WASHINGTON Rep. Ed Markey accused the entertainment industry of pulling a bait and switch as Hollywood attempts to paint the "network neutrality" doctrine as a safe harbor for copyright pirates.
Markey, D-Mass., one of the primary authors of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, took issue with the entertainment industry's arguments that Internet nondiscrimination legislation will aid bootleggers.
"It's 100 percent wrong," he told witnesses Tuesday during a hearing examining the bill. "It's a red herring. We ought to put an aquarium out here there are so many red herrings floating around."
Markey said the legislation would ensure that the big network companies can't take advantage of content providers of which the cable and phone companies don't already own a piece.
The network neutrality debate splits the entertainment industry. The major studios and record labels think government intervention will interfere with the anti-piracy initiatives they are developing with the network companies.
The guilds and indies think the opposite. They see it as a way to preserve their access to an audience.
Steven Peterman, executive producer of the Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, told lawmakers that the U.S. runs the risk of creating a closed system much like the TV network world after the demise of the old financial interest and syndication rules.
"We have seen this movie before," he said. "Unless content creators and consumers have the freedom to create and access lawful content and service without discrimination by the Internet service providers who, like the television networks in 'old media,' have a choke hold over distribution, we will be doomed to repeat our own history."
But RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol warned the lawmakers against taking a simplistic view.
"The Internet ought not to be a place where chaos in the name of freedom is allowed to reign supreme," Bainwol said. "The marketplace is generally a better mechanism than regulation for addressing such complex issues as how to address online piracy, and we believe the marketplace should be given the chance to succeed."
Markey's bill is unlikely to win approval this year, but there is a building sentiment among lawmakers, mostly Democrats, that something needs to be done.
"Make no mistake, there are huge dollars involved in this," Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said.