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MPAA: Antipiracy is now 'content protection'

In a major restructuring of its copyright watchdog efforts, with several leaders heading to the exit, the motion picture group is also doing a bit of rebranding.

LOS ANGELES--The six largest Hollywood film studios are apparently dissatisfied with the way their trade group has waged war on illegal file sharing. CNET News has learned that at least three leaders of its antipiracy operations have been fired.

Among the three who were quietly ushered out of their posts at the Motion Picture Association of America three weeks ago was Greg Goeckner, the MPAA's general counsel. The others were the MPAA's director of worldwide antipiracy operations and its deputy director of Internet antipiracy. Goeckner will remain with the MPAA until the end of the year.

Other MPAA staffers were let go as part of a dramatic restructuring of the piracy-fighting operations, which included dropping the word "antipiracy" in favor of the term "content protection."

According to two sources in the film industry, the MPAA's antipiracy leadership had failed to impress studio executives, some of whom were concerned that the unit lacked aggressiveness. The reshuffling at the highest levels of the MPAA's antipiracy efforts will undoubtedly be seen as a black eye for MPAA CEO Dan Glickman.

An MPAA spokeswoman declined to comment on the firings but said that Daniel Mandil, an MPAA senior executive vice president, has been named general counsel and chief of content protection. He will oversee the association's combined legal and antipiracy efforts.

The shifts come as the sharing of movie files continues to creep toward mainstream adoption. In the past, digital copies of movies were too big to transmit easily on the Internet, but file-sharing technologies are improving, and sending large movie files is becoming easier.

Hollywood fears that the pirating of movies will become as common as the illicit sharing of music files. Studio insiders say they know that the answer isn't lawsuits but the hope is that Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, and other bandwidth providers will help them thwart file sharing at the network level. So far, though, the music and film industries have failed to get the major ISPs very involved.

As for Glickman, the whispers from studio execs for over year is that the former U.S. secretary of agriculture (under former President Bill Clinton) hasn't been very effective since taking over at the MPAA in 2004. One source said that Glickman won't make it to the end of his contract, which runs out in September 2010.

The MPAA denied an impending early departure for the executive.

"This week Dan Glickman met with several of the MPAA member company studio executives, as he often does," said Angela Martinez, an MPAA spokeswoman. "During those meetings he reconfirmed his plans to continue in his role as chairman and CEO through the remainder of his contract. They welcomed that commitment and expressed their continued confidence in him."