On Tuesday, Barack Obama spent an hour with major Hollywood executives, encouraging them to strengthen relationships with Silicon Valley while attempting to address concerns over copyright protections, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sources say that Obama met with, among others, Disney CEO Robert Iger and CBS CEO Les Moonves as part of a trip to California, where he also visited the DreamWorks Animation studio and delivered a public speech calling entertainment "one of America's biggest exports."
Obama has generally seen strong support from Hollywood, though after coming out against the entertainment industry-backed SOPA and PIPA copyright bills, he drew ire from people like MPAA CEO Chris Dodd, who saw his opposition as a betrayal. At DreamWorks yesterday, animators created an animated avatar that performed sections of Obama's speeches. In this meeting, executives apparently asked Obama to help keep copyright enforcement language in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, despite opposition from people who say it grants over-broad protections and undoes progress on issues like the legality of phone unlocking.
Obama encouraged Hollywood to make peace with Silicon Valley
The Journal's sources also say that Obama offered help in bridging the divide between tech and entertainment, which frequently find themselves at odds: Silicon Valley characterizes Hollywood as out of touch with reality, while Hollywood accuses Silicon Valley of running roughshod over a vibrant business in order to make a buck. One of the prime examples of this is the ongoing fight over Google's search results, which the MPAA claims are a major driver of piracy despite Google's efforts to quickly remove links to illicit downloads.
In his DreamWorks speech, Obama praised Hollywood as an economic powerhouse and a producer of soft diplomatic power. "[People abroad] might not know the Gettysburg Address, but if they're watching some old movie, maybe Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, or The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Will and Grace and Modern Family, they've had a front-row seat to our march towards progress, even if their own nations haven't made that progress yet." However, he later addressed a topic that has been in the news since last year's Sandy Hook shooting, admonishing the entertainment industry to make sure it didn't glorify gun violence in its films.
Obama also continued to promote his Affordable Care Act, which remains under fire both for its fumbling implementation of an online insurance market and for the many provisions opposed by conservative groups, including a requirement that employers help cover employee insurance plans even if they include birth control options — an issue that the Supreme Court agreed yesterday to examine.