CEA chief sez showbiz coin sways pols

Cites 'phenomenal amount' of coin from biz lobbyists to push anti-piracy bills

The leader of the Consumer Electronics Assn. suggested that support for major anti-piracy legislation is motivated by hefty political contributions to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

“The content community is a phenomenal fundraiser, phenomenal. And they play in the Judiciary Committee,” Gary Shapiro, CEO of CEA, said in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” scheduled to be shown on Saturday. His comments were first reported in D.C. paper the Hill.

“The members of the Judiciary Committee deal with life and death issues: abortion, capital punishment. They don’t deal with monied issues,” Shapiro said. “So they get a phenomenal amount of money from the content industry lobbyists.”

His comments reflect a lobbying battle playing out on Capitol Hill that has pitted many Hollywood interests against those in the tech sector. While showbiz lobbies the MPAA and the Recording Industry Assn. of America have long had an established presence in Washington, companies like Google and Facebook have been staffing up in their D.C. offices and have been an ever greater factor in campaign contributions.

Shapiro has been among the most outspoken trade association leaders to come out against Senate and House legislation aimed at curbing so-called rogue websites that offer pirated Hollywood content, particularly those overseas. He and other critics say that the Senate PROTECT IP Act and the House Stop Online Piracy Act overreach when narrower solutions would suffice. Both bills have bipartisan support, with sponsors including the chairmen and ranking members of the Judiciary committees of both chambers.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, TV, movie and music sources have contributed $450,450 to House Judiciary members in this Congress, and $3.19 million to Senate Judiciary members. But, as The Hill also noted, House Judiciary members have collected $356,389 from employees computer and Internet firms, and Senate Judiciary members have collected $1.74 million.

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the MPAA, said in a statement, “For the past decade, whether it’s Congress passing a law protecting creative content from theft, or the Supreme Court ruling in favor of artists, creators and businesses, Mr. Shapiro has predicted the end of the Internet or some major catastrophe. These kinds of tactics do not lead to positive discussions or legislative solutions to the issues facing our country.”

Shapiro issued a statement today that also attacks tactics — and also brings up past Washington battles. “Some parties to this debate think name calling and ‘gotcha’ Google searches are more important than addressing the serious threat to our nation’s economic future posed by this legislation. They would like you to forget that they went all the way to the Supreme Court to block the VCR, part of a pattern that continues to this day of using lobbying heft and legal might to delay or destroy nascent technology that challenges their legacy business.”