Creating Jobs One Movie at a Time

by TJ Ducklo 09/27/2011 11:46 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In today’s hard economic times where finding good work is a constant struggle for many Americans, the film industry continues to be a bright spotlight for many. Yesterday we spoke of the tens of thousands of jobs sustained by film and television in New York City but pointed out similar jobs exist all across the country. Today we look at a perfect example of how film production can breathe new economic life into a particular community.

Florida’s Office of Film and Entertainment recently released data detailing the economic impact of the movie Dolphin Tale, which premiered this past weekend and was filmed primarily in Florida’s Pinellas County. According to this study, the film brought $17 million into Florida’s economy during its 55 days of production in 2010, as first reported by The St.Petersberg Times. Of that $17 million, $7.5 million was paid in salaries to the nearly 1300 Floridians who worked as actors, extras, costume designers, makeup artists, set builders, stunt men, and various other behind-the-scenes positions. The remainder went to local businesses for lodging, equipment supplies, careering, dry cleaning and others services provided to the film’s production.

“That’s one thing we like about this industry,” said Florida Film Commissioner Lucia Fishburne. “It crosses over into so many businesses. You've got primary vendors; rental houses; sound stages that you associate with the industry. But you also have — and this is big for our state — everything from sources for lumber like Lowe's or Home Depot, to small mom-and-pop florists and nurseries. You have heavy retail, caterers, restaurants, hotels, all of the things it takes to make a movie.”

The bottom line is this: film production creates jobs, and many states, like Florida, have recognized this and implemented tax incentive programs to spur such grow. A strong, healthy entertainment industry matters to many Americans, not just those of us who enjoy their final product. So if you have a chance to catch Dolphin Tale or another great film at your local theatre, or on television, or through one of the many legal online forums available, do it and support these jobs and what they do for local communities around the United States.

NYC a Major Player in Film and Television

by TJ Ducklo 09/26/2011 12:39 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

New York City may not have a Hollywood sign or the Sunset Strip, but the Big Apple is continuing to be recognized for its contribution to our nation’s film and television industry. Two weeks ago, the NYC mayor’s office announced a contest challenging students to develop a public service announcement intended to raise awareness of content theft and copyright violation on the Internet, emphasizing how such illegal action can impact the jobs of thousands. Yesterday, Crain’s New York Business writer Greg David reinforced this idea,  highlighting how new hit shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and CBS’s The Good Wife are becoming major contributors to solid, middle-class jobs in the area.

The reason why, David writes, is a simple concept with which most Americans will identify: “actors, actresses, directors, and producers want to sleep in their own beds, just like the rest of us.” He goes on to point out that “many shows are set in the city, and producers want authentic backdrops” and that a “state tax credit makes shooting in New York cost-competitive.” David also touts the industry’s resilience in New York City, using the city’s rebound from the canceling of NBC’s Law and Order, a staple New York City show for 20 years, to the emergence of Empire and other programs as evidence that its role as a leader in film and television production is here to stay.  

New York City’s nearly 87,000 television and film related jobs and $7.7 billion in subsequent wages are significant, but New York is far from the only city that plays a noteworthy part in supporting our industry’s jobs. Over 2 million jobs across all 50 states are linked to America’s film and television industry.  As our economy continues to rebuild, each and every one of these jobs is critical not just for the people who hold them, but for their families, neighborhoods, and communities.  After all, the most important characters in any production are the people who make them possible.

First “Operation In Our Sites” Conviction

by Kevin Suh 09/23/2011 17:21 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today that the founder of, Matthew David Howard Smith, was convicted of conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. Smith’s conviction is the first pursuant to “Operation In Our Sites.”

Smith admitted to founding where millions of website visitors visited to illegally download copies of movies and television shows.  Since the website’s inception in 2008, Smith and his co-conspirators generated more than half a million dollars in advertising revenue. Smith now faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for each count.

NinjaVideo was a prime example of these “worst of the worst” rogue websites that victimize not only the buyers of these products, but the over 2 million hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on the motion picture and television industry.

