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Inside move: Lieberman clicks on techies

Solon schmoozes H'wood rivals with TechNet talk

Reprising his role as a thorn in Hollywood’s side, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) is cozying up with top Silicon Valley execs who are in a fierce battle with the Motion Picture Assn. of America and major studios over Internet piracy.

Lieberman Tuesday told TechNet, which reps the country’s top computer and software makers, he will introduce legislation demanding that the Bush administration develop a national policy for the deployment of high-speed Internet access — a pet project of TechNet’s.

From TechNet’s perspective, part of a national broadband policy should include a hands-off approach by Washington when it comes to technology blocking pirated pics and TV shows from being file-swapped on the Internet.

The MPAA, however, is backing legislation that would force the computer biz to load down its wares with encryption technology. Washington would step in and mandate such technology should the various sides fail to reach their own agreement.

MPAA prexy-CEO Jack Valenti grew incensed earlier this year when TechNet refused to meet with him on the issue. Likewise, Disney topper Michael Eisner has accused TechNet members of quietly endorsing the file-swapping of pirated content.

Tech execs say Hollywood shouldn’t be allowed to force its will on the computer biz, and what consumers can and can’t do.

Lieberman’s visit to Silicon Valley came as a flock of Capitol Hill pols used the Memorial Day recess to kick off a round of political fundraisers in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Golden State.

Top Democrats say Lieberman, an unofficial 2004 presidential contender, is unlikely to win over the Hollywood fundraising machine, considering his fierce attacks on the entertainment industry during the 2000 prez race.

Wooing TechNet may be part of a larger strategy.

“You always go after the competing interest,” one entertainment industry political player said. “He knows he’s persona non grata in Hollywood, so why not sign up for the next best thing? These are the kinds of calculations you make on a routine basis.”

Top Lieberman aide Dan Gerstein said the solon wasn’t trying to take sides in calling for a national broadband policy, or in his endorsement of TechNet’s goals.

While at TechNet, Lieberman released a white paper on what a broadband policy should include.

“The goal here wasn’t to answer any questions, but to raise them in an intelligent way and prod policy-makers,” Gerstein said.