The People Trying To Ruin The Internet: Chris Dodd


At the Voice, we have been regularly following internet policy developments. We figured it would be cool — maybe even a public service? — to ID people who keep pushing for web-killing proposals such as CISPA, SOPA, and PIPA in this new, occasional feature: “The People Trying To Ruin The Internet.” Enjoy!

Oh, Chris Dodd. The former Democratic senator from Connecticut didn’t manage to make it to the White House, but he still got people thinking about possible impeachment over that whole AIG-bonus-bailout thing.

Dodd, who swore he would never, ever work as a lobbyist, has wound up doing exactly that.

He’s now the head honcho at the Motion Picture Association of America, which has backed a laundry list of intellectual property legislations and treaties that many say would inhibit the free exchange of ideas on the web.

Early on in his MPAA tenure, Techdirt notes that Dodd made the claim that infringement equates to physical theft, quoting him as saying: “You know if you walk down main street people would arrest you if you walk into a retail store and stole items…It’s called looting in some cases. That’s exactly what is happening with intellectual property. It’s being looted and that needs to stop.”

In the position of chairman and CEO, he has also gone on the offensive, arguing in January that dissent against SOPA and PIPA is wrong: “It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information use their services…It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.  It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

This position has gotten him dubbed an “internet villain” by The Atlantic, but it looks like the tech community as well as First Amendment experts aren’t too keen on Dodd’s views, either. Takedowns of Dodd’s positions abound, especially his idea that the internet developed because of strict copyright enforcement.

He has, however, gotten recent quasi kudos from the tech sector, saying that the MPAA might not be on the right track and should become more consumer oriented. There’s some concern, though, that this comment comes from a marketing standpoint — namely, that the film, TV, and music industries want to rebrand infringement so that it’s referred to as “content theft” and not “piracy,” which they feel has become over romanticized.

We reached out to the MPAA headquarters to get in touch with Dodd. We were told that he is on the road and unable to communicate, but the Association’s spokesman pointed us in the direction of a HuffPo piece penned by Dodd on the issue.

There, Dodd said that freedom of speech is not the same thing as the freedom to steal. He came down on critics, implying that their opposition is un-American and warning that without controls such as SOPA and PIPA, art might disappear:

“[It] is an insult to the many champions of free speech who also support strong copyright protections. And, in the end, it is nothing more than a smoke screen for those who care more about their right to steal than about an artist’s right to speak. But with millions of American jobs on the line, we do not have time for misinformation and false comparisons. We must protect our intellectual property — or our content creators could be silenced for good.”