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Internet Firms Describe Themselves as ‘New Faces’ of Content Industry in Trade Letter

WASHINGTON — Google and some of the other members of the tech industry trade groups have found themselves at odds with the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America, the entertainment industry’s chief lobbying organizations.

A recent letter to the Trump administration’s top trade official is the latest example of that — but what’s drawing attention in D.C.’s industry lobbying community is how the internet firms describe themselves.

“We are the new faces of the American content industry, winning Emmys and Oscars, providing distribution for streaming-only Grammy winners, while creating services that address the challenge of piracy by allowing consumers to legally access content globally,” the letter states.

That sounds like the mission of the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as other groups focused on copyright and content protection.

Among the signatories to the letter was the Internet Association, which includes as members Netflix and Amazon, now two big players in Hollywood’s content marketplace. They are not members of the MPAA, but they did recently join a coalition to fight piracy that includes the traditional studios.

The letter was to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and it outlined the tech and internet firms’ priorities when it comes to renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was also signed by the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, Engine, and ITI.

As studios seek robust copyright protections in trade agreements, the internet firms are countering that any revised agreement needs a strong “safe harbor” protection, which they enjoy through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That shields internet firms from legal liability when, for instance, users post pirated content on user-generated sites like Facebook and YouTube.

“If we seek to create an international obligation in a modernized NAFTA that embodies only one part of the U.S. copyright framework, but leave out other portions that the U.S. technology sector depends on, we will cause serious harm to the most innovative and fastest growing segments of our economy, and put at risk vital jobs,” the letter stated. “This is why it is essential to ensure the balance at the heart of the U.S. copyright system, including DMCA safe harbors and other copyright limitations and exceptions, is embraced by our key trading partners in North America.”

The studios, record labels, and other groups have yet to respond.

But last month, the RIAA and more than a dozen other music organizations ran an ad in Roll Call and Politico urging Lighthizer to “use the strongest negotiating hand possible.” They also warned against using the Trans Pacific Partnership as a framework, saying that it contained “flawed copyright loopholes” that “could cost America $1 billion a year.”

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