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.