'Super 8' Puts Spotlight on West Virginia

by Kate Spence 06/10/2011 12:18 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

West Virginians will recognize their home state in scenes from one of the most anticipated films of the summer, Paramount Pictures’ Super 8, which was filmed in and around Weirton, WV.  The state’s tax incentive program makes it an attractive destination for filmmakers, drawing major talent like J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg to invest in West Virginia through small business spending and local hiring.

Senator Jay Rockefeller explained the importance of on-location filming to his state:

“The Super 8 movie premier is exciting for the city of Weirton and for the entire state of West Virginia. I’m not surprised that the Northern Panhandle was chosen. Weirton’s hardworking residents certainly played a role in enticing Viacom’s Paramount Pictures to film a major production here.  It’s been a great experience for our state and it has created opportunities for hundreds of local residents to appear in the movie and more importantly, sparked millions of dollars in economic activity in the region. I hope this film is followed by many more.”

West Virginia Film Office Director Pam Haynes says that although the cameras have stopped rolling, tourism generated by Super 8 continues to benefit Weirton – Fandango recently named Weirton one of the top five movie location destinations to visit this summer.

Film and TV Incentives Spur ‘Entertainment Bonanza'

by Kate Spence 06/09/2011 14:46 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Great piece from the New York Post on the benefits New York State is reaping from its film and TV production incentives.  Production incentives continue to stimulate local economies by attracting projects that fuel small business spending and local job creation.

Calling the increase in filming “an entertainment bonanza,” the article noted that New York, which last year extended and expanded its incentive program, attracted a record number of television series to film in New York for the 2011 season.  Eight new TV series are slated to begin filming this year, creating 4,700 industry-related jobs. 

According to the Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development, New York’s 30 percent production credit has attracted 70 projects to film in the state since January.  These projects are expected to inject a total of over $1 billion into the economy.

New York officials and local businesses are speaking up in favor of the program.

Executive Director of the Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development Pat Swinney Kaufman noted the correlation between the increase in filming and the incentives:

“Last year we announced the extension and expansion of the New York State Film Production Credit program, which ensured a continued commitment to an industry with a proven record of accomplishment in creating jobs and generating tax revenue for New York.  As a result, we are bringing in more productions, creating more jobs and showcasing our state as a premier destination for filming…It’s a great time for creating jobs in New York.”

Vice Chair of the Producers Guild of America East Dana Kuznetzkoff agreed:

“The New York State Film Production Credit program has turned New York into a major player in the film and television industry.  No longer a location just for quick exterior shoots of iconic locations, New York is now a first choice when deciding where to film. The best crews in the industry plus a tremendous tax credit program are an electric combination for quality entertainment."

Echoing those sentiments was President of Kaufman Astoria Studios Hal Rosenbluth:

“The combination of New York and the State Film Production Tax Credit program are the best marketing tools we have as an industry. We have seen a record number of productions come to New York creating more jobs, expanding facilities and equipment and ultimately generating revenue for New York…The New York tax credit program results in industry-wise growth and sustainability.”

Steiner Studios Chairman Douglas C. Steiner concurred:

“As more and more television production is done in New York, the state makes more and more money.  This is simply a great business for New Yorkers, and it’s ours to lose. What’s not to like?”

Producer of HBO’s Bored to Death, Michael Stricks noted:

"As someone based in New York, I cannot overemphasize the importance of the New York State Film Production Credit program.  It helps level the playing field and brings in a great volume of work to the state.”

According to the governor’s office, the NY state production incentive program has drawn in 580 projects, generating more than $9 billion in direct spending in the state since its inception.  The $420 million per year allocated to this program through 2014 is projected to create thousands of jobs and produce $10.5 billion in direct spending in New York State. 

That sounds like a good investment to us. 

Los Angeles Times Got it Wrong on PROTECT IP Act

by Michael O'Leary (MPAA) and Susan Cleary (IFTA) 06/09/2011 14:19 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In its editorial entitled “Policing the Internet,” the Los Angeles Times claimed “problematic details” in legislation aimed at stopping foreign-based websites that steal American-made films, TV shows and other products, and in our opinion it missed an opportunity to paint the big picture.