We thank ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the Justice Department's Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia for leading this investigation and applaud the continued success of “Operation In Our Sites.”


Portland, Oregon Reports Jobs Boost

by Jessica Garcia 09/21/2011 14:54 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Portland, Oregon is earning a reputation for more than its roses these days. The Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, has published a letter to local residents announcing the local economic boost taking effect in the city thanks to film and television production. Television shows like the new Portlandia, TNT’s Leverage, NBC’s upcoming Grimm and Lakeshore Entertainment’s feature film Gone, are all filming in Portland, and in the process, they’re creating hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity.

“Besides the fact that it’s pretty cool to see our streetscapes on the big screen, there’s another reason why we have a substantial interest in the film and video industry: jobs,” says Mayor Sam Adams. And rightly so. Leverage employs 450 Portland-area workers each season. Grimm is expected to surpass that 450 mark. Portlandia reports that over 90% of its crew consists of local hires. And Gone has employed 210 locals for over 70,000 hours of work.

In addition to creating jobs, productions are also actively feeding money back into the local economy. Mayor Adams reported that between 2007 and 2010, Oregon-based film and television projects have had a direct and indirect impact of $350 million dollars in the state. In 2009, the Portland metropolitan region alone saw $52 million in direct spending through local film productions, totaling a $102 million economic impact for the year. This year continues the upward trend; 2011 is projected to have a $542 million economic impact in Oregon.

As Mayor Adams says, “When the film industry in Portland is busy, Portland is busy.” These figures represent a huge economic gain for the state of Oregon, the city of Portland and the hundreds of local residents employed by local productions. The hundreds of people that work on each production and rely on the motion picture and television industry are proud of their work, and so are we. Together, we make a great partnership for Oregon.

NYC Launches New Campaign to Combat Digital Content Theft

by TJ Ducklo 09/14/2011 14:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

New York City is, as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys put it, the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” In an effort to protect the creative minds whose dreams come true every day in the Big Apple, the NYC Mayor’s office has stepped up its campaign to fight online content theft and is reaching out to an unconventional constituency for help: high school and college students.

The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment has announced the creation of a new contest that challenges students to design their own public service announcement aimed at raising awareness of digital piracy and emphasizing its devastating effects on the creative community. Although many don’t realize it, New York is a major contributor to the film and entertainment world with a total of 279 films and 345 television projects in 2009 and 2010.

The Create the Next Spot Contest is the next phase of a Bloomberg Administration campaign that began last year with targeting the illegal sales and distribution of DVDs. The first installment, “Piracy Doesn’t Work in NYC,” was a multimedia project seen in taxis, online, on local television, and on bus shelters across the city. 

The top 10 entries will be selected by a panel of judges and posted online for public voting, taking place from November 7 to November 18.  The panel includes: Whoopi Goldberg; Sway of MTV News; James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features; Doug Oines of the National Association of Theatre Owners; Katherine Oliver of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; and Dan Mahoney of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)

Nearly 700,000 New Yorkers make their living in the creative industry and this latest effort hopes to educate young people on how digital content theft leave the jobs of truck drivers, lighting designers, makeup artists, and many others in jeopardy.  The MPAA salutes Mayor Bloomberg and his administration for making the protection of creativity a priority in New York City, thereby preserving the opportunity for thousands of artists, filmmakers, and entertainers to get their big break!

Senator Dodd Speaks about Sept. 11

by MPAA 09/09/2011 06:24 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Hartford Courant asked several key political figures how Sept. 11 unfolded for them. Former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd gave this account via written statement:

My memories of Sept. 11 and the days that followed are of powerfully mixed emotions. Our first daughter, Grace, was born just two days after the attacks, and I remember holding her in my arms in the hospital maternity ward in Arlington, watching from the window as smoke rose from the Pentagon, and trying to balance joy with fear.

