On Monday, I published a 4300-word account of efforts by the MPAA and its members to undermine negotiations for a new UN treaty on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities. (Link here). The same day, Chris Dodd, the CEO of the MPAA, responded, with a 320-word blog (also in HuffPost, link here) that EFF's Maria Sutton described as vague and defensive. Manon Ress, whose mother became blind, noted the "MPAA specifically thanks the EU and U.S. governments for screwing the blind people on their behalf."
In the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C. politics, where the corrosive impact of money is ever present, the actions of the MPAA are not even newsworthy. But for those of us who have not lost a capacity for surprise or outrage, it was notable, and worth a reflection, not only as regards the damage the MPAA is inflicting and a vulnerable population, but as a measure of how debased is the current political dialogue in Washington, D.C.
How does the MPAA and its member companies like Disney (probably the most aggressive company on this issue) mount an assault on a UN treaty, the primary beneficiaries of which are blind people living in developing countries, and not tarnish their brand, or generate a peep from members of Congress from either party?
How did the Obama administration allow itself to be pressured into opposing the positions it had endorsed in 2011 and some even as recently as February 2013, knowing that it was shrinking benefits for blind people, and risking a complete failure of the treaty negotiations? Isn't there anyone in the White House who can take a deep breath and tell Disney CEO Robert A. Iger and the MPAA CEO Chris Dodd that they should be ashamed of themselves? Is the Obama administration still so focused on corporate fundraising that they have forgotten why they entered public service in the first place?
More generally, why does the public continue to ignore what Larry Lessig accurately describes as the root problem in our political life. Does the broader public see what I see, as regards the bowing and scrapping to corporate lobby groups that finance election campaigns? And if so, why does this not lead to broader and more effective calls for reform?
Campaign finance reform is not the main issue for most groups. But as the failure to reform campaign financing systems continues to damage our governance, and leads to astonishing failures to protect the public, in the end, it is everyone's main issue.
It is also interesting that Christopher Dodd, a man who was born into a family of privilege and influence and began his career protecting consumers and weaker parties, so comfortably found himself the sharp point of an attack on blind people, most of whom are poor.
And why has Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, made it a priority to attack a treaty for the blind? His mother was school teacher and his father a professor. Iger spent his life broadcasting information, and was proud to have received the Ambassador for Humanity Award for "his leadership role in corporate citizenship." Is this an example of the lessons he learned from his parents, or the corporate citizenship he promotes?
Why have Dodd and Iger, coming from different initial starting places, ended up in the same place, using their considerable talents and influence to attack such a vulnerable population, on an issue of zero economic impact to the motion picture industry?