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MPAA’s Dodd digs in at fest

Talks circle movie piracy and how it's handled

In the two months since Christopher Dodd took the top job at the Motion Picture Assn. of America, attention has been on what he’ll do for Hollywood in Washington.

In his first trip to Cannes as chief of the trade association, the focus is on that of ambassador to the rest of the world.

“The movie business is kind of considered old hat,” Dodd told Variety in a break at the Majestic Beach on Monday. “But the reality is that it’s highly innovative and creative.”

That’s been a main talking point as Dodd participated in roundtable discussions, hosted a Sunday night reception and met with an array of European politicians and trade reps.

He said the perceptions of Hollywood have much to do with how the industry convinces the worldwide public that copyright theft is a problem. As he has elsewhere, he said the industry has done an “abysmal” job on this front.

It starts with the word often used to describe it: piracy.

“The big issue for us is thievery,” he said. “I hate the word ‘piracy’ because it conjures up these lovable characters. Theft of intellectual property is the dominant issue.”

Dodd is seeking to craft legislative and educational anti-theft initiatives that can work in individual markets rather than a one-size-fits all approach.

And he believes that the key message the industry needs to convey is that theft of intellectual property has a profoundly negative cultural impact.

“It’s more than just losing jobs,” Dodd asserted. “You lose the ability to tell your story.”

Dodd’s visit to Cannes comes a few days after federal legislation was introduced aimed at curbing online piracy, with a focus on choking off support for foreign sites that sell unauthorized movies, TV shows and music.

One Senate bill, the Protect IP Act, would authorize the Justice Dept. to seek a court order directing third-parties — search engines, payment processors, advertising networks and Internet providers — to cease providing transactions and support to overseas sites engaged in online infringement.

Another Senate bill would make illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony, bringing it in line with the punishment for peer-to-peer downloading.

Dodd noted that the two bills carry bipartisan support, and were authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“It’s one of the few areas that Democrats and Republicans agree on. I’m very hopeful that we can get this to the finish line.”

Dodd is packing a lot into his three days in Cannes. “I saw ‘The Artist’ and it’s just tremendous,” he said. “I’m planning to see ‘Tree of Life’ tonight.”

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