Criminals use rogue sites to profit from content theft, sometimes luring in unsuspecting U.S. consumers who think these sites and their content and advertising  are legitimate and authorized.   Set builders, camera operators, makeup artists, truck drivers, theater workers, and millions more middle class Americans work hard to pay the bills, put their kids through school, and save for retirement, only to see the movies and television they make stolen from them and billions of dollars in lost wages and benefits lining the pockets of thieves overseas.  That’s just wrong, and invoking technology as a justification for inaction is far from the right answer.   

Cutting off the ads and payment processing that finance these sites is important, but it isn’t enough.   Denying access to rogue sites by removing or disabling links – which internet service providers already do to protect against viruses and other harmful sites – will encourage honest users to find legal content elsewhere with no impact on the vast majority of Internet users.  Few people would risk a slower connection or exposure to viruses on foreign servers just to get around these filters.

The PROTECT IP Act is a smart, measured solution to an enormous problem.  We applaud Congress for taking action and providing leadership. We sincerely hope that, in light of rogue sites’ threat to the jobs and livelihoods of more than 134,000 film and television workers in Los Angeles, their hometown paper will reconsider.

Susan Cleary is Vice President & General Counsel, Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA).  Michael O’Leary is Executive Vice President, Government Affairs at MPAA.

Follow the Money, Part II

by Howard Gantman 06/08/2011 16:15 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

File this under Three Cheers for Doing the Right Thing: GroupM, the unit of advertising, marketing and communications giant WPP, has announced that they will no longer place ads on websites illegally distributing stolen movies, TV shows or music.  As AdAge reported today:

"Great content fuels the web, and if that is being illicitly distributed, we feel it's a problem for the long term," said Group M Interaction Chief Operating Officer John Montgomery.

Some rogue websites do not sell the content they steal, and instead use online advertising to make money from their illegal activity.  If advertisers boycott these sites, their profits dry up and it becomes harder for the criminals who operate them to pay for server space and other costs. 

This means that any efforts to dry up rogue sites’ advertising dollars is one of the keys to stopping online content theft, not unlike working to get payment processors to refuse to handle rogue sites’ financial transactions.  Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante testified that cutting off advertising revenues to rogue sites “combat their very existence, or at least substantially decrease their impact on the market for legitimate copyrighted content.”

And GroupM is no drop in the bucket.  According to AdAge, its agencies spend $6 billion each year on digital advertising.  Working with content owners, some of whom are its clients, GroupM is assembling a list of rogue websites to ensure that none of that money will go to support content theft.  That's great news for creators.

Film and TV Tax Incentives Create Jobs, Bolster Local Economies

by Vans Stevenson 06/03/2011 12:28 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Pure and simple: film and tax incentives create jobs, expand revenue pools and stimulate local economies.  That’s why a study released by the Tax Foundation yesterday strained credulity and provided a host of prejudged conclusions about the value of film and television tax credits in bolstering jobs and local economic development.

With no real understanding of film and television financing, nor the incentives it argues against, this out-of-touch think tank was simply driving its own tax policy agenda and produced a report to back up its positions, peddling it as unbiased research.

I think we all would agree that during this recession, keeping middle-class jobs in the U.S. and generating local economic development is crucial, and that is exactly what these tax credits do in states all across our nation.

At the end of the day, this is a report produced by an organization that makes its opposition to tax incentives clear in its own mission statement, and unfortunately, the political slant of the foundation seems to have dictated the outcome of its research.

The film and television industry contributes in a very real way to the economies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia through on-location production and infrastructure development.  More than 115,000 businesses – 81 percent of which employ fewer than 10 people - and over 2.4 million American workers depend on the film and television industry for their jobs.  The industry generates roughly $13 billion in state taxes and $40 billion in payments to vendors, suppliers and others nationwide.

These jobs provide an immediate opportunity to expand local employment during a difficult economy and the state has the benefit of current time value of money: employ now- pay later.  The time value of money makes these incentives extremely valuable to the states where production incentives are utilized.

