) says:

Re: Re: How stupid do they think we are?

Did you know Netflix had an original stance on SOPA and it was

Why do you think they changed their stance? Maybe fearing consumer backlash, they changed it to Neutral, then went behind closed doors to make a Superpac? Is that possible? Maybe you don’t actually follow the companies history you are defending. I doubt you will admit you are wrong. I guess you have more in common with Hollywood than you thought?

Matthew Moore (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: How stupid do they think we are?

Did you know that you don’t know what you are talking about? The “pro-SOPA” stance you are talking about was a letter written that was a page and a half long with 7 pages of signatures of people and companies that support it. The letter basically said “pirating is bad, mmkay”. When SOPA was introduced 3 MONTHS LATER, the people that signed that letter were tagged as supporters of SOPA despite the fact they had never even heard of SOPA before that point.
You know.. before you accuse someone of something, perhaps you could research it first. Just sayin’..

jenl (profile) says:

$500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

On their disclosure according to the Silicon Beat article:

“And in 2011, the company spent $500,000 lobbying Congress on topics such as: ‘Telecommunications issues, Internet non-discrimination; Internet privacy, Intellectual property issues; Internet competition issues; H.R. 2471, Video Privacy Protection Act,’ according to Senate lobbying disclosure records.”

So far this, and that article, and Netflix’s link to that article, are the only 3 things I see defending Netflix. My question if if they were neutral on SOPA and PIPA, as you state, what would be the purpose of spending any lobbying money on advancing a neutral position?

“Hi, I’m a lobbyist well paid by Netflix to lobby on Intellectual property issues and I just wanted to stop by and let you know we’re neutral.”

To me, that makes no sense. If you have another explanation, I’m all ears.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Because the money they are spending now has absolutely nothing to do with SOPA and PIPA. They want to fight usage based billing. They want to fight bandwidth caps. They want to preserve net neutrality. They want to reform the video privacy protection act. Non of that has anything to do with SOPA and PIPA.

jenl (profile) says:

Re: Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Again, they did state in their disclosure that in 2011 they lobbied on Intellectual property issues. Nothing you named has to do with intellectual property issues.

They need to state what intellectual property issues they lobbied on in 2011, since they disclosed they did spent money on lobbying intellectual property issues in 2011.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Why do they have to disclose it? I don’t understand your issue. You are retaining outrage with ZERO facts to back it up. You may claim that if it came out as something benign you will ease up on them, but based on your current attitude, I find that hard to believe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

And you seem to think Netflix is a corporation that can be trusted. Why is that? I can understand that you are saying Netflix has not been proven to be Pro-SOPA, or that it’s superpac has not taken any proven action that could be considered Pro-SOPA, but why are you acting like a fan boy who
can’t accept that Netflix is hiding something, and it would be
beneficial to the public to know what that is?

Matthew Moore (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Can you provide evidence? A link perhaps of such support? Because dollars to donuts says that the only thing you will find is support to a letter written months before SOPA was written. The letter said “piracy is bad, lets do something about it”. It did not say “Lets get rid of the first amendment”, which basically was what SOPA was about.
Just because you mom tells you to clean your room does not mean its her fault if you attempt to cleanse it with fire.
SOPA did not exist in any form at all when the offending letter was written, and they have not supported anything of the sort since. Therefore, you are wrong.

Coyote says:

Re: Re: Re:5 $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Netflix never had a pro-SOPA stance. At all. You’re twisting facts about said company to suit your own agenda. Literally, they’ve never offically taken a stance for or against; their business demands such, because if they were pro-SOPA the internet would literally fuck them over it, like with GoDaddy.

They never had an anti-SOPA stance either, specifically because it would not make their negotiations with Hollywood fruitful — not that they are anyways — but actually make it harder for them to obtain the necessary licenses for the movies they want to rent out to people.

Lrn2reserch these things.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Oh. I am sorry. Did you mean the side that had all the people who developed and currently run the internet telling Congress how badly it will mess things up. I guess they don’t have any idea what they are talking about. Silly me, thinking experts know anything about the field they are experts in.

isakill (profile) says:

Re: Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Though i’m not denying what you or the article says, Why are they instructing their telephone operators to categorically refuse to answer the question of support? If the guy on the phone has said what their twitter said I would have been more reassured about their position than “I did some research on your question and have been informed to refuse to answer it”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

Well, maybe because that’s what their PR department is for, and it is outside the scope of the operators’ job function? Side note: If calling the customer support line, you’ll never get an answer about company policy that doesn’t involve a customer account. That’s just good practice.

