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How the MPAA Works

MPAA and Lobbying

As a trade organization, one of the chief missions of the Motion Picture Organization of America (MPAA) is to lobby elected officials and government agencies on behalf of its members, the large movie studios. Jack Valenti, who served as president of the MPAA for 40 years, began his career as a close aide to President Lyndon Johnson and became a fixture in Washington, D.C. as Hollywood's "top lobbyist" [source: Breznican].

In 2010, the MPAA spent $1.66 million on federal lobbying, focusing its attention on the U.S. president, congressional leaders, and the Departments of Justice, Commerce and State, as well as the Patent and Trademark Office.

Anti-piracy has been a recurring theme of the MPAA's lobbying efforts. In the early 1980s, Jack Valenti famously railed against the VCR as a tool of movie pirates. Lucky for Valenti, his congressional testimony didn't sway legislators; VHS became a huge moneymaker for Hollywood [source: Barro].

The MPAA rallied behind its sister organization, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to fight against P2P file-sharing sites like Napster and Grokster and prosecute individual perpetrators. Thanks in part to MPAA lobbying, a provision was written into the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 stating that any college or university that accepts federal student financial aid must develop and implement a plan to combat illegal file-sharing on the school's computer network [source: MPAA].

In 2011 and early 2012, the MPAA fought a very public lobbying battle in support of two pieces of legislation aimed at curbing online piracy: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP [source: O'Leary]. SOPA in particular drew widespread outcry from the Web community over charges that the law would allow copyright holders to block access to Web sites without a court order or even a cease and desist letter [source: Plumer]. On January 18, 2012, Web sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Wordpress went "dark" in a massive online protest -- the world's largest -- against SOPA. Congress quickly dropped the legislation.

Since online piracy is a global epidemic, the MPAA has regional offices in five countries outside the U.S., and it partners with antipiracy organizations in more than 30 countries to lobby for tougher intellectual property protection worldwide [source: MPAA].

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