Even as many states are facing budget deficits, new and expanded production tax credits continue to emerge because they have proven effective in reinvigorating state economies by providing rapid relief to local businesses and replenishing shrinking state revenue pools.

States that recently created or expanded film and television production tax incentives:

  • In Florida, the state recently increased by $12 million, their $242 million transferable film and digital media tax credit   program established in 2010.
  • New York’s production incentive program enacted last year was sustained, and that includes $2.1 billion in funding to the New York production tax credit for five years.
  • Connecticut adjusted their 30% film and digital media tax credit this year keeping the centerpiece of the incentive, and retaining the competitiveness of the program, which will continue to make the state an attractive production location.
  • North Carolina bolstered their film tax credit (which is uncapped) and created a new digital media tax credit program as well.
  • Mississippi increased their incentive.
  • Maryland created a new film production activity credit this year.
  • Utah’s program was expanded. 
  • Virginia has a new film tax credit.

States that have recently overcome adverse legislative initiatives to reduce or eliminate production incentive programs:

  • Georgia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Mexico
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • North Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • South Carolina

The states that have terminated their production incentives were not competitive.  Kansas’ suspended film incentive program only applied to in-state companies and was not designed to attract out-of-state filmmakers.

Iowa’s film credit program was suspended due to corruption and inadequate program oversight. Iowa is looking to revive the production tax credit program and the Governor has been supportive of a vibrant film production tax credit program in Wisconsin.

There were several proposed legislative eliminations and cut backs of state film production tax credit programs in 2010, which were all defeated. These include initiatives in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Two recent studies that performed cost/benefit analyses confirmed the economic benefits of production tax incentives to New York and Michigan.  Michigan’s report, sponsored by the Detroit, Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Grand Rapids Convention & Visitors Bureaus indicated that the incentive created nearly 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs for Michigan residents in 2010 at an average salary of $53,700 per year, and generated roughly $6 per dollar of net credit cost. The New York report showed a 1.9 return on the state’s investment (ROI).

In locations with uninterrupted film tax credit programs there have been continuing investment and job growth. In Massachusetts, for example, only 10 films were produced over seven years with $67 million of direct investment.  Once the credit was enacted the Commonwealth had 26 films in three years with a startling $676 million of direct investment to the state.

The film and television incentive programs can do wonders and are a robust economic stimulus. In the short term, it generates substantial tax revenues with credit claims paid 18 to 24 months after production has wrapped.  New investment in film and digital media production is, on balance, revenue positive. 

Film and TV Workers to Wyden: Don’t Play Political Games with Entertainment Jobs

by Howard Gantman 06/02/2011 13:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The union representing film technicians, stagehands, projectionists and many other entertainment industry workers took Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to task yesterday for saying he plans to hold up the PROTECT IP Act. 

Here’s the statement from Matthew D. Loeb, international president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), courtesy of Oregon Film and TV Dollars, a website run by Portland-area actor Harold Phillips:

“We are disappointed that Senator Wyden has used a petty political maneuver in an attempt to derail a bill focused on foreign rogue websites that steal copyrighted content from US companies and cost tens of thousands of good middle-class American jobs every year. The Protect IP Act was voted unanimously out of committee and is co-sponsored by a dozen-and-a-half of the most distinguished members of the Senate. It’s one thing to oppose a bill, debate it vigorously and vote against it. But it’s another thing entirely to resort to a cheap parlor trick, to thwart the opportunity to debate and discuss the merits of a proposed law. We’re frankly baffled that Senator Wyden would pervert the democratic process like this, particularly knowing that his own constituents in Oregon working on “Leverage,” “Portlandia” and other shows are being victimized by rogue sites. This bill will also combat bogus medications and counterfeit auto parts from being unleashed on unsuspecting American consumers. Senator Wyden ought not to be playing political games with a bill with such widespread consumer safety and jobs implications.”

AFL-CIO: Digital Theft Hurts U.S. Workers

by Kate Spence 06/01/2011 14:38 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The presidents of four unions representing workers in the entertainment business have sent a message to millions of AFL-CIO members asking them to stand up against content theft. 