Grace is named for her grandmothers, but it also seemed as though grace was what we all needed in those terrible first hours, as the immense and horrifying toll of that day became clear. Over a hundred people from Connecticut had lost their lives, and as I talked later with one mother who had lost her own child on Sept. 11, I felt helpless as I asked whether there was anything, anything I could do. Hug your daughter, she said. I did.

Grace is a tall, lovely, soon-to-be 10-year-old now, and she and her sister Christina astonish me each day with their energy and wisdom. America and Americans have endured two wars, the loss of millions of jobs, a global crisis in our financial system, and more, and we remain standing, though it has surely not been easy. Thousands of families are still learning to live without the fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers they lost on Sept. 11.

If I wondered then, at first, into what kind of world Grace had been born, my fears lifted in talking with the doctors who had attended her birth. They were born in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Lebanon, and had come to America in search of the opportunity and freedom that are and have always been the enduring promises of this nation. In that awful week we all felt proud to be Americans, and I knew that as long as America did not abandon its faith in the ideals that had brought them to our shores, neither terrorists nor their weapons could change who we are, or what we stand for. I believe that still.

This piece was originally posted on the Hartford Courant's website and can be read in its original format here.

Correcting the Record on the Financial Impact of Content Theft

by Alex Swartsel 09/08/2011 15:21 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

A recent post on Pajiba, picked up by Techdirt, Afterdawn and others, has misconstrued data on the financial impact of content theft.  We wanted to take a minute to correct the record. 

A 2007 study conducted by economist Stephen Siwek and published by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), “The True Cost of Copyright Industry Piracy to the U.S. Economy,” found that “copyright piracy from motion pictures, sound recordings, business and entertainment software and video games costs the U.S. economy $58.0 billion in total output,” among other harms including hundreds of thousands of foregone jobs and billions lost in earnings and tax revenues. 

It’s incorrect to assert, as Pajiba does, that “according to the MPAA, piracy cost them $58 billion last year, making movie piracy a bigger industry than the GDPs of 10 American states.”  The IPI study, conducted in 2007, covers the copyright industry, which is not only to the film industry but a number of industries that rely on intellectual property protection, including music, packaged software and video games.  To ensure this is crystal clear, we’ve revised our fact sheet to define the copyright industry covered by Siwek’s study; the fact sheet now reads “$58 billion in economic output is lost to the U.S. economy annually due to copyright theft of movies, music, packaged software and video games.”  See here for the updated version, also linked from our rogue sites webpage.

For the same reason, it’s also incorrect to claim that “[a]t $10 per DVD, every household in the United States would be buying an additional 50 DVDs per year if they weren’t so busy downloading,” and then to extrapolate that because our research has found that 13% of American adults have ever downloaded or watched movies or TV shows illegally, this means we assume every person who engages in content theft would otherwise have purchased 200 DVDs each year. 

This line of reasoning is inaccurate in several additional respects.  First, Siwek’s research for IPI covers the cost of copyright theft to the US economy as a result of content theft occurring around the world, not solely by users in the United States.  Second, the IPI study covers both the cost of online theft and “hard goods piracy,” such as bootleg DVDs and CDs.  Third, the IPI study focuses not on lost sales due to content theft, which is the analogy Pajiba makes, but on output loss, which is the full impact of such theft, including on retailers and industry suppliers elsewhere in the economy.  

Tech Execs Should Read the PROTECT IP Act Before Attacking It

by Alex Swartsel 09/08/2011 14:24 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

There’s a theme in the series of letters that we’ve seen so far from collections of people opposed to the PROTECT IP Act, including today’s message from tech executives: they convey sweeping, generic concerns that, compared with the actual language of the bill, seem completely unfounded. 

Today’s letter announces: “[W]e fear that if PIPA is allowed to become law in its present form, it will hurt economic growth and chill innovation in legitimate services that help people create, communicate, and make money online. … the bill will create uncertainty for many legitimate businesses and in turn undermine innovation and creativity on those services.” 

Yet as we outline below, PROTECT IP “in its present form” is actually very carefully and narrowly written to make clear that the last thing it is intended to do, or will do, is harm legitimate businesses operating in good faith.   

