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MPA Ramps Up Efforts to Disrupt Pirate Sites’ Use of Internet Intermediaries

By , in Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment Anti-Piracy intermediaries Motion Picture Association MPA , at May 20, 2024

mpa-new-logo1After more than a decade at the MPA, including his tenure as Chief of Global Content Protection while heading anti-piracy coalition ACE, Jan van Voorn recently left the Hollywood anti-piracy group to lead his own venture.

That raised questions of who might be a good fit for his former position or whether the MPA would seize the opportunity to try something a little different.

Late last week the MPA announced it had hired Jesse Martin, a former senior attorney at BSA | The Software Alliance, to serve as Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Content Protection and Legal Affairs (Intermediary Programs).

The MPA says this is a brand-new role that expands the anti-piracy group’s “intermediary outreach initiatives” while supporting global anti-piracy efforts through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

“I look forward to using my compliance experience from the enterprise software industry to navigate the opportunities and challenges surrounding the intermediaries’ involvement in content protection,” Martin says. “There are so many synergies, and ultimately the goals are similar – protecting creativity and intellectual property rights.”

Martin will report directly to Karyn Temple, the MPA’s Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel.

“Over the past decade, our content protection approach has demonstrated the value of working collaboratively with legal intermediaries of all types to combat the harms of digital piracy,” Temple says.

“Under Jesse’s great leadership, we will be able to further grow our intermediary program to develop key voluntary initiatives on a global scale and in all parts of the world.”

MPA Prefers Intermediaries to Take Voluntary Measures

If operators of pirate sites and services manage to stay anonymous, prove geographically or politically sensitive, or simply stay out of direct, personal contact with entities like the MPA, enforcement options may be limited or potentially non-existent. Since in some cases doing nothing may not be an option, other strategies can come into play.

Wherever there’s a major online infringer there will be one or many entities providing services, support, or infrastructure, on which the infringer relies. If the currently evasive infringer is at the top, working down the chain will likely lead to one or more ostensibly legal (or actually legal) companies providing third-party services that allow the pirate platform to stay online.

Since any company operating legally becomes vulnerable to legal action, even as a secondary infringer, life has the potential to become complicated very quickly. The MPA says that Martin will work closely with the MPA’s content protection team and ACE to develop a global strategy for combating and disrupting the use of intermediaries by piracy operators.

Intermediary Outreach Strategy

The original job listing for Martin’s position distributed last year puts more meat on the bones.

“The SVP will oversee (i) the development of content protection strategies to disrupt piracy services’ access and use of legitimate intermediaries; (ii) global outreach to intermediaries to obtain assistance in disrupting piracy services, (iii) the development of voluntary initiatives with intermediaries to prevent them from being used by piracy operators, and (iv) the development and implementation of various escalation strategies when initial voluntary initiatives are not successful.”

While Martin’s full title is Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Content Protection and Legal Affairs (Intermediary Programs), last November an MPA job posting for Vice President, Content Protection Legal (Intermediary Programs) also appeared online. It describes “intermediary outreach” in much more detail.

Given the apparent overlap in responsibilities, it’s not clear whether this was a posting for a separate job or whether it was upgraded to accommodate Martin’s interest in the position. In any event, the additional information remains relevant.

Intermediaries are classified as follows: video players, domain name registries and registrars, hosting providers, payment processors, advertising networks, digital marketplaces, search engines, and social media. Responsibilities are described as follows:

Provide legal, strategic, and practical support for all aspects of intermediary-related efforts, including monitoring important developments, identifying new intermediaries providing services to pirate sites or services, reviewing and drafting correspondence, and assisting in factual and technical research related to specific intermediaries and the pirate sites they provide services to.

MPA Preparations Counter Refusal to Cooperate

As noted earlier, Martin’s position requires the “development and implementation of various escalation strategies when initial voluntary initiatives are not successful.”

If we assume that “escalation” means legal pressure, whether implied or stated, it seems safe to assume that in some cases, “voluntary initiatives” may not necessarily be the product of free choice, at least under a common reading of the term. That appears to be supported by the text detailing duties in this respect.

Prepare for and engage in direct negotiations with intermediaries and platforms, which may include working with outside vendors, MPA investigators, and other colleagues to conduct deep-dive analyses of the role played by specific intermediaries, drafting reports and potential “asks” to be sought via voluntary agreements, and obtaining member company consensus regarding these outreach strategies.

Vice President, Content Protection Enforcement

A further job posting that appears to be still open seeks candidates for the role of Vice President, Content Protection Enforcement at the MPA.

Reporting directly to the MPA’s Executive Vice President, Chief of Global Content Protection (Jan van Voorn’s previous title), the successful applicant will be required to “manage and supervise a team of approximately 20 managers and investigators,” while managing and coordinating “complex Internet investigations around the globe.”

Further responsibilities include training the MPA’s global content protection team on new investigative tools, tactics, and forensics, and presenting “well-reasoned and comprehensive reports to senior management at MPA/ACE and their members.”

Strong experience with online content distribution methods, “including streaming video, online file hosting, peer-to-peer sharing, and understanding digital piracy trends like IPTV, illegal streaming, and direct downloads,” is also a requirement.

In a year when site-blocking is likely to be a source of vigorous debate, it remains a question if U.S. internet providers will receive any special requests for the implementation of “voluntary initiatives.” Thus far, the MPA has remained focused on those who supply or facilitate the supply of illicit content rather than those who consume it.

As far as we know, there are no plans for that to change in the short term but Martin’s reputation for targeting users of illicit software is well known and may give some pause for thought.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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