Ratings System Enables Parents to Make Informed Decisions

by Joan Graves 02/28/2012 12:12 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children.  The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions.  Unfortunately, there is a misconception about the R rating of this film limiting the audience to adults.  This is not true.  In fact, many other R-rated movies on important topics, such as Schindler’s List, have been screened in schools and viewed by children accompanied by their parents.

The voluntary ratings system enables parents to make an informed decision about what content they allow their children to see in movies.  The R rating and description of “some language” for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film.  As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully.  School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.

The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie.  The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it.  Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film. 

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Today Show: Are Top Websites in Business with Counterfeiters?

by Paul Hortenstine 02/24/2012 08:01 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This morning, Jeff Rossen of the “Today” show reported on the techniques cyber criminals use to scam consumers into buying counterfeit products online.  These cyber criminals make billions ripping off Americans by selling counterfeit goods and pirated content, and are increasingly sophisticated in selling their products through popular online search engines and advertising services that make their products appear to be legitimate.  The report also showed how American companies profit from this illegal activity by selling advertising to cyber criminals. 

Here’s the story of one consumer who thought she was buying a real product but unknowingly purchased a counterfeit:

“High school senior Lauren McMillen just wanted to learn Spanish. So her dad went on eBay and spent $200 on what he thought was a never-opened Rosetta Stone software kit. ‘The ad said it was brand new and shrink-wrapped,’ Brian McMillen said. ‘Seemed absolutely legit.’  It arrived and it looked legit, down to the instruction manual, stickers, even inscriptions on the disks. But, Brian said, ‘We tried to install it, and it kept popping up an error message every time you started the product.’  It didn't work because it's a fake. Authorities say some even install viruses on your computer to steal your personal information. ‘It's not just some college kid in their basement putting this together,’ Lauren McMillen said. ‘This is a real business going on, and somebody is making a lot of money off of it.’”

And the counterfeit software came from overseas:

“Part of the problem: Many of these criminals are based in China — out of reach for U.S. authorities. That's where Lauren McMillen's kit came from. After she complained, eBay ultimately gave her a refund.” 

American companies turn a profit by selling advertising to cyber criminals: 

“And some say it's not just the criminals cashing in; it's the popular sites that allow them to advertise. Tom Adams, the CEO of Rosetta Stone, said they've caught Google selling coveted top-of-the-page ad space to more than 1,600 rogue websites peddling fake Rosetta Stone. Here's how it works: You go to Google and type ‘Rosetta Stone’ into the search bar and you get a list of websites — the real one and, on the day the company showed us, many fakes offering discounts. Click on them and they look legit.”

Video of the report is here.

Currently, there is broad agreement among the technology and entertainment industries and between members of Congress and the President that additional tools are needed to target online piracy and counterfeiting.  Everyone should join in a constructive dialogue about a solution to this growing problem that is a danger to consumers and a drag on the economy.

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Moving Forward on Piracy

by Howard Gantman 02/16/2012 07:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In the aftermath of the heated debate on anti-piracy legislation, many – relieved of the polarizing climate in Washington – are now having conversations focused on the common ground that stakeholders on both sides of the issue share. Solutions-focused exchanges, like the one hosted by the Paley Center on Tuesday, exemplify this new attitude of open-dialogue and compromise. The discussion featured Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures, early investor in Twitter and technology industry advocate and Rick Cotton, the executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal.

Wilson – a frequent critic of legislation affecting the internet – gave rather unexpected comments at the event, which to some were representative of how much the conversation around piracy has progressed in just a few weeks. Wilson even pointed out that he “think[s] it’s very possible for the content industry and the internet industry to work on solutions.”

In the debate over pirated content, Wilson argued: “We know who the good guys are, who are licensed and operating legitimately.” He went so far as to suggest a “blacklist” to encourage public awareness of rogue sites profiting from illegal content. However, he also seemed to acknowledge the contentiousness of the topic he was wading into, suggesting that “Google should do this… they won’t but they should.”

As the moderator noted, search engines occupy a distinct place in the debate over rogue websites since their companies often profit from advertising which features illegal content. Wilson also surprised some in the audience when he agreed that a handful of known pirate sites should be shut down.

As CNet’s Greg Sandoval noted, in addition to his work in the tech industry, Wilson’s firm invests in legal forms of content sharing that are consistently threatened by pirated content. Sandoval writes:

“It won't come as a surprise that Wilson is sympathetic to at least some of the piracy problems that copyright owners face. His venture capital fund is invested in Turntable.fm, an online music service, and Boxee, software that enables owners to watch Web video on TVs.

“Both companies have stayed within the law and competed against companies that don't. Not having to pay to license content is a big advantage over those that do pay.” 

During the discussion, Cotton asked the audience to “take a big step back” to have a real conversation about the extent of the problem and how it harms the US.  “You have just a tidal wave of counterfeit physical products being distributed on the internet as well as stolen digital content,” Cotton shared, “so I think from the point of view of the United States –which is an advanced economy, it is a knowledge economy, it does not aspire to be a low-cost manufacturing economy – that the driving force is our invention, our innovation, technical invention, creativity…”

Cotton went on to say that ultimately, it’s in the long term national interest to come to the table and be sure that “the economic benefits of our creativity are not stolen and actually accrue to the United States.”

In the coming months, more of these discussions will take place as many stakeholders and institutions become more concerned about pirated material. After all, there appears to be clear agreement that online content theft is a problem in need of a solution.

Super Bowl Sweep

by Paul Hortenstine 02/02/2012 12:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Usually, the debate on intellectual property laws focuses on pirated movies and television shows.  This leaves out many of the 19 million Americans who rely on the intellectual property industries for their jobs.  Intellectual property laws encourage innovation and creativity.  Counterfeiting trademarked goods and pirating copyrighted content is stealing that hurts the economy.  For example, a large law enforcement operation this week illustrates the importance of trademark protection to the apparel industry and sports leagues, particularly the NFL and Super Bowl merchandise.

In response to counterfeiting of sports leagues’ clothing and merchandise, law enforcement agencies engaged in Operation Fake Sweep.  