California Dem grills copyright chief over meeting with movie lawyers on SOPA

The head of the U.S. Copyright Office is coming under pressure from a California lawmaker over a meeting with movie studio lawyers on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) grilled Maria Pallante, the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Administration Committee. 

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Lofgren said she was concerned because a day after the meeting with movie studios in Los Angeles, Pallante called for a serious response to online piracy in testimony in support of SOPA. 

"SOPA was an extreme measure that blindly pursued copyright enforcement at the expense of many other considerations," said Lofgren, a chief opponent of the legislation. 

Movie studios, record labels and other entertainment companies lobbied hard for SOPA. But the bill sparked a backlash from Web companies who warned it would stifle innovation and censor online content. Massive protests in January forced Congress to shelve the legislation.

In her earlier testimony to the House Judiciary Committee one day after the meeting in Los Angeles, Pallante warned that without a serious response to online piracy, "the U.S. copyright system will ultimately fail."

She called SOPA "serious and comprehensive" but also "measured."

Under pressure from Lofgren, Pallante acknowledged the anti-piracy bill was "one of many things" discussed with the lawyers from Warner Brothers, Paramount and other major studios.

Lofgren also asked Pallante about a meeting in December with the Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The copyright chief acknowledged that she discussed the anti-piracy legislation and the problem of rogue pirate websites at the meeting.

Lofgren also grilled Pallante over her view of the purpose of copyrights — pointing to Pallante's recent comment that copyright is "for the author first and the nation second."

"I'm concerned when any public official, especially one in charge of regulation of a particular industry or area of law, seems to favor particular stakeholders in that very industry," Lofgren said.

"You've extracted one sentence from a four page interview," Pallante responded.

She explained that she made the comment in reference to recent Supreme Court decisions. She said the decisions found that "the limited monopoly goes to authors first so that they will produce and that in the end the public will benefit."