New Consumer Education Center on Impact of Content Theft Unveiled Today

by Michael O'Leary 07/07/2011 11:07 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

If you knew that something you were doing was hurting someone else, you’d stop, right? 

Of course – it’s not even a question.  That’s why we think the real key to stopping content theft is information. 

Too many people in America don’t realize that bootleg videos and other forms of content theft hurt millions of people in all 50 states whose jobs are supported by the film, television, and music industries, and who rely on revenues from the movies, TV, and music to make a living or save for retirement.  These are the people whose names you see at the end of the closing credits, not on the posters in the lobby – people who often work job to job and whose livelihoods are seriously threatened by the wholescale theft of their creations. 

Internet users aren’t always aware of the increasingly sophisticated, global nature of content theft.  Websites that offer up stolen content are often based overseas.  Sometimes, these sites are so deceptively designed that users think they are legitimate, and don’t realize that they benefit criminals rather than the people who made the film or TV show or song to begin with.

Many people don’t recognize that downloading or streaming an illegitimate copy of a movie is just as wrong as stealing a DVD from the local video store – they’re just different kinds of theft.  Or a parent who owns an Internet account may not know that his teenager is using it to download unauthorized music or videos.

But we believe strongly that once people do realize those things, they’ll stop – and look for legitimate ways to watch and listen.  People want to do the right thing, and it always helps to make doing the right thing just a little easier.

That’s the thinking behind a new joint venture we’re launching today, in partnership with the music industry and Internet service providers.  We are different organizations with different interests, but we’re coming together because the problem of content theft is so enormous and so costly to our economy that it demands a collaborative, constructive solution.  To learn more about content theft and ways you can avoid it, visit

One important element in the development of this agreement is a new Center for Copyright Information that will help educate consumers, more effectively than we’ve done before, on the importance of copyright and the impact of content theft.  The Center will provide Internet users with information and resources on a myriad of topics, including demonstrating the serious threat of content theft to the millions of jobs sustained by industries that depend on the protection of copyright and intellectual property and to the economy. 

Just as important, the Center will point consumers towards legitimate ways to watch movies and listen to music online.  According to a recent survey, 13 percent of adult Americans – 29 million people – have downloaded or watched unauthorized movies or TV shows over the Internet.  As Julia blogged this morning, there are more options than ever before to get movies and TV shows online safely and legitimately.  This new center will help consumers find them more quickly and easily, so they can keep watching and listening to the entertainment they enjoy. 

This new center will also help develop best practices for a new system of Copyright Alerts, messages similar to credit card fraud alerts that will make Internet subscribers aware that their accounts may be being used for content theft and help them identify ways to stop it.  It will benefit from guidance from consumer advocates and technical experts.

We’re excited about this new development and the ways we think the Center will help consumers and the economy. 

White House Commends New Collaboration to Fight Online Theft

by Howard Gantman 07/07/2011 10:40 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Victoria Espinel, the White House’s U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, blogged today that the new partnership between Internet service providers and entertainment companies is in step with the Obama Administration’s goals of job creation, export growth, and keeping America competitive in the global economy.

She wrote that the agreement, which produced the new Center for Copyright Information, “is a positive step and consistent with our strategy of encouraging  voluntary efforts to strengthen online intellectual property enforcement and with our broader Internet policy principles, emphasizing privacy, free speech, competition and due process.  As such, we will follow the implementation and outcomes of this arrangement with great interest.”

“To win the future and succeed in the global economy, it is critical to protect the intellectual property of America’s innovators and creators,” she concluded.

To learn more about this new joint venture and ways you can avoid content theft, visit



More and More Ways to Watch Legitimate Films and Television Shows Online

by Julia Jenks 07/07/2011 07:23 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The worldwide demand for online video is enormous and ever-increasing.  The digital measurement company comScore recently reported that 176 million U.S. Internet users watched online videos on their computers in May, engaging in a total of 5.7 billion viewing sessions. Unfortunately, much of the viewing of movie and television content is occurring on illegitimate websites, but today, there are more options than ever before to get movies and TV shows online safely and legitimately – the list just keeps getting longer – and many of them are now among the most popular online viewing destinations.

These services offer every type of viewing, whether ad-supported, rentals, download-to-own purchasing or subscription viewing – and they are offered by many different providers, including technology companies like Apple and Roxio; television networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and The CW and cable networks like Bravo, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, and FX; pay television channels like Epix and HBO; television providers like Dish; telecommunications companies like AT&T and Comcast; retailers and rentailers like Amazon, Blockbuster, Netflix, and Sears; video gaming companies like Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox; and new ventures devoted entirely to this space like Crackle, Fandor, Hulu, mSpot, and Vudu (which is now owned by Wal-Mart). Internet company YouTube, the top viewing site based on comScore’s measurement, recently announced that it has reached agreement with studios to add more movies to its streaming movie rental service.