PROTECT IP’s Definition of Infringing Sites is Anything But “Vague”
Asserting, without proof, that the bill’s definition of infringing sites is “vague” doesn’t make it so.  This letter gets it wrong right off the bat by beginning its argument with “Legitimate sites with legitimate uses can also in many cases be used for piracy” – while that’s unfortunately true, the PROTECT IP Act simply does not apply to legitimate sites. 

In fact, the PROTECT IP Act is, intentionally, so narrowly focused that it covers only websites whose sole purpose is to provide or point to stolen content.  The bill’s definition of an “Internet site dedicated to infringing activities” states:

“the term `Internet site dedicated to infringing activities' means an Internet site that has no significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating the reproduction, distribution, or public performance of copyrighted works, in complete or substantially complete form, in a manner that constitutes copyright infringement … or is designed, operated, or marketed by its operator or persons operating in concert with the operator, and facts or circumstances suggest is used, primarily as a means for engaging in, enabling, or facilitating” infringement (see Section 2(7), emphasis ours).

It’s clear that this definition is meant to apply to the Pirate Bays of the world, not the Twitters or the LinkedIns or the FourSquares.  And it’s difficult to see how such a definition will be “ripe for abuse” when any entity pursuing an action under this bill, whether it’s the Department of Justice or a private creator – will have to prove to a federal court that a given website meets that description before anything else happens. 

“Burdens for Smaller Tech Companies” Are Largely Imaginary
 The letter claims that PROTECT IP would require its signatories to make “costly changes to their infrastructure, including how we remain in compliance with blocking orders on an ever-changing Internet.”  But this overlooks protections set out in the PROTECT IP Act precisely to mitigate such costs, including language requiring information location tools to take only “technically feasible and reasonable measures” to comply with the Act. 

Further, a read through the text of the bill shows that fears of “possible liability” are almost surely baseless.  The letter totally overlooks PROTECT IP’s very, very strong legal protections for service providers and other entities in the Internet ecosystem that are called upon to take action under this bill.  There are three worth pointing out (all emphasis ours): 

  1. Internet entities and their employees who take steps “reasonably designed to comply with [the bill] or reasonably arising from [a court] order” are granted immunity from suit and from liability. 
  2. Entities cannot be held liable for “any actions taken by customers of such entity to circumvent any restriction on access to the Internet domain instituted pursuant to this subsection.” 
  3. Entities cannot be held liable for “any act, failure, or inability to restrict access to an Internet domain that is the subject of a court order issued pursuant to this subsection despite good faith efforts to do so by such entity.”

The bill permits plaintiffs to ask the court for injunctive relief only if an entity “knowingly and willfully fails to comply” with a court order, not in instances of good faith efforts to comply.  This is a high, high bar for plaintiffs to meet.

This sentence from the letter is telling: “Legitimate services already do their part by following the notice-and-takedown system of the DMCA.”  One way to think of the PROTECT IP Act is as a badly-needed companion to the DMCA – because so many rogue sites are based overseas, and do not comply with DMCA.  The two measures are in much the same spirit.

More of the Same Discredited Arguments on Internet Security
The letter also repeats arguments we’ve heard before suggesting that the bill would somehow undermine the architecture of the Internet – many of which have been debunked here and here, and to which we’ve responded here.  It’s clear that this bill would have no negative impact on the Internet.

Clearly this letter got its facts badly wrong.  But in the end, what’s even more troubling is its blithe assertion that “[t]here are certainly challenges to succeeding as a content creator online, but the opportunities are far greater than the challenges, and the best way to address the latter is to create more of the former.”  Tell that to a filmmaker like Jason Stall or Ellen Seidler, who fight for every dollar they raise to finance their films and then have to fight again to try to stop content thieves from draining their earnings away. 

Certainly the opportunities created by new platforms are immense – but those new platforms and services will never reach their full potential, nor serve creators as they should, if they are forced to compete with thieves.  Legislation like PROTECT IP is the right approach to protect content online.

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