In a DPE (AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees) Alert today, Ray Hair, International President, American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, Roberta Reardon, National President, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Matthew D. Loeb, International President, Theatrical Stage Employees, and Ken Howard, President, Screen Actors, wrote:

"Ever watch TV, see a movie or listen to recorded music? Then we thank you—because your entertainment is our work.

"Not too long ago, the ways to connect to entertainment were limited. People watched TV on a television set, went to a theater for a movie and listened to recorded music on the radio (or even a record-player).

"Then came digitization and the Internet—and like other powerful tools, people have used them for good things and bad.

"We’re asking you to help counter the bad: digital theft—illegal downloads and streaming—that hurts U.S. workers, jobs, incomes and benefits. We would like you to support legislation that will help the people whom our unions represent, and many other U.S. workers, who have jobs and earn livings. And we hope you’ll ask your family and friends to steer clear of digital theft."

Closing the Loophole on Illegal Streaming

by Howard Gantman 06/01/2011 13:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

A House subcommittee took a closer look today at a loophole in federal law that makes it more difficult to prosecute theft of films, TV shows, and other creative works. 

Here’s the problem: although criminals use both illegal downloading and streaming to distribute stolen online content, current federal law makes only one of those methods – downloading – a felony. 

When rogue websites steal and stream a motion picture, a TV program, or a live sports broadcast, the creators of that content are just as badly harmed, if not more, but the penalty to the thief might be substantially weaker because the lack of clarity in the law leaves prosecutors reluctant to pursue felony charges. 

Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet heard testimony from Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars, and our own Michael O’Leary on the serious threat illegal streaming poses to content creators and the need for Congress to take action. 

Some highlights from their prepared testimony:

Ms. Pallante said:

“Although streaming can implicate various exclusive rights, our current law could potentially apply vastly different penalties to this conduct simply based on the unique technology involved and regardless of the ultimate result – the illegal and unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted works. The Copyright Office believes that this disparity deserves consideration as Congress considers whether to amend the criminal copyright statutes to address streaming that causes serious harm to the legitimate market for performances of works of authorship.

“… Copyright policy is never finished. As technology makes it possible for authors to deliver their creative works in new formats and through new platforms, nefarious actors devise new ways to play the spoiler, sometimes seeking to divert profits and amass wealth illegally, other times merely to bask in the glory of interfering with and doing great harm to the investments of others. Congress has repeatedly legislated to confine these bad actors and hold them accountable, including giving prosecutors the tools necessary to do their jobs. By updating the law, Congress ensures the constitutional bargain that promotes the progress of our culture by giving authors the exclusive rights to their works for limited times.”

Ms. Aistars said:

“At a narrow level, the issue of making illegal streaming a felony crime is simply a technical clarification. Illegally disseminating other people's works without their permission should be punished the same way under law regardless of the technology used to accomplish such dissemination.

“On a grander scale, this issue is another phase in the battle between creators and lawful distributors of copyrighted works on one hand, and on the other parasitic websites that expropriate their property, diminish the compensation and pension and health benefits of creators and workers, and harm communities across the United States by depriving them of jobs and diminishing their tax revenues.”

Michael said:

“In addressing the subject of illegal streaming, it is important to note what this debate is not about. It is not a debate between technology and innovation and the creation of content. That is a false choice raised by too many people. This issue is really about favoring legitimacy over theft – about promoting and preserving creativity and production and punishing people who seek to profit through stealing the hard work of others. … The activity that is the subject of today’s hearing is not innovation, it is theft.”

Read the rest of Michael's prepared testimony here.

The Commercial Felony and Streaming Act (S. 978), introduced last month by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), would classify the illegal streaming of copyrighted works as a felony, thereby standardizing its criminal classification with that of illegal P2P downloading.  Visit our Rogue Websites page at http://www.mpaa.org/roguewebsites for more information on this bill and the PROTECT IP Act, which would deter, prevent and root out websites that profit from trafficking in stolen content.

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