Consumer group blasts White House's digital piracy pow-wow

consumer-group-blasts-white-houses-digital-piracy-pow-wowLate last month, Somali brigands in a dinghy hijacked the Maran Centaurus, an American-bound tanker carrying millions of barrels of crude oil, in the latest episode of escalating pirate attacks off the coast of the failed, anarchic East African state. But that event won't come up at Tuesday afternoon's White House meeting on piracy, because at that gathering, the topic of discussion will be so-called digital piracy. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, the meeting "is the first of its kind, and will bring together all of the stakeholders to discuss ways to combat piracy in this rapidly changing technological age," according to the White House.

On Tuesday morning, a prominent consumer advocacy group took the White House to task for the lopsided guest list of the meeting, which did not include "consumer or public-interest groups, technology companies, technology associations or Internet Service Providers."
Biden will be joined at the meeting by Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, "as well as CEOs from major media conglomerates, union representatives, legal experts and other government officials," the White House said.

Industry participants will include Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE); Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment (TWX); Philippe Dauman, chairman and CEO of Viacom (VIA); Jeffrey Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal; Edgar Bronfman, CEO of Warner Music Group; Zachary Horowitz, president and COO of Universal Music Group (VIVEF); and Michael Regan, executive vice president of News Corp (NWS).

Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said it was "extremely disappointed to learn of the White House meeting to be held later today on the issue of intellectual property and 'piracy.'"

'All of the Stakeholders'?

"It is unclear why three cabinet officers, several subcabinet officers, the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service are needed to tend to the worries of the big media companies, particularly the motion picture industry, which is completing a year in which it will set box-office records," fumed Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge.

Despite the White House's assertion that "all of the stakeholders" will attend the meeting, Sohn pointed out that "some stakeholders are noticeably missing."

"No consumer or public-interest groups, technology companies, technology associations or Internet service providers are on the guest list," Sohn said. "No one who questions the need for draconian governmental policies on behalf of the privileged special interest group for whom this meeting is being held is on the guest list."

"If Vice President Biden is truly interested in learning more about intellectual property, we hope he will continue his consultations with a group of people who share a wider range of views than those with whom he will meet today," Sohn said.

Additionally, the group questioned "the propriety of having Attorney General Eric Holder attend a meeting with top officials of NBC when it is quite possible that the Department of Justice will have to rule on NBC's unprecedented merger with Comcast, which would combine those two media giants."

Meanwhile, the Maran Centaurus, its crew and its cargo remain hostage to the drugged-up Somali pirates who continue to maraud against American and America-bound ships in the Gulf of Eden. No word on when the White House will hold a "first of its kind" meeting to discuss that topic.
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