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MPAA chief: SOPA and Protect IP back from the grave?

The Motion Picture Association of America hasn't exactly given up on the Stop Online Piracy Act or similar legislation, despite January's widespread protests.

The Motion Picture Association of America believes there's still hope for the controversy-plagued Stop Online Piracy Act.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that was published online today, MPAA chief Christopher Dodd said he was "confident" that President Obama was using his "good relationships in both communities" -- that is, Silicon Valley and Hollywood -- to advance SOPA.

Top Hollywood lobbyist Christopher Dodd
Top Hollywood lobbyist Christopher Dodd

When asked whether there are negotiations going on now, Dodd replied: "I'm confident that's the case, but I'm not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive."

SOPA and its Senate cousin, the Protect IP Act, were yanked from congressional calendars after January's historic online protest--which included Wikipedia going dark for a day, warnings about Internet censorship appearing on the home page of and, and Senate Web sites being knocked offline due to a flood of traffic.

A MPAA representative downplayed the interview with Dodd, telling CNET this afternoon that that Hollywood's top lobbyist was referring to the long term, not this year's legislative calendar. (See CNET's SOPA FAQ.)

While there's been little official interest on Capitol Hill in the last month or two in reviving the legislation post-protest -- by some accounts, over 10 million people participated -- that hasn't stopped the cadre of pro-SOPA lobbyists.

Hollywood began a charm offensive. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the more ardent defenders of the bills, said it "will continue to work with Congress." Cary Sherman, the head of the Recording Industry Association of America, wrote in a February 7 op-ed in the New York Times that his industry wants a "workable" legal framework -- and dubbed the protests "misinformation," a "dirty trick," and "hyperbolic mistruths" that "amounted to an abuse of trust and a misuse of power."

Then, last week, the White House reignited the congressional debate by throwing its weight behind SOPA-like legislation targeting offshore Web sites. "We believe that new legislative and non-legislative tools are needed to address offshore infringement," the Obama administration said, while adding that it wouldn't endorse a bill that endangers freedom of expression or increases cybersecurity risks.

Both proposed laws are designed to target so-called rogue Web sites by allowing the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines and Internet service providers that would force them to make the suspected piractical site effectively vanish. But such broad censorship orders could jeopardize innocent Web sites and raise First Amendment concerns, a point that constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe emphasized, as well as negatively impacting U.S. cybersecurity.

Pleasing the pro-SOPA alliance in southern California and the anti-SOPA firms in the northern part of the state has proven to be a difficult election year task for President Obama.

After the White House expressed concerns about SOPA in January, Hollywood struck back. "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," Dodd, a former Democratic senator, said on Fox News a few days later.

In a Google+ hangout a few weeks later, Obama struck a more conciliatory tone and carefully avoided criticizing SOPA. "I think that it's going to be possible for us" to find a workable approach, he predicted. And during his State of the Union Address, Obama echoed a Hollywood talking point, saying that "movies, music, and software" must not be "pirated."