MPAA cheers online distribution, glosses over YouTube

In February, the US Senate cut nearly $250 million in aid to the motion picture industry from the economic stimulus bill. Legislators determined that Hollywood studios didn't need the "bailout" after enjoying several months of record-breaking sales.

Yesterday, however, the Motion Picture Association of America attempted to show lawmakers how important the entertainment industry is to the global economy, releasing a study (PDF available here) which suggests, "The production and distribution of motion pictures and television programs is one of the nation's most valuable cultural and economic resources," and therefore worthy of hefty tax breaks.

Based on industry figures from 2007 and 2008, the study provides a state-by-state breakdown of the economic impact of movie and television production. Within the data presented by the MPAA, it lists over 478,000 people as employees "in the related businesses" that distribute motion pictures and television shows to consumers. These people are employed by movie theaters, video rental operations, television broadcasters, cable companies, and online ventures like Hulu and TV.com.

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The study only briefly mentions a handful of distribution methods, such as Blu-ray, DVD, and 3-D cinema, but then devotes an entire section to the online viewing environment, giving due consideration to Hulu, ABC.com, Nick.com, iTunes, and Xbox-based Netflix streaming.

Yet, there is no mention of YouTube even in passing.

While major content providers have had something of a change of heart over YouTube, with CBS, Lionsgate, BBC, Universal, Sony, and Warner Bros. joining in, the most popular video site by a factor of ten looks to still be shaky ground for the MPAA, or at least when attempting to commune with the government.

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