RIAA, MPAA urge pro-copyright vows from presidential candidates

Alliance kicks off letter-writing effort to solicit copyright policy views from 17 Democratic and Republican candidates seeking the nomination next year.

A coalition of entertainment and publishing industry heavyweights would like to see the 2008 presidential candidates champion "meaningful copyright protection" in their policy platforms.

The requests came Tuesday in the form of a letter (PDF) and a questionnaire (PDF), dispatched by the Washington-based Copyright Alliance to 17 candidates vying for Democratic or Republican nominations next year. The group has requested responses to its questionnaire by early January of next year and plans to make the answers public.

The alliance's 44 members include the Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, Association of American Publishers, Entertainment Software Association, Business Software Alliance, as well as companies like CBS, NBC, News Corp., Microsoft, Viacom, and Walt Disney. The same group, which formed earlier this year, staged a Capitol Hill expo last month aimed at educating staffers and politicos on its stance.

Each of the five questions rests on the premise that copyright protection is vital to the U.S. economy, and they're clearly worded with an eye toward eliciting a certain response. (As one reporter on a conference call about the announcement remarked, the approach seems a bit like asking the candidates whether they like Mom and apple pie.)

One question, for instance, asks: "How would you promote the progress of science and creativity, as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, by upholding and strengthening copyright law and preventing its diminishment?"

Others ask how candidates would "protect the incentive to create by committing sufficient resources to support effective civil and criminal enforcement of copyright laws domestically and internationally" and "ensure inclusion of copyright protections in bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements to protect creators and foster global development."

"The future of our creative output in the United States is at stake in the 2008 presidential election," wrote Patrick Ross, the group's executive director. "It is critical not only for members of the creative community but also for the U.S. economy to ensure that copyrights are respected and piracy is reduced. We are asking you to let us know what you would do to help preserve one of America's greatest strengths, its creative community."

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Ross said the group also intends to hold briefings with presidential campaigns about its copyright priorities, but it's not "in the endorsement game," although individual alliance members may choose to take that step.

The heads of the RIAA and MPAA both heralded the importance of the contenders' intellectual property views in posts at the Copyright Alliance's Web site on Tuesday.

"While national security and health care have dominated this season's campaign dialog, a key issue for the 2008 presidential candidates includes their commitment to recognizing the critical importance of intellectual property rights," wrote MPAA chief Dan Glickman.

RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol put it this way: "When Americans vote, they are making decisions about the values important to them. And one of those values must be a commitment to creativity. For some, that commitment will be a function of the economic significance of intellectual property. For others, that commitment will be about the power of the ideas our content spreads throughout the world. But the commitment to intellectual property rights, whatever the motivation, is what we must look for."

 

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