The Full Valenti: Dodd Trades His Olive Branch to Tech for a Howitzer, After SOPA/PIPA Gets Delayed
Poor Chris Dodd — he just got the top media lobbying job in Washington, D.C., at the very moment that the strong-arming-pols, scare-the-children, Jack Valenti era in media lobbying is now decidedly over.
It’s obviously a very confusing time for big media these days, on a lot of fronts. But any of the consummate insider moves once used by the legendarily pugnacious Valenti (pictured here onstage at our first D: All Things Digital conference in 2003) had a hard time this past week, as Internet players went very public in protesting two Congressional bills aimed at combating piracy online.
Not that Dodd didn’t try to cope.
The former Senator — who is now the chief lobbyist for the once much more powerful Motion Picture Association of America — gave a can’t-we-all-get-along interview to the New York Times on Thursday, in which he called for a meeting with techies to come to some acceptable compromise.
“In an interview Thursday, Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise … ‘The perfect place to do it is a block away from here,’ said Mr. Dodd, who pointed from his office on I Street toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
But on Friday, after politicians quickly moved to delay both the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT I.P. Act (PIPA) — after successful protests pointing out that the legislation could lead to censorship — Dodd went to the full Valenti again:
“We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.”
Foreign criminals! Foreign thieves! Is it just me, or does Dodd sounds like Cher, singing, “Gypsies, tramps and thieves”?
(Let’s be clear, that utterance could never top Valenti’s most infamous quote: “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.”)
To be fair, Dodd is hindered by strict restrictions on his lobbying Congress until next year. That said, this is not an old-timey, private Capitol Hill fight, but a modern-era, social-media-charged one.
And it’s pretty clear that the old scare tactics used by big media will no longer work as well, as consumers — as much as they like their movies — seem to love their Internet more.
Thus, what has happened is that — at least for now — the MPAA and media companies have lost and lost big, after the typically fractious Web powers decided to lock arms for once and cooperate with a creative, take-it-to-the-people approach of showing a disabled Internet.
Dramatic? Yes. Effective? Certainly. (That Facebook and Google agree on anything? Astonishing!)
Where it goes from here is unclear — the MPAA and its constituents could certainly rally and put forth their own protest. Ironically, the most effective way to do that is not via the airwaves or other former means of broadcast to the public, but on the Web.
Which is controlled by Dodd’s foes. (You see the problem here.)
The answer, in the end, might have to be the cooperation he first suggested.
As he told the Times:
“The companies, Mr. Dodd said, are ‘rethinking everything,’ not just about the bills, but about their relationship with an estranged Silicon Valley. That need for rapprochement, he said, ‘has come home in a way that no rhetoric of mine could express.’”
Much more to come, obvi.