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Chris Dodd Threatens Legislators Over Anti-Piracy Legislation


Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, right, the new Chairman and CEO of The Motion Picture Association of America, speaks to reporters as John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, looks on during a news conference at CinemaCon 2011, the official convention of the National Association of Theater Owners on March 29, 2011, in Las Vegas.

CREDIT: AP Photo / Chris Pizzello

Protip for Chris Dodd: Buying politicians is supposed to happen behind closed doors.

The Motion Picture Association of America chairman put out a stunningly blunt threat to President Obama and members of Congress in an exclusive interview with Fox News last week after the White House came out against certain provisions of SOPA.

He said:

I would caution people don't make the assumption that because the quote ‘Hollywood community’ has been historically supportive of Democrats, which they have, don't make the false assumptions this year that because we did it in years past, we will do it this year.

Candidly, those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake.

Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake. (emphasis added)

A petition on the White House webpage, which has now garnered more than the 25,000 signatures it requires to warrant a response from the administration, is calling for an investigation into Dodd and the MPAA for bribery.

“This is an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal,” reads the petition. “This is a brazen flouting of the ‘above the law’ status people of Dodd’s position and wealth enjoy.”

It’s hard to look at Dodd’s comments and not see, at best, a public relations overreach—brazen influence-peddling is one thing that gets people mad enough to protest like they did last week.

Though Dodd made conciliatory remarks towards Silicon Valley in a New York Times interview that came out the same day as the Fox interview, he made quite clear in his recent remarks at the Center for American Progress, our parent organization, that he just didn’t see what all the censorship fuss was about.

Faced with overwhelming opposition from Internet users when Wikipedia and a number of other websites went dark for a day, Congress didn’t want to play anymore, so Dodd threatened to take his toys and go home.

The enormous online outcry swayed 19 senators who had previously supported the legislation, most of whom were Republicans.

The good news? Both pieces of legislation, SOPA and PIPA, are dead. Well, at least in their current form. For now.

Given the history of anti-copying legislation in this country, as Clay Shirky expertly lays out in this TED talk—seriously, go watch the whole thing—it’s likely that new onerous legislation will arise once the fervor over these bills dies down.

There may be hope, though—the OPEN Act, from geek-friendly Senators Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa, has been proposed as compromise legislation. Reddit general manager Erik Martin calls it a “good start.”

Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.

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