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CreativeFuture, IFTA Urge Lawmakers to Hold Google Hearings

WASHINGTON — CreativeFuture and the Independent Film & Television Alliance are pressing congressional leaders to get Google to testify in the same way that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg went before House and Senate hearings in April.

In letters to the Senate and House judiciary and commerce committees, CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale, IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt, and more than 80 industry creative professionals seized on congressional concern over sex trafficking and election interference to urge them to also call in Google.

“In recent hearings in both the House and the Senate, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, characterized Silicon Valley’s failure to take an appropriately broad view of its responsibility as a ‘big mistake,'” they wrote. “But whether the lack of responsibility was a ‘mistake’ or something else, the failure of Facebook, Google, and others to take responsibility is rooted in decades-old government policies, including legal immunities and safe harbors, that treat these companies differently than other industries and actually absolve internet platforms of responsibility.”

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hollywood and Silicon Valley are engaged in a heated lobbying battle with U.S. trade officials over talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. Internet companies want the revised pact to include a “safe harbor” provision, which shields platforms from liability for user-generated content posted on sites under a set of conditions. Such a provision is part of U.S. copyright law, but the content industry doesn’t want it added to international agreements. They have long criticized the safe harbor as providing too much immunity for internet sites when it comes to curbing piracy.

In the joint CreativeFuture-IFTA letter, the entertainment industry figures said “Google needs to join Mr. Zuckerberg in stepping forward and embracing a broader view of its responsibility. But the real problem is not any one company. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet because it’s ‘exceptional,’ and utterly fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on internet businesses that are built around monetizing the content of others.”

After Zuckerberg testified at a joint Senate judiciary and commerce committee hearing in April, a letter was entered into the record from MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin, calling for greater accountability for internet platforms.

DGA, SAG-AFTRA and IATSE also sent a joint letter, addressing what they called the “lack of accountability for online platforms,” and CreativeFuture joined with IFTA, the American Federation of Musicians and the Content Creators Coalition with their own response to the hearing.

The content industry has long been at odds with Google and other Silicon Valley companies over their role when it comes to the proliferation of online piracy.

Rivkin called for “a national dialogue about restoring accountability on the internet. Whether through regulation, recalibration of safe harbors, or the exercise of greater responsibility by online platforms, something must change.”

But his letter drew a sharp attack from the Internet Association, which represents Google, Netflix, Twitter, and other major internet firms. Its CEO, Michael Beckerman, accused industry figures on seizing on the Facebook controversy to try to advance its own agenda. He called Rivkin’s letter “shameless rent-seeking by calling for regulation on internet companies simply in an effort to protect his clients’ business interest.”

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