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No SOPA: Speakers Downplay Legislation at House Online Piracy Hearing

At a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday to discuss online piracy, speakers emphasized education and voluntary cooperation over legislation, even as they acknowledged that voluntary efforts by search engines–a chief gateway to pirated works–had not been effective. John Eggerton of Broadcasting and Cable reports:

John McCoskey, executive VP and CTO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said repeatedly that piracy continued to be a an evolving challenge, but also said that continuing to work and talk with all stakeholders in the ecosystem, rather than legislation, was the best way to address the problem. He pointed to the ISP-backed Copyright Alerting System, which provides a series of escalating warnings to surfers when they are accessing illegal content.

Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.) asked what was the best way to encourage folks to use legal content sites. McCoskey said it is not just creating those legal paths, but getting consumers to find them. In the past, that might have been an invitation to MPAA to lay into search engines given a recent study showing that search engines are a critical link between would-be infringers and pirate TV and movies sites, that was not the case.

Asked by one legislator about the problem of pirate sites showing up at the top of search engine results, McCoskey gave them the benefit of the doubt, making the point that the bad actors were not the search engines but the pirate sites. Without mentioning names, he did make the point that one search engine (Google’s) efforts to modify its algorithm to demote those rogue sites had not produced the desired result, but he did not lay blame.

Eggerton said there was “nary a peep” about  SOPA or PIPA, proposed anti-piracy legislation that collapsed after fierce opposition in January 2012.

Tuesday’s hearing by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet is part of the Judiciary Committee’s promised comprehensive review of US. copyright law. More hearings are scheduled over the next several months.

To underscore the need for strong intellectual property rights protections, a coalition of trade groups released a study Tuesday ahead of the subcommittee meeting showing the economic contribution of “copyright industries,” The Los Angeles Times reported. According to The International Intellectual Property Alliance, the industries contributed more than $1 trillion to the nation’s economy, accounting for 6.5% of GDP, in 2012.