Scotchua says:

Re: $500K on "Intellectual property issues" in 2011 for...what?

The spent $500k lobbying the government for a myriad of reasons. It’s completely normal for businesses to spend money lobbying for changes to legislation. Why would you assume it’s about SOPA when Netflix is probably far more concerned about the anti-competitive of the movie/cable industry? How about net neutrality and Comcast trying to squeeze extra money out of them for the bandwidth consumption? The point is that the fact that they set up a SUPER PAC to lobby on their behalf doesn’t inherently mean that they’re doing Pro SOPA work, and the reports are just lazy reporting.

jenl (profile) says:

Re: Viral Outrage is Viral

Nothing in the article above outlined what part of that $500K was spent on the “Intellectual property issues” that they lobbied regarding, or what stance they took. I again ask: What company spends money on lobbyists to take a basically neutral position on the biggest intellectual property issue of 2011?

The Intellectual property issues they disclosed they spent lobbying money on last year may, as hard as it might be to believe, have had nothing to do with SOPA/PIPA. But until they disclose what “Intellectual property issues” they spent lobbying money on (and again, they already disclosed they did), SOPA/PIPA seems the most likely candidate.

It may not be. But just shrugging and saying “OMGs you silly interwebs” or pointing to the article above specifying the non-intellectual property lobbying they did do isn’t really an answer.

Please remember it was the PAC’s disclosure that they spent money lobbying regarding intellectual property issues that turned folks eye towards them – and perhaps shoddy reporting exacerbated the hysteria, but the question still remains.

What part of the 500K was spent lobbying on Intellectual property issues, what were those issues, and what was Netflix’s stance?

The answer may be completely innocent, and show this has all been mass-hysteria – but so far, I haven’t seen anyone answer it yet.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Viral Outrage is Viral

I don’t know. It sounds like you were outraged based on the bad reporting, but want to continue in that outrage and are resorting to nitpicking the details.

What would you consider proper disclosure in this case? Are you wanting a full line item accounting of every dollar spent on lobbying in the last 10 years with specific agendas tied to each one? Good luck getting that.

Personally, I am content with Netflix’s comments and behavior today and trust them enough to not question why they are creating this PAC.

jenl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Viral Outrage is Viral

I’d just like someone to step up and say “We were neutral on SOPA/PIPA but there was this Patent thing and we lobbied on that. We did not lobby SOPA/PIPA”.

My frustration is that I have now seen this not just on RT, but on Forbes, Politico, all with the same stance. In looking for pro-Netflix articles, I have seen Netflix, this, and Silicon Beat – and Silicon Beat had the disclosure that seemed to indicate where this came from.

I disagree that this was “made up”, and it seems to be stating they already spent money to lobby on intellectual property laws in a legal disclosure is an indication of where this firestorm started.

While SOPA may be dead, CISPA is breathing life into some of the issues.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Viral Outrage is Viral

It seems like you want to connect dots that just aren’t there. It’s like saying, “I know Joe owns a gun and he’s a bad person and someone somewhere got shot, so I’m sure Joe did it!”

You know they spent money, but you don’t know exactly for what.

You know RT and others are all too eager to make unsubstantiated claims since they don’t actually provide any evidence for their claims.

You may or may not be aware of what kind of bias you have that makes you inclined to believe the worst without evidence.

Nathan says:

Re: Re: Viral Outrage is Viral

“Please remember it was the PAC’s disclosure that they spent money lobbying regarding intellectual property issues that turned folks eye towards them – and perhaps shoddy reporting exacerbated the hysteria, but the question still remains.”

The PAC hasn’t received or given out any money yet, so how the hell could it have been the source for the information. I read the FEC filings, and there’s nothing in there about the PAC’s purpose.

This was a thumbsuck because the reporter had no clue about Netflix’s agenda and assumed that they must be pro-SOPA (a dead piece of legislation) because that would be good for Netflix.

Stop making excuses for crock journalism and your propensity to believe it.

SethBW says:

No, Netflix Has NOT Formed A Pro-SOPA SuperPAC

Zachary you’re too trusting. If ANY company is going to start lobbying with a super pac, they need to go WAY above and beyond with transparency and disclosure.

We have WAY too many corporations with their hands in the lobby honeypot right now. They should damn well know better than to start a super pac without making it CRYSTAL CLEAR to the public and it’s users what they are doing.

Why? This should be OBVIOUS. Corruption is running rampant.

Coyote says:

Re: Re: Re:

No one’s responding because, to be quite frank, you’re pretending their’s an issue here when, until facts state otherwise, there isn’t.

