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Saturday, July 2, 2011

MPAA Directly Lobbies Law Enforcement To Be Its Own Private Police Force

by Mike Masnick, Techdirt

For years, we've discussed how questionable it is that federal law enforcement, including the Justice Department and Homeland Security, often acts as the private police force of the entertainment industry. At times there's been a bit of a revolving door, with the RIAA/MPAA hiring former federal law enforcement officials to head up their "anti-piracy" efforts, and the existing federal groups sometimes seem to return the favor by taking on cases that clearly should be civil matters between the private companies in the entertainment business and those it feels infringed on their rights.

Over the last few years, the fact that the feds have effectively been working as the entertainment industry's private police force has grown more and more obvious. No one from Homeland Security seems willing to explain (and trust me, I've asked multiple times) why it is that when ICE did its domain seizures, it relied solely on claims from the industry and (even more ridiculous) announced the first round of seizures from Disney headquarters. Can you imagine how people would react if the FTC announced it was filing antitrust charges against Google... from Microsoft's offices? Or if the FCC announced it was blocking the AT&T-T-Mobile merger from Sprint's offices? Such scenarios seem preposterous, but ICE doesn't seem to recognize the clear conflict of interest in acting as the private police force for an industry, rather than actually doing its job.

Perhaps part of that is because the entertainment industry is spending a ton of money lobbying law enforcement agencies directly. Most of the time when you think about lobbying activities, you think about talking to politicians to try to get them to pass certain laws, or talking to regulators to have them adjust or change certain rules and regulations. You don't tend to think of lobbying law enforcement directly in order to convince them to do your private bidding. But, the MPAA does.

According to a disclosure report, the MPAA spent $400,000 lobbying a wide range of US government departments in the first quarter of 2011 including the FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, ICE and the Vice President?s Office. Issues on the table include so-called ?rogue sites? including RapidShare, streaming, graduated response (3 strikes) and domain seizures.
There are no real surprises in the content covered. It's the same stuff the MPAA has been pushing for a while now. But the fact that they're directly lobbying the FBI, the Justice Department, Homeland Security and ICE should raise some eyebrows. Law enforcement should not be influenced by the desires of private companies -- especially ones with a long history of failing to adapt to changing technologies and trying to get those technologies declared illegal. Imagine if, rather than a civil lawsuit, when the VCR was introduced, the movie industry could have just had the FBI declare the things illegal?

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