The MPAA gets dialed in

Lobbying You never know how much to read into a hire after a job has been hanging out there for a while, but it strikes me as potentially significant that the MPAA has hired a telecom guy as its new chief technology policy officer. After several months of being shopped around, the job went to Paul Brigner, who spent the previous eight and a half years at Verizon, first as a software engineer and more recently as a lobbyist representing Verizon before the FCC. His LinkedIn profile is here.

The title, chief technology policy officer, is a new one for the MPAA and represents an evolution in the position since the association began trying to fill it last year. Originally, it didn’t have a policy role, and most of the folks who were approached about the job had backgrounds in engineering, not policy. Brigner has both.

Assuming that combination is by design, it has the potential to be a smart hire by the MPAA. It signals the studios are thinking as much about the issues of network management and the possible impact of broadband regulation as about their perennial obsessions, piracy and DRM. That would be a welcome development, if true.

Over the next several years, decisions regarding network management practices, wireless spectrum policy and filtering are likely to have a greater impact on the studios’ ability to monetize movie and TV content on digital platforms than the success or failure of any particular DRM. And many of those decisions are likely to be made at the regulatory level — apparently Brigner’s specialty — than at the legislative level, not just in the U.S. but oversees as well.

In France, for instance, the Sarkozy government is considering issuing some sort of administrative decree, perhaps through the Conseil Supérieur De L’Audiovisuel, to compel broader availability of legal content on the Internet, while the European Commission is considering a directive to require ISPs to take a more active role in combating online piracy.

Given the growing importance of telecom issues around the world to the studios’ bottom lines, having someone on board who at least talks the talk is probably a good idea.