April 11, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

Your Tax Dollars at Work ... for Viacom

The Washington DC legal newspaper, Legal Times, is reporting (sorry, subscription link) that Kevin Murphy, a legislative aide to Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), has recently taken a job with cable and film giant Viacom. Senator Smith, you may remember, is one of the Hill's leading proponents of the broadcast flag. Smells fishy, you say? Legal Times thinks so, too:

In a potential conflict of interest, a legislative assistant to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who is currently sponsoring legislation limiting the use and distribution of digital broadcasts, has been hired by media giant Viacom
Inc.

In January, Smith drafted the Digital Content Protection Act, which calls for wider use of "broadcast-flag" technology, a code inserted into digital audio or visual transmissions that limits the ability of consumers to redistribute that content. Broadcast-flag technology is opposed by many consumer groups but has broad support in the entertainment industry. The bill has not been formally introduced.

Keith Murphy, a legislative aide to Smith who has worked closely on the legislation, is scheduled to begin work for Viacom at the end of April. Viacom's subsidiary, Paramount Pictures Corp., is a member of the powerful Motion Picture Association of America, a forceful advocate for the broadcast-flag proposal.

Whether it's actually a conflict of interest or not, it sure has the appearance of impropriety.

Murphy, of course, is not the only government insider who has ended up working for the entertainment industry right after carrying water for the industry while in government. David Israelite, right before taking the top job at the National Music Publisher's Association (NMPA), was head of a DoJ task force that recommended stiffening federal criminal enforcement of copyright laws. And perhaps most infamous is Mitch Glazier, who turned up working at the RIAA soon after he shepherded a change into the Copyright Act's "work for hire" provisions that would have benefited record labels at the expense of song-writers.


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