MPAA Report Criticizes Online Privacy Outside U.S.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) set online privacy tools and laws in its sights in a recent report to the U.S. government in which it contends that too much online privacy hurts the film industry.

The report was submitted to the U.S. Trade Policy Staff Committee, which helps oversee U.S. trade with foreign countries. Its purpose is to inform the government of challenges that the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, faces in distributing films and other products abroad.

The MPAA underscored privacy regulations in several countries and jurisdictions abroad as a major threat to what it sees as its ability to sell films. Chief among those jurisdictions was the European Union.

“Privacy has always been a major issue in the European Union,” the report said. It added that new laws currently under consideration in the E.U. “could be highly problematic for copyright holders as they could negatively impact enforcement actions.”

Privacy policies in the E.U. undercut the business activities of MPAA members, the report said, because European governments “tend to consider that privacy rules are more important than other norms.” According to the MPAA, that makes it hard to identify people who share films illegally and use privacy tools to hide their real IP addresses, as well as to order Internet Service Providers to block sites that host unauthorized copyrighted content.

The report mentioned privacy regulations that the MPAA finds too lax in other countries as well. For example, it complained about “lack of site blocking” in South Africa, where increasing Internet bandwidth has made torrenting and similar activity more prolific in recent years.

The MPAA document showcases how demands for copyright protection are affecting debate about online privacy. Especially in the U.S., businesses like those represented by the MPAA are exerting increasing pressure on governments to increase censorship and anti-privacy policies on the Internet in the name of protecting intellectual property — not just within those governments’ own borders but also abroad.

That’s significant because so far the conversation about online privacy has mostly been about the rights of individuals to stay anonymous, as well as the political significance of online censorship in various countries. Now, it seems, groups like the MPAA want to insert intellectual property into that debate and use copyright claims to restrict online privacy.

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