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MPAA: Changes in the Works for Anti-Piracy Legislation

As tech companies and digital rights groups gain traction in their opposition to a major piece of anti-piracy legislation, Hollywood’s studio lobby is talking to congressional staffers about modifying language in the bill, hopeful to win over some but not all of the most influential critics.

“I think we will come forward with language that will accomodate specific concerns,” Michael O’Leary, the MPAA’s senior execuitve vice president for global policy and external affairs, said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. He declined to go into specifics, but said that “you will see accomodation, you will see movement” but cautioned that it was doubtful that changes were likely to appease all of the opponents.

“Quite honestly, there are people in the the opposition who have no intention of agreeing to anything,” he said.

The legislation, pending in the House and the Senate, is aimed at rooting out so called rogue websites, particularly those overseas, with a series of measures in which the Justice Department could seek a court order to force payment processors, ad networks, search engines and Internet providers to cut off support to such sites. Although the bills have drawn broad support among Hollywood studios, record labels and unions, all anxious to cast the legislation as a jobs issue, in recent weeks that message has ben obscured as some tech firms and digital rights groups have warned in advertisements and op-eds that the legislation would stifle innovation and perhaps jeopardize the free flow of the Internet.

Rep. Darrell Issa (D-Calif.) has been among the most vocal opponents, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed her reservations, although she softened her opposition with a statement calling on sides to come together to find an effective compromise.

Although the legislation has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate and bipartisan support on the House Judiciary Committee, O’Leary suggested that the tactic of some opponents was to gin up controversy with “hyperbolic” statements and stall the movement of the legislation. It now looks highly unlikely that it will reach President Obama’s desk by the end of the year, which had been a goal of industry supporters. And Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has threatened a filibuster in the Senate.

Google and the NetCoalition, an organization of Internet firms have called on the legislation to be more narrowly tailored to cutting off the money from that goes to rogue sites. But O’Leary said that while Google “is more than happy to after the money of payment processors and ad networks, they don’t include the money they make off of search and other aspects of their business as well.”

The legislation, he said, has to “go after the money throughout the entire ecosystem.”

Although the safe bet in a Congress defined by gridlock seems to be nothing passing, O’Leary said that they still believe the legislation will pass and be signed into law. “There are a lot of hurdles to be overcome, and I believe they will be overcome.”

Nevertheless, supporters expressed frustration at the nature of the debate. Kathy Garmezy, the DGA’s associate executive director for government and international affairs, said that “the sense that there is a fight between innovation and people with their fingers in the dyke is completely false.”

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