Sony Leak: The Secret Meetings That Set Hollywood's Anti-Piracy War Plan

By Ashley Feinberg on at

Every year, legal representatives from seven of the biggest movie studios in the United States gather in Sherman Oaks, California to talk about all things anti-piracy. That's not surprising; it's their livelihood, after all. But what may come as a surprise, shock even, is their plan to
spread dispense with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), with shadowy back room dealings and skewed facts.

According to an email in the leaked inbox of Sony Pictures General Counsel Leah Weil, the meeting is facilitated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as a way for the top lawyers at Sony, Time Warner, Viacom, Paramount, Disney, NBC Universal, and Fox to put their heads together and talk global strategy.

And what exactly did the biggest movie minds in the country come up with? As detailed by the MPAA's meeting recap from this past September, some of the highlights include:

Scale up number of notices but keep spending on education to a minimum.

Translation: Send out as many takedown notices as humanly possible, but make sure the people receiving them don't necessarily know what any of it means. They'll be too scared to question it.

Be cautious about communications on site-blocking — continue building a record of success where possible, but avoid over-communicating and drawing negative attention.

Translation: Block as many sites as you can without anyone ever finding out.

MPAA will continue to refrain from commenting, when asked, about the issue of the use of VPNs and other technologies to gain online access to content consumers are otherwise restricted from accessing in their geography .

Translation: If we pretend VPNs don't exist maybe no one will find out about them.

Keep a low profile (i.e., do not actively seek press coverage, etc.) to avoid making the debate about "the content community" or copyright protection.

Translation: Seriously. Don't let anyone know what you're doing.

On network neutrality: Most member companies supported, in principle, a narrow, low-profile MPAA filing focused on opposition to the regulation of content.

Translation: We are going to file an opposition to net neutrality and just kind of hope no one ever finds out. Likely similar to the one filed back in 2007.

And, perhaps sleaziest of all:

Where site-blocking is actively under consideration, make available research (1) that site-blocking works and (2) that it does not break the Internet (lack of "side effects"). [Do this] in closed-door meetings with policymakers and stakeholders, [but] not necessarily publicized to a wider audience.

Translation: In secret, private meetings with government officials where absolutely no one can call you out on your bullshit, show them research that conveniently makes every point in your case. No one can know.

And if all that sounds eerily similar to the tactics tobacco companies use to obfuscate reality — well, it's because it is.