The following in-house hire has been approved for all audiences by the Motion Picture Association of America: Steven Fabrizio, a veteran copyright and content protection lawyer, has been cast as MPAA senior executive vice president and global general counsel.
Fabrizio, most recently a partner at the Washington, D.C., offices of Jenner & Block, makes his entrance on Dec. 9 at the MPAA, which serves as the voice and advocate for the U.S. motion picture and television industries. The new general counsel will be based in D.C., with frequent trips to Los Angeles, of course, and replaces former MPAA GC Henry Hoberman.
The new legal department leading man is no stranger to the organization—he represented the MPAA in cases against cyberlocker HotFile.com and BitTorrent index IsoHunt.com. “I’m very familiar with them and their issues, and I feel very strongly that the MPAA is really the finest organization representing its members that I‘ve come across,” Fabrizio told CorpCounsel.com.
Although Fabrizio is not yet certain what his day-to-day work will look like at the MPAA, he does know that he’ll no longer play the role of head litigator that he’s taken on so often in the past. He will still be working on the content protection issues that are his specialty, but said his new work will show more range—he also expects to work diligently on MPAA’s outreach efforts to sectors like technology and academia.
Aside from defending creative content, the MPAA is also known for its film ratings. Fabrizio said he supposes it’s possible that ratings questions could cross his desk, but doesn’t suspect he’ll have to do much arguing over “R” and “PG-13″ ratings. “I think the motion picture industry has one of the most reliable and respected ratings systems, so hopefully there won’t be many issues that require my attention,” he said.
Fabrizio’s work with the association will necessarily be international in its reach—it’s no accident that he is “global” GC. “Every content protection tactic that we employ is and needs to be global in scope,” he said. The MPAA legal team has staff in Brazil, Belgium, Singapore and Canada.
In choosing Fabrizio for the general counsel job, the MPAA is tapping an attorney with a depth of experience navigating the legal complexities of content protection in an age of digital piracy and mass online proliferation. Named one of the U.S.’s top copyright attorneys by the National Law Journal in 2008, Fabrizio has been at the forefront of the online piracy issue since its early days. In 1996, he began working at the MPAA’s music-industry sibling, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), where he founded and headed the litigation department. Shortly after he arrived at the RIAA, the MP3 sharing service Napster burst into the public consciousness and made online piracy a household topic. “One could think of recorded music as the canary in the coal mine,” Fabrizio said. “They were hit first.” Fabrizio was lead in-house counsel for the A&M Records v. Napster case, which led to the original Napster’s shutting down.
Fabrizio left the RIAA in 2001 and has continued to represent clients in high-level content protection cases, including many major motion picture and record companies. He recently represented a group of television networks in their case against Aereo Inc., a company that retransmits television signals to users, allowing them to watch live TV online. The new head lawyer said that as the ways to consume media grow and change rapidly, those who would pirate content are evolving their tactics. “Hopefully in response our own strategies and tactics get more sophisticated,” he said.