Put on your tinfoil hats, folks, and come right up on stage! Come one, come all, get your FREE tinfoil hats right here folks, FREE tinfoil hats here! Come on and get them, it’s not like we’re going to be running out of them soon! Don’t forget to sign up for our Conspiracy Theory network, conspiracy theories ALL The time, 24/7! Learn all about them folks, ALL about them and you’ll get, get this, a free hat with every purchase!

Invite your friends, they too can join in on the conspiracy!

Coyote says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The bigger question is, do you? Cite one reputable source, that isn’t from RT, that says ‘We’re pro-SOPA’ that also doesn’t include them in a bogus list that they didn’t even actually sign onto.

Cite one. Just one. That’s all I’m asking, which is pretty fucking lenient here considering how bad citing a single source is. Guess what? You can’t. I know you can’t, you know you can’t, everyone else here knows you can’t. Just drop it with the ‘pro-SOPA’ argument because we both know it’s bullshit. We ALL know you’re pulling fucks out of your ass in order to put forth some sort of company-wide conspiracy, complete with tinfoil hats and a nuclear winter bunker.

Until the facts state otherwise — which they have not — Netflix has never taken a pro-stance against SOPA. They take a neutral ground, as REQUIRED by their business model. If they took an anti-SOPA stance they would’ve suffered licensing issues from Hollywood, due to Hollywood’s insistance on SOPA. If they did pro-SOPA, they would’ve taken a nosedive from the backlash, like GoDaddy, and customers would’ve been [rightly] pissed and refuse to use their service.

They are neutral. It would’ve been nice to see them go anti-SOPA but the way their business model works is like this:

If they took a stance against SOPA, Hollywood would see this as a prime example of opposition to their old, outdated BMs, which would incite them to be less trusting of Netflix, knowing that they do not find these anti-piracy measures acceptable, causing trust issues within the company. The executive monkey’s would then take a stance — either they would hike up the price of licensing fees to provide ‘punishment’ for Netflix in order to get those movies, or they would not offer them at all.

The pro to this is free publicity for Netflix on the internet, and customers would feel much more trusting of them as a whole.

If they had taken a pro-SOPA stance, the internet would’ve backlashed, boycotted or otherwise went against Netflix’s decision either by protesting it [see: boycotting], which worked well for turning GoDaddy’s stance, or they would look for alternative sources, making alternatives to Netflix a more thriving area, potentially. This would have a positive effect on Hollywood, as they would see the ‘pirates’ leaving for lesser services, either allowing them to lower the prices on licensing fees, giving a cut or what-have-you to Netflix, which wouldn’t really help if it didn’t have customers. Which it would, just not as many.

The neutral stance is literally the best options Netflix has. If it had ever taken a pro-SOPA and anti-SOPA stance, the internet would know it. There are no citations or sources for your bullshit claims, so I would kindly ask you to shut the fuck up until you provide a legitimate source.

I’m just sayin, you really really really need to research these things and cite some really good goddamn sources before anyone’ll take your posts seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why would Netflix support pro-IP copyright policies? That would only make negotiating better deals with the majors only more problematic than it already is. One thing about Netflix is that they’ve had a great line up independent productions. Now I can see where one of the major studios would like to take over Netflix … but thats another headline.

Netflix’s business is dead with restrictive caps on bandwidth when more and more devices are able to connect to the internet. It’s dead with poor and expensive infrastructure providing internet access. It’s dead when ISP’s policing and restricting content or offering their brand premier content only or making it difficult to get to alternatives (like Netflix).

Rapidshare was listed as a rogue site in 2010; off the list in 2011 after investing in $150k into lobbying. It works. Any company not paying into the system is going to be suspect.

Digital Consumer (profile) says:

Are you guys at Techdirt morons?

“The point here is that this struggle, between those who want to control the Internet and not merely deliver it, and those who want it to be open and un-tiered is not over. Netflix just reminded us of that fact. Yes, the company did reverse its stance on SOPA, claiming neutrality, “””””after sending a letter to Congress agreeing with its spirit”””””, but now it is back.”


Digital Consumer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Let me explain to you about Superpacs… corporations make them so they can hide what they are doing.

Hmmm…public is against SOPA, so I will say I am Neutral, make a Superpac that will fund Pro-SOPA and then act like I did nothing of the sort, and you can’t follow the trail because Superpacs are protected.

You guys defending Netflix aren’t really that dumb are you? Seriously? Is streaming 9.99 a month with Netflix worth your soul?

