Chris Dodd: You’re Not Just Stealing From Brad Pitt

The head of the Motion Picture Association of America talks to National Journal about whom IP protections really help, and more.

Actor/ producer Brad Pitt arrives at the '12 Years A Slave' Premiere during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 6, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
National Journal
Catherine Hollander
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Catherine Hollander
Feb. 28, 2014, 9 a.m.

There’s no bet­ter time than the week be­fore the Academy Awards to catch up with Chris Dodd. The former sen­at­or from Con­necti­c­ut, who has headed the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­ation of Amer­ica since 2011, spoke to Na­tion­al Journ­al about his or­gan­iz­a­tion’s push for strong in­tel­lec­tu­al-prop­erty pro­tec­tions in the on­go­ing Trans-Pa­cific and At­lantic trade talks, the health of the film in­dustry, and wheth­er re­la­tions between Sil­ic­on Val­ley and Hol­ly­wood are thaw­ing out after a nasty fight over the Stop On­line Pir­acy Act and the Pro­tect IP Act. This in­ter­view has been ed­ited and con­densed.

On the health of the U.S. film in­dustry.

There’s about 40 mil­lion that watch [the Oscars] in the United States, but roughly a bil­lion glob­ally. There are oth­er coun­tries that make film; the fact that there are a bil­lion people around the world watch­ing the Oscars gives you an idea of the im­pact that this in­dustry still has. Con­tent de­fend­er: Chris Dodd (Chet Suss­lin)

On the battles to come.

The con­tent-pro­tec­tion is­sue is still a ma­jor is­sue, and ob­vi­ously with the emer­gence of [stream­ing] tech­no­lo­gies and so forth it isn’t just hard goods, where you get a DVD and make a copy. Break­ing Bad, I think this last epis­ode was stolen 900,000 times.

On the status of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade talks.

I’m a strong sup­port­er of TPP. I’ll grant you each week that goes by, hav­ing been through these pro­cesses in the past as a mem­ber of the Con­gress, it gets harder when you get closer to an elec­tion. But I’m still op­tim­ist­ic that they can get a Trade Pro­mo­tion Au­thor­ity bill and TPP can pass.

On a leaked draft of the TPP agree­ment be­ing cri­ti­cized for be­ing a “Hol­ly­wood wish list,” re­flect­ing un­due cor­por­ate lob­by­ing in­flu­ence.

First of all, it was all brack­eted, and when things are brack­eted in [an] agree­ment they’re un­der ne­go­ti­ation. In fact, no one could tell me — or any­one else for that mat­ter — when that draft ac­tu­ally was a draft. Drafts can change from day to day. Bey­ond that, I can’t tell you what’s happened since. Our view on this copy­right, in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­erty is we don’t want any­thing that would be in­con­sist­ent with U.S. law.

On wheth­er MPAA sees a le­gis­lat­ive re­sponse to pir­acy after the SOPA and PIPA fights.

We’re not push­ing for le­gis­la­tion at all. What we are do­ing is look­ing .at these memor­andums of un­der­stand­ing with the [In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders], with the ad­vert­isers, with the pay­ment pro­cessors and ourselves. It’s bet­ter to do it this way, in my view. You write the law and be­fore the ink’s dry, you could have tech­no­logy just trump it.

On MPAA’s cri­ti­cism that Google hasn’t done enough to stop pir­acy.

We deal with Google all the time and have busi­ness re­la­tion­ships with them. I al­ways start the con­ver­sa­tion by say­ing we need to do more ourselves in this busi­ness. Every­body is part of the eco­sys­tem of the In­ter­net and needs to fig­ure out how in this world as it changes al­most at warp speed, how can we all do a bet­ter job of provid­ing leg­al con­tent to people in a way that is ac­cess­ible, and of a good qual­ity.

On re­la­tions between Sil­ic­on Val­ley and Hol­ly­wood.

I think the more they get in­to con­tent them­selves, I sus­pect they’ll be­come a little more jeal­ous about pro­tect­ing con­tent. And again, our provid­ing great­er dis­tri­bu­tion ser­vices, provid­ing con­tent in a very ac­cess­ible, timely fash­ion, I think, will help tre­mend­ously as well.

On wheth­er he’ll re­gister as a lob­by­ist now that the two-year ban after his Sen­ate ser­vice has passed.

Not ne­ces­sar­ily. I wouldn’t have any prob­lem do­ing it. I just don’t spend that much time lob­by­ing — what is it, a 20 per­cent threshold or something? If I reach that point to do it, I’d be glad to do it. There’s no par­tic­u­lar reas­on to do or not to do it; it’s just I’m not do­ing it that much.

On the pub­lic’s view of Hol­ly­wood.

The cor­rel­a­tion between ap­pre­ci­ation of the product and ap­pre­ci­ation of the in­dustry don’t line up. When you get to these de­bates and dis­cus­sions about con­tent pro­tec­tion and so forth, most people are think­ing, what — steal­ing from Brad Pitt? How big a deal is that? It’s not Brad Pitt — it’s that guy be­hind that cam­era. It’s the guy in that sound truck.

On his plans for the Academy Awards.

I’m a vot­ing mem­ber of the Academy. My wife and I will go out next week­end for it. My fa­vor­ite mo­ment at the Oscars is when I’m in that black Town Car, and I ar­rive and they have these bleach­ers to the red car­pet, and you get up and, I mean, the crowd’s go­ing crazy, and as the car stops and the crowd goes nuts, they roar, and then I open the door and I get out and it goes, “Awwwww.” [Groans.] It’s my fa­vor­ite mo­ment.

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