Five Years Ago Disney And Microsoft Led A Huge Copyright Deal That Set The Stage For SOPA


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After website blackouts and resistance from protesters across the country yesterday, even more members of Congress withdrew their support of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). Two of the biggest players in the debate include Disney (pro-SOPA) and Microsoft, which only five years ago led a major agreement over copyright infringement that included the largest U.S. media companies. According to a 2007 Wall Street Journal article:   

“Disney and Microsoft, which have been negotiating a pact for the past nine months, have pulled together a group that also includes General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal,Viacom Inc., CBS Corp., News Corp.’s Fox and MySpace units, Veoh Networks Inc. and Dailymotion SA. Notably absent is Google Inc., which had been in discussions about possibly joining the group.

The copyright holders in the group have agreed not to pursue Internet companies for infringement claims if their sites adhere to certain principles. Those principles include eliminating copyright-infringing content uploaded by users to Web sites, and blocking any infringing material before it is publicly accessible.

The pact is unusual in the number of companies involved, but the agreement isn’t legally binding. It is more of a sign of trust-building among the companies, according to people familiar with the pact.” 

Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers magazine recently profiled Disney’s top attorney, Alan Braverman, who played a major role in the talks between the companies, and offers this exchange between Braverman and Microsoft: 

Braverman arranged a private meeting with a tech executive and asked: Would you share in the goal of eliminating copyright infringement if we could figure out a way to get there? Forget about the impediments to getting there. Would you share in the goal?

“What other companies are you talking to?” the tech executive asked. … 

“That’s not important right now. I’m just asking if you would share in the goal.”

The resistance thawed slightly. But it took many months of negotiation before Braverman added the [final] carrot: Oh, and if we came up with an agreed set of principles, Disney would promise to never sue you no matter how much of our copyrighted material ended up on your site, because we’d know you were making a good-faith effort to deal with the problem.

“Yes,” the tech executive replied, “we would share in the goal — if we could figure out a way to get there.”

Of course, a lot’s changed since 2007 with the explosion of user-generated content; and Disney recently made a video deal with You Tube, which is owned by Google. It’s also interesting to note that while Google actively campaigned against SOPA, Microsoft only recently came out against the bill