MPAA picks ex-senator Dodd as next chief

Former Sen. Christopher Dodd, who chose not to run for reelection last year after ethics controversies, will start this month as the next head of the MPAA.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read

Former Senator Christopher Dodd, who chose not to run for reelection last year after controversies including an ethics probe and the taking of preferential mortgages from Countrywide's CEO, will be the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA said today that Dodd, who had served in the Senate since 1981, would become its new chairman and chief executive officer as of March 17.

As head of the movie studios' influential lobby arm, Dodd succeeds Jack Valenti, the late former Lyndon Johnson aide who took the job in 1966, and former Democratic Congressman Dan Glickman. Bob Pisano, the former head of the Screen Actors Guild, has been interim MPAA chief since last summer.

Christopher Dodd
Christopher Dodd chrisdodd.com

"I am truly excited about representing the interests of one of the most creative and productive industries in America, not only in Washington but around the world," Dodd said in a statement. "The major motion picture studios consistently produce and distribute the most sought after and enjoyable entertainment on earth. Protecting this great American export will be my highest priority."

Dodd's new job comes as MPAA members are lobbying Congress to enact a measure called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which could allow the plug to be pulled on Web sites accused of aiding piracy. In addition, the White House said last month, as CNET reported at the time, that it has drafted new proposals to curb Internet piracy and other forms of intellectual property infringement that it says it will send to the U.S. Congress "in the very near future."

While in the Senate, Dodd chaired the banking committee and was a member of the foreign relations committee, but was not actually on the panel that writes copyright laws, and was not known for his deep engagement in technology or intellectual property issues.

Dodd did visit Google during his quickly-aborted 2008 presidential bid, where he told the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to pull the plug on its China.cn search engine (it did not).

Dodd responded to a CNET survey of presidential candidates, where he expressed mild support for altering the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to permit Americans to make a single backup copy of a DVD or video game disc they have legally purchased. ("We should be able to strike a balance between allowing Americans fair use of material they purchase, while protecting copyright holders from piracy," he said.)

In the last few years, it was the ethics allegations that dominated the headlines and likely prompted Dodd to announce in January 2010 he would not seek re-election.

One controversy involves an odd Irish real estate investment involving a crooked stock trader who had pleaded guilty to insider trading. Another centers around a sweetheart mortgage deal that Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, received from Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's then-CEO.