Matthew Moore (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Again, Netflix never supported SOPA. Not even kinda. Did you read the letter? Bet you didn’t. Its a page and a half. Read it. Nowhere does it support censorship. It only says piracy is bad and we should do something about it. Plus, it was written months before SOPA was. Not the same thing as supporting SOPA. If you want to hate on Netflix, go for it. But your facts, in this case, are wrong.

Will Ross (profile) says:

You're wrong about Netflix's stance.

“The truth is that Netflix was basically neutral on SOPA, knowing that it had to balance its technology side and the fact that it is constantly negotiating with the big Hollywood studios on deals.”

Untrue. Look at the attached link. Netflix CHANGED to neutral after the SOPA protests.

Also, Netflix was strongly for SOPA before it changed on the 19th (The day AFTER the SOPA protest.)


“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing for enactment as well, along with Macmillan Publishers, Netflix, Viacom, and trade-mark dependent companies such as Nike, L?Oreal, and Acushnet.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You're wrong about Netflix's stance.

Did you even read what you posted? I’m guessing that you didn’t.
But David Hirschmann, CEO of the Global IP Center at the US Chamber of Commerce,in Washington, told The Post, ?Netflix sent a letter which was supportive of legislation that accomplished those [SOPA] goals.?

This is what you are constantly on about, BUT! The next two lines:

However, Netflix?s name was not on the list of 400 companies supporting SOPA provided to The Post yesterday.

A company spokesman said: ?Netflix has not taken a position in SOPA. It is not correct to assume the company initially had a position.?

Seems to me that you did a full-stop one that letter that you still probably haven’t read. The one that said ‘piracy bad,’ but said nothing about SOPA/PIPA since neither had even been announced. I know that reading EVERYTHING, and comprehending what others have written, is difficult, but it is critical to your stance.

Matthew Moore (profile) says:

Re: You're wrong about Netflix's stance.

Great link! Try this one!
That’s the actual letter that people grabbed the “SOPA supporters” from. The actual letter that you are so riled up about.
Lets see: Piracy is bad, pirate websites are bad for stealing, lets stop them.
Nope, I don’t see anything about censorship (unless its censorship to arrest criminals and stop them from breaking the law). I see nothing about government control of the internet. I see nothing about arresting/fining common citizens for use of copywritten characters in such innocent things such as avatars.
As a matter of fact, if you read that letter and look at how things are already done, you realize this letter is not actually asking for ANYTHING NEW AT ALL. Its asking for more of what is already going on.
Also the letter was written 3 months before SOPA was.
SOPA was/is bad. No doubt. This letter had nothing to do with SOPA, no matter what the media says. If you don’t believe me, THEN READ THE DAMN LETTER. Its tiny. Itsy bitsy.

Phil Bowyer says:

Does it really matter

Who gives a crap about the why – the fact is that another company is lobbying government to get what THEY want (whatever that is).

This is why the US is so screwed up, because corporations are buying politicians.

I don’t give a flying ballerina’s ass why, I’m pissed they are doing it at all, and so should everyone in America.

Sometimes people can’t see the forest thru the trees.

Ferph says:

FlixPAC is a PAC not a SuperPAC. While a SuperPAC can take in unlimited amounts of money and spend unlimited amounts of money without reporting any of the details, a PAC has to file a report every three months and has a limit on how much it can spend. I don’t doubt the Netflix is a money grubbing corporation that would sell out its own customers for a bigger chunk of change. But you should at least be aware of the actual situation before you go flaming everybody.

Matthew Moore (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Source? To make it more accurate, follow that source to its source. Then that to its source. Bet you end up back to a letter that has nothing to do with SOPA.
People say that Netflix supported the spirit of SOPA?
SOPA was about government control and censorship.
The letter that Netflix signed with 437 other companies? Was about stopping criminals.
Personal feelings aside (I torrent), adversity creates innovation. You shut down one service, a better one pops up, its been that way since online piracy has existed. The letter is adversity. So really, who cares?
SOPA however is another story completely. It would change the internet fundamentally. It would disney-fy the online world of which we live in, make it less real that it already is.
That letter has nothing to do with SOPA, further evidenced by the fact that it existed before SOPA was conceived.

notOK says:

Whatever Netflix

The fact that they formed a PAC means they are not ‘neutral’, they have an agenda, though the agenda is likely ‘protect our own asses at all costs’, which is typical corporation operating procedure.

I’m tried of corps using the money I pay them to buy laws, no matter what side they’re on. That’s not how it’s suppose to work. What’s the point of my vote if some corp backed PAC can just throw money at politicians and train them to roll over and beg like a good little dog?

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