Revolving Door: MPAA Hires Chief USTR Negotiator Behind ACTA And TPP's IP Chapter

from the a-big-pat-on-the-back dept

For the past five years or so, the USTR’s chief intellectual property negotiator has been Stan McCoy. McCoy has long positioned himself as an intellectual property maximalist, repeating talking points from lobbyists regularly, while condescending to anyone who questions the legitimacy of those claims. McCoy famously was the chief negotiator behind the US’s disastrous (and mostly failed) attempt to push ACTA through, as well as the lead on the TPP’s intellectual property chapter — a chapter so bad it may help sink the TPP agreement. In fact, previous reports have noted that McCoy’s bullying and aggression in trying to push through the TPP were angering others in the negotiations. McCoy also has a long history of mocking public interest advocates, while praising maximalists for similar tactics. From a report a few years ago concerning a hearing that McCoy chaired:

The burden of proof was very obviously on the public interest, civil society groups. Stan McCoy of the USTR, who was presiding over the hearing, joked about the two-phonebook-sized submission by the International Intellectual Property Alliance. (Lol?) Sadly, there is no independent verification of these industry reports and there were no tough questions for industry regarding their testimony. Several times, McCoy interrupted civil society groups’ testimony to chide them on speaking too generally about IP policy, but refrained when industry witnesses did the same.

Given all that, it should be no surprise at all that McCoy, the failed strategist behind ACTA and the TPP’s IP provisions… has received his reward and pat on the back from the industry: a shiny new job at the MPAA. As Tim Lee notes in that link, this is just the latest in the never-ending revolving door between maximalist lobbying groups and the USTR:

Last year I wrote that at least a dozen former senior USTR officials have moved to industry groups that favor stronger protections. McCoy’s hire makes it a baker’s dozen. Previous hires include including Greg Frazier, who (according to his LinkedIn page) spent 8 years as the executive vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America after a stint at USTR. Other former USTR officials took jobs at drug and medical device companies.

McCoy’s old job, assistant USTR for intellectual property and innovation, made him the Obama administration’s highest-ranking trade negotiator on patent and copyright issues. Jamie Love, director of the public interest organization Knowledge Ecology International, notes that this isn’t the first time USTR’s top intellectual property official has gone on to take a lobbying job. McCoy’s predecessor, Victoria Espinel, is now the head of the software industry group BSA.

Espinel’s predecessor at BSA was Robert Holleyman, the man Obama just nominated to a senior post at USTR. While at BSA, Holleyman supported the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have created an official internet blacklist to aid in anti-piracy efforts. (He backtracked a few weeks later after an uproar in the technology community.

Another of McCoy’s predecessors as USTR’s top IP official is Joe Papovich, who later spent seven years as a lobbyist for the recording industry.

As Lee notes, the revolving door between maximalist lobbying organizations and the USTR goes round and round, with USTR officials joining the lobbyist organizations and then going back to the USTR. It’s a clear case of regulatory capture by the industry. None of those folks go on to public interest or civil society groups, nor does the USTR ever seem interested in hiring those people. It’s entirely a one-sided effort to help out the biggest lobbying interests. Work for a few years pushing through policies that favor those companies, and then get “rewarded” with a nice, high-paying job for those very same lobbyists, and no one ever seems to point out the obvious corruption in the entire process.

As Lee notes, as easy as it is to ascribe comic-book levels of ill-intent here, that’s unlikely. McCoy and others genuinely believe what they’re doing is the right thing. But the end results are clear:

I doubt public servants like McCoy consciously pursue dubious policies in an effort to curry favor with future employers. McCoy’s press representative hasn’t responded to my interview request, but I assume McCoy sincerely believes the Hollywood-friendly policies he advocated at USTR were in the interests of the nation.

But the revolving door between USTR and industry groups creates a strong but subtle pressure on USTR’s culture. Like many government agencies, USTR regularly turns to outside experts to help it sort through complex trade issues. Naturally, they turn to people they trust: their former colleagues — or even former bosses — who now work at trade organizations with plenty of resources to devote to understanding the minutia of trade policy.

And it’s even worse than that, frankly. Because, when you combine that revolving door, with the proposals seen in ACTA, TPP and elsewhere, it undermines the public trust in all of this. People see it and naturally assume corruption, even if the intent is pure. In other words, even if we give McCoy and others the benefit of the doubt, the very fact that he spent 5 years pushing entirely for the MPAA’s policies, while brushing off any and all claims from the MPAA’s critics, and then took a job at the MPAA, confirms in the minds of many people that the USTR has no interest in representing the public good. And that perception (regardless if the underlying intent is real or not) corrodes public trust in the federal government, and the USTR in particular.

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Comments on “Revolving Door: MPAA Hires Chief USTR Negotiator Behind ACTA And TPP's IP Chapter”

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23 Comments
zip says:

S.O.P. in D.C.

Of course this revolving door affects far more than just copyright issues. This is the way that Washington works: to serve the moneyed interests, at the expense of the people.

We might all be better off if we entirely dispensed with elections (and all the money they waste) and just let the big corporations run the country directly. At least it would be a more honest form of government than maintaining the illusion that Big Business doesn’t (and isn’t even supposed to) control Washington outright.

Keroberos (profile) says:

As Lee notes, as easy as it is to ascribe comic-book levels of ill-intent here, that’s unlikely. McCoy and others genuinely believe what they’re doing is the right thing.

Nope. I used to give them the benefit of doubt, but I don’t buy that anymore. These people have spent their entire careers rationalizing that what’s enriches them and furthers advancement for them and their cronies must be what’s good for the country. They have ignored dissenting opinions for far too long (I don’t believe for a second that they haven’t received information from anyone other than the industry they are regulating) that it can only be a deliberate attempt to subvert the regulatory processes for their own personal gain.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Smoke+Mirrors Illustrated

For giggles, here’s a press release from the Library of Congress about a ‘Copyright Matters’ event taking place tomorrow in D.C., as part of the WIPO Intellectual Property Day nonsense. 2014 World Intellectual Property Day Celebration to Focus on Movies

The LoC announcement contains the often repeated and fine description of the Copyright Alliance, which will be presenting at the event:

The Copyright Alliance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest and educational organization representing artists, creators and innovators across copyright industries.

This of course is just the usual incestuous song and dance that goes on in D.C.; LoC Director of Communications Gayle Osterberg, listed as the press contact on the announcement, just so happens to be one of the founders of the Copyright Alliance. And oh yeah, as for non-partisan; excuse me while I throw up in my mouth, she’s former VP of communications at MPAA, and longtime staff member for former Sen. Don Nickles, right-wing loon and lobbyist to the maximalists.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Smoke+Mirrors Illustrated

For further reading about the MPAA and its minions, here’s a report from CREW / Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Best Supporting Industry.

OH, NOZ! the report states that poor Sen. Nickles and his Nickles Group LLC have been canned by the MPAA, along with a few other outside lobbyists. Gosh darn it.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Smoke+Mirrors Illustrated

Yup, “non-partisan” when one takes a superficial look at the party affiliations of supporters, which of course is nearly useless in discerning an organization’s true agenda in D.C. The specifics of the Copyright Alliance’s founders and personnel tell the real story- most of the original staff and founders were close associates of former Sen. Nickles (R-OK), who’s about as far right-wing Republican as they come. The financial records of at least one Alliance member organization show contributions to the CA being sent directly to the Nickles Group LLC offices. That should pretty much dispense with the “non-partisan” veneer.

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