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MPAA takes its time on piracy bill

Valenti more cautious about approach to legislation

WASHINGTON — With the major studios split on how far Capitol Hill should go in finding a legislative solution to Internet piracy, the Motion Picture Assn. of America is not rushing to embrace a bill being crafted in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hollywood execs say that in recent days, MPAA prexy-CEO Jack Valenti has opted to take a more cautious approach when it comes to proposed legislation being considered by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), with the help of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and staffers from the House Judiciary Committee.

That’s a different tack from the position the MPAA took when Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) recently introduced legislation ordering the tech community to work with Hollywood in stopping the Internet file-sharing of pirated movies. The measure gives the various sectors one year to come up with an answer; if not, Congress will intervene.

The MPAA endorsed the Hollings bill, despite tension among member studios. In one corner were the Walt Disney Co. and Fox, chief advocates of the Hollings bill. In the far corner was AOL Time Warner, which refused to support Valenti’s endorsement.

Low-key approach

In deference to the tension — and most likely at the request of several studios — Valenti has decided to take a more low-key approach to the legislation being considered by Schiff and Conyers, insiders said.

Schiff told Daily Variety his bill doesn’t mirror Hollings’ exactly, but was reluctant to share details until a draft is completed later this week. He said he has reached out to all the parties involved — the MPAA, individual studio reps, the Recording Industry Assn. of America, the tech biz, consumer groups and studios not affiliated with the MPAA, including DreamWorks.

The lawmaker said he’s continuing to hold meetings with Hollywood lobbyists, understanding that different studios have different interests. He credited Valenti with keeping things together.

“The MPAA in particular has a difficult challenge because the entertainment is now so diversified. It’s not as simple as when it was reel-to-reel and that’s all,” Schiff said. “We can’t lose sight of the issue that unites us — that something has to be done about this enormous theft of this natural resource.”

One studio rep said legislation or no legislation, Capitol Hill’s involvement has already led to more substantive negotiations among Hollywood, the consumer electronics biz and the computer industry.

“Clearly, though, Congress’ patience is limited,” exec said.