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Harvey Weinstein Crashes MPAA’s Tech Tryst

TWC topper threatens a content jihad in the midst of the film org’s play for diplomacy with Netcos

Former President Bill Clinton toed the party line at the recent D.C. gathering of tech and entertainment honchos, preaching a live-and-let-live philosophy as keynoter of the first Creativity Conference, an event co-sponsored by the MPAA.

“(The) future will reward more richly those who are more creative and more cooperative,” he said, his words jibing perfectly with the studio lobby’s latest strategy that Hollywood and Silicon Valley need to find common ground to fight online piracy.

But not everyone was in a conciliatory mood. Indie movie mogul Harvey Weinstein came out guns blazing, bashing Google as an “octopus,” and citing the availability of clips of his former company Miramax’s 2002 Oscar-winning hit “Chicago” on YouTube as a way to mock the tech company’s business plan.

“You take someone else’s content for free. Deliver it. Don’t pay them anything. And build a $500 billion Silicon Valley company and be very, very, rich,” Weinstein said. “And then have cool slogans like ‘We just want to help the world.’ ”

And the Weinstein Co. chief didn’t stop there.

“I promised myself that if Obama won,” he continued, “that I would be free to (speak out against piracy), and I will, and George Clooney will, and there will be a hundred of us that will too. That battle is coming now.” Clooney was not available for comment.

Weinstein’s words sounded a strident note that runs contrary to the diplomatic approach of the MPAA, which has been promoting the idea that showbiz and the tech world “need each other,” in the words of the group’s chairman Christopher Dodd. In part, Dodd’s is a pragmatic strategy: Antipiracy legislation seems unlikely any time soon, as memories still linger of the dramatic online protest waged last year by the tech sector
that sidelined the Stop Online Piracy Act. Capitol Hill lawmakers still choose their words carefully when it comes to anything that smacks of restricting Internet access.

If Weinstein, Clooney and others were to become more aggressive about fighting piracy and its abettors, it would please many, including those in D.C. policy circles, who’ve long privately griped over Google’s giant footprint, and called for more visible figures from the industry to speak out. The problem in the lobbying campaign for SOPA wasn’t what people were saying, but that so few prominent showbizzers were saying anything at all.

Pressed by moderator Richard Stengel for specifics at the Creativity Conference, Weinstein praised Dodd, but suggested that the MPAA chief ’s approach was a matter of “finesse.”

Asked about Weinstein’s comments, Dodd told Variety he had not talked to him beforehand about what he would say. “Anybody who knows Harvey knows (he) speaks his own mind.”

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