It seems the Motion Picture Association of America is going after online piracy again. The MPAA, which represents the major Hollywood studios including those owned by Comcast, MSNBC's parent company, is now trying to make an argument that embedding videos on websites is actually a form of copyright infringement. This comes on the heels of the Association's support of SOPA, the controversial bill that was killed after websites, including Wikipedia, went dark in protest.
The reason for the MPAA to enter this argument now is because of a recent court case involving the distribution of online pornography. The Judge in that case drew no distinction between "hosting" a video and "embedding" a video, essentially arguing that the website was responsible for the videos appearing on it. With that, The Motion Picture Association of America, the organization responsible for rating movies based on nudity and violence, sided with the porn industry.
They filed an amicus brief stating, "Pirate sites can offer extensive libraries of popular copyrighted content without any hosting costs to store content, bandwidth costs to deliver the content, and of course licensing costs to legitimately acquire the content." The MPAA went on to argue that by surrounding these embedded videos with ads, people can earn advertising revenue from illegal content. You can find a breakdown of the MPAA's argument here.
This isn't the first time the trade organization has made controversial comments regarding piracy. Back in 2008, they claimed that over 44% of the film industry had lost revenue because of illegal online piracy. Later, the MPAA rewrote itself, saying that the actual percentage was closer to 15%. Not only that, but former Senator Chris Dodd, who is now the Chairman of the MPAA, came under fire for his actions during the SOPA debacle.
In any case, whether or not this "embedded video = piracy" argument will stick remains to be seen. The Motion Picture Association was established in 1922 as a way to represent the then simpler and smaller Hollywood studio system. With the entire entertainment industry expanding with the rise of independent filmmakers and websites like YouTube and Vimeo, it seems that the MPAA is struggling to find a way to stop piracy while maintaining the free and open environment on the Internet.