The Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood’s trade group, is touting today’s hiring of Neustar executive Diane Strahan as a sign that the movie industry is embracing technology. What the MPAA’s announcement doesn’t mention is that Strahan’s tech expertise happens to be in the anti-piracy locks that are the bane of many movie-loving techies.
Strahan will join the MPAA as chief operating officer, and among her tasks is to “guide MPAA’s strategic direction,” according to a statement. As a senior vice president at Neustar, Strahan negotiated deals for UltraViolet, the movie industry’s preferred method of online distribution paired with digital rights management. She also worked to develop mobile barcodes and changes to the Web’s domain registration system.
Kate Bedingfield, an MPAA spokeswoman, declined to comment. In the statement announcing Strahan’s appointment, Chris Dodd, the former Democratic senator who is now the MPAA’s chief executive officer, said Strahan can lead the industry in “technology, innovation and industry alliances.”
Strahan’s hiring seems to indicate that Hollywood is committed to DRM, even as the music industry has largely moved away from it. Cracking down on Internet piracy is perhaps the most important priority for the film industry as it struggles to protect its business from technology upheaval. In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek feature, Dodd acknowledged that he may not be the best person to address the issue. “But I’m a quick learner,” he said.
During Strahan’s tenure, Neustar developed the cloud infrastructure for UltraViolet, an initiative that won support with most of the major studios. The system lets consumers register the movies they’ve purchased to an online account providing streaming or downloading of copy-protected files to various devices.
Yet UltraViolet has failed to gain traction as an alternative to online movie rental services or subscription plans from Netflix and Hulu. Tech bloggers and online reviewers have often been critical of the system, calling it clumsy and restrictive.