Providers are racing to embed their online services – in some cases with High Definition video – into the majority of Internet-enabled electronics, including high definition televisions, Blu-ray players, set-top-boxes, and gaming consoles, which means they are available not only to those watching on their computers, but people watching on their home television screens. And studios are working to ensure that downloading is a simple, uniform experience, where digital video purchased at any outlet can be played anywhere, as they work with technology companies and online providers to develop services such as UltraViolet and Disney Studio All Access.

This all goes to show that when technology, innovation, and a little movie magic come together, the world gets more entertaining for all of us. If you enjoy watching videos online, there’s no time like the present. 



PROTECT IP Letter from Law Professors Didn’t Do its Homework

by Michael O'Leary 07/07/2011 06:44 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The letter on the PROTECT IP Act from a group of law professors that has been circulating around the blogosphere in the last day or so unfortunately seems designed more to get a reaction than to get its facts right. 

Beyond repeating the disingenuous arguments that the bill would somehow break the Internet (even though the technology it would use is widely in use today with no negative impact) or that it would turn the U.S. into a China-like censorship regime (how on earth is it censorship if the government protects the products of free speech from being stolen?), the letter makes claims that range from wildly misleading to downright inaccurate:

Conveniently Overlooks PROTECT IP’s Strong Court Oversight and Due Process Protections
The letter misses the critical point that PROTECT IP mandates a court’s approval before any partner in the Internet ecosystem – search engines, ISPs, advertisers, pay processors, anyone – has to take any action to prevent access to or stop doing business with a rogue site.  Using language like “credit card companies and advertisers … must stop doing business [with] any site that a private copyright or trademark owner claims is predominantly infringing” ignores the need for court approval. 

The writers also assert that “the Act would allow courts to order any Internet service provider to stop recognizing the site even on a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction issued the same day the complaint is filed.  Courts could issue such an order even if the owner of that domain name was never given notice that a case against it had been filed at all.”

Yet the PROTECT IP Act clearly and explicitly requires notice to domain name owners by e-mail, postal mail, and “in any other such form as the court finds necessary” under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Only “if through due diligence the Attorney General is unable to find” a website or domain name owner can an action proceed without this notice, and as in each and every case under PROTECT IP, a court’s approval would be required before ISPs or other entities would have to take any action. 

As constitutional expert Floyd Abrams wrote, “[t]he procedural protections under the Protect IP Act are so strong, uniform and constitutionally rooted that it is no exaggeration to observe that any complaints in this area are not really with the bill, but with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Itself, which govern all litigants in U.S. federal courts.”  Read his letter for much more detail on the bill’s strong provisions for due process.

Ignores Years of Precedent
The letter argues that the PROTECT IP Act “fails [the] Constitutional test” of prior restraint.  “It authorizes courts to take websites ‘out of circulation’ – to make them unreachable by and invisible to Internet users in the United States and abroad – immediately upon application by the Attorney General after an ex parte hearing.  No provision is made for any review of a judge’s ex parte determination, let alone for a ‘prompt and final judicial determination, after an adversary proceeding,’ that the website in question contains unlawful material.”

This is simply wrong.  Injunctive relief, which is the judicial remedy the PROTECT IP Act provides, has long been recognized as appropriate and constitutional means to stop the theft of creative works.  Floyd Abrams addresses this point directly:

From the start, injunctions were one form of relief accorded to victims of copyright infringement.  (Courts applied the 1790 Act [Ch. 15, 1 Stat. 124 (1790) (repealed)], and its later amendments, to grant injunctions “according to principles of equity.”  Act of Feb. 3, 1831, ch. 16, 4 Stat. at 438 (1831) (repealed 1870) (cited in Kristina Rosette, “Back to the Future: How Federal Courts Create a Federal Common Law Copyright Through Permanent Injunctions Protecting Future Works,” 2 J. Intell. Prop. L. 325, 340 (1994)).  However, since injunctions in non-copyright cases have frequently been held to be unconstitutional prior restraints on speech, Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931); New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), and for other reasons, the subject has arisen as to the application, if any, of the First Amendment to copyright principles.  See generally, Melville B. Nimmer & David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright Section 19 (2010).

The issue of whether and, if so, how certain elements of the Copyright Act should be read to accommodate various First Amendment interests remains open.  The law could hardly be clearer, however, that injunctions are a longstanding, constitutionally sanctioned way to remedy and prevent copyright violations.  Indeed, that premise was explicit in the critical concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s most famous prior restraint case, assessing publication of the Pentagon Papers, which noted that “no one denies that a newspaper can properly be enjoined from publishing the copyrighted works of another.” New York Times Co., 403 U.S. at 731 n.1 (White, J. and Stewart, J., concurring).  Current treatises reflect this judicial consensus.  

…The evident constitutionality of injunctive relief for copyright violations does not mean, to be sure, that injunctions must automatically or always be issued in response to a copyright violation.  The Supreme Court has recently held to the contrary, warning against the error of a ‘categorical grant’ of injunctive relief for patent infringement in eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388, 394 (2006), and the Second Circuit has applied that conclusion in a recent, celebrated copyright case, Salinger v. Colting, 607 F.3d 68 (2d Cir. 2010). What no court has ever denied is that injunctions are a valuable and constitutional response to copyright violations.

Misunderstands the Point of the Bill
The letter includes a couple of claims about the PROTECT IP Act that are puzzling when compared with what the bill actually does. 

“Remarkably,” the authors write, “the bill applies to domain names outside the United States, even if they are registered not in the .com but, say, the .uk or .fr domains. ”  It’s correct that the PROTECT IP Act would ask U.S. companies to prevent access to or stop doing business with domain names outside the United States.  In fact, that’s the point of the bill.  When content thieves and counterfeiters set up websites that are based overseas, U.S. law enforcement officers and prosecutors can’t pursue the sites themselves because of limits on their jurisdiction.  But often these rogue sites rely on U.S.-based Internet service providers, search engines, and financial services firms to target American consumers.  If these companies stop providing access to and support for rogue sites, it will make it much, much harder for the thieves to stay in business. 

This sentence from the letter, however, is wrong: “[The PROTECT IP Act] even applies to sites that have no connection with the United States at all, so long as they allegedly ‘harm holders’ of US intellectual property rights.”  The sites to which the bill applies do have a connection with the United States – they use services provided by U.S. companies to stay in business and they target U.S. consumers.  That’s a pretty strong connection.

And finally, the letter claims that “even China doesn’t demand that search engines outside China refuse to index or link to other Web sites outside China.  The Act does just that.”  No, it doesn’t.  PROTECT IP applies to American search engines, American ISPs, American payment processors, and so on. 

Here’s a couple of facts we won’t misstate:  stealing creative content and profiting from it is wrong.  It hurts real people all across the country who work hard to make the movies and TV shows that rogue sites casually rip off.  And it jeopardizes future investment in the productions that will give those people their next job tomorrow or next year. 

The authors are right that the Internet is a powerful tool to bring people together and help us communicate in ways we’ve never been able to do before.  That doesn’t mean it should also be a powerful tool for theft. 

COPYHYPE Counters Misconceptions about Senate Streaming Bill

by Howard Gantman 07/06/2011 12:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Great piece by COPYHYPE’s Terry Hart today clearing up some misconceptions that have been floating around about S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, a narrowly targeted bill aimed at criminals who steal and disseminate American-made movies, television shows, live sporting events, and other creative works.

Hart illustrates how the Commercial Felony Streaming Act will affect criminals engaged in massive copyright theft, and why fears that the bill will target users who post videos of lip-synching online are wrong.  “The bill is addressed toward only large-scale, commercial piracy, and the bill is drafted accordingly,” writes Hart. 

As Hart notes in his article, streaming copyrighted content is actually already illegal, but it’s classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony.  The Commercial Felony Streaming Act toughens the penalty for this behavior to close a loophole in current law that imposes weaker penalties for streaming illegal content than for downloading illegal content via peer-to-peer transfers.  Streaming and downloading are different technologies, but criminals are using them for the same purpose—stealing movies and TV shows made by the millions of men and women whose work in the entertainment industry helps support them and their families. 

Arguing the narrow scope of the bill, Hart asserts, “The language of the statute sets forth several bars to arbitrary and unreasonable application of the law, including its requirement of willfulness and the value necessary to trigger it.” 

Detailing the criteria used to determine “willfulness” and “value” in a criminal court, Hart concludes that only criminals will feel the impact of S. 978:

“To sum up, Bill S.978 can’t be used to prosecute the uses that many fear it applies to. It doesn’t change what conduct is legal and what conduct is illegal. It is designed to apply only to outright pirates who profit off the streaming of unauthorized copyrighted works, and the language reflects this design.”

America’s Creators Join Together in New Partnership to Fight Content Theft

by Senator Chris Dodd 07/06/2011 08:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Making a great movie or TV show takes the work of hundreds of dedicated people.  From the actors onscreen to the artists and technicians behind the camera, it’s truly amazing what we can do –and where our imaginations can take us – when we work together.
That’s why I’m so excited today to see the launch of a revolutionary new organization that will unite America’s creative community as we take on our biggest threat: the massive theft of our creations. 
Most of the over 2  million Americans whose jobs are supported by the motion picture industry aren’t marquee stars or studio executives.  They’re the people whose names you see in the closing credits, with titles like makeup artist, set dresser, prop maker, sound effects editor, visual effects artist, rigging electrician, costumer, and driver.  They’re the teenagers working their first job taking tickets at the local movie theatre or theme park.   And they’re the people who work for local retailers, caterers, dry cleaners, florists, hardware and lumber suppliers, transportation companies, and thousands of other small businesses that support our industry. 
When someone steals a movie and profits from that theft, these are the people they’re robbing from.  These are the people who will have less to feed their families, to care for their parents, to save for retirement, to put their kids through school.  And now, these are the people whose voices you’re about to hear.
Creative America, a new and unprecedented partnership among studios, networks, unions, and guilds,  will give the men and women of our community a new way to speak out in the fight against content theft.  This grassroots campaign will help everyone across this country understand that content theft isn’t a victimless crime – it hurts all of us. 
If you are among the millions whose hard work helps make filmed entertainment, if you love the movies and want to stand with us against theft, please take a minute to visit and sign up today.
Just a few days ago, our country celebrated Independence Day.  For more than two centuries, America has celebrated the power of creativity and innovation – and over and over again, Americans have fought to protect our right and ability to express ourselves freely. 
Our battle against content theft is another step forward in that long fight – and now, with Creative America, that battle has truly begun.  Join us.

Washington, DC Gets Transformers 3 Love, Too

by Kate Spence 07/05/2011 15:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Nation’s Capital also got some screen time in Paramount Pictures’ Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, from landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and Memorial Bridge to huge explosions near the National Mall.
“Movies are one of the things we’re still making in this country, and every U.S. city would like a piece of that industry,” the Washington Post’s Reliable Source wrote last week on Transformers’s contribution to Washington, D.C.’s economy. 
The production spent three days in D.C. last October, spending close to $2.5 million and employing 180 local residents in jobs ranging from production assistant to extras.  As the D.C. Film Office reported: “The production booked hundreds of room nights in District hotels, contracted with many DC-based vendors for a variety of goods and services, dined in local restaurants, shopped in neighborhood stores, and hired residents as cast and crew.”

Of course, the effect of the motion picture and television industry on the local economy in the District of Columbia extends further.  The industry is responsible for 4,215 direct jobs and $427 million in wages in the District, including both production and distribution-related jobs. Over 1,100 of the jobs are production-related.  In just the last couple of years, a number of televisions shows and movies have filmed in Washington, from How Do You Know? and Salt to Meet the Press and Situation Room.
Just goes to show you don’t always have to blow something up to make a real impact.

Categories: Job Production


Cities concerned about the grave impact of content theft on jobs and the economy

by Vans Stevenson 07/05/2011 13:47 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

One place where job loss always hits especially hard is in America’s cities.  When it comes to protecting and creating jobs and strengthening our economy, our mayors and city officials are the boots on the ground: the first line of defense for vulnerable citizens and businesses.  With films and television shows now being made in cities and towns in all 50 states, supporting more than 2.4 million jobs and over $140 billion in total wages, who better to understand movie theft’s risk to jobs and local economies than city officials?

Now, the National League of Cities (NLC), which advocates for more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns across America, is calling attention to the urgent need to fight online content theft.  In an article in its weekly publication, Nation’s Cities Weekly, NLC’s Mitchel Herckis updated its members on the status of the PROTECT IP Act and other legislation related to cybersecurity, noting that “NLC’s National Municipal Policy supports federal efforts to address cyberspace crimes such as Web piracy, which has a detrimental impact on jobs and the economy.” 

NLC also announced that its Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Committee “intends to propose a resolution on cybersecurity and online criminal activity at the 2011 Congress of Cities,” and we applaud NLC for its efforts to address this grave threat to local economies.

NLC’s strong statement comes not long after last month’s resolution by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in support of the PROTECT IP Act at its Annual Meeting in Baltimore.  The resolution expressed the Conference’s support for efforts to fight content theft and said its members would work with Congress and other stakeholders to pass the PROTECT IP Act and related legislation.  

America’s cities get that content theft costs jobs.  Their support will be invaluable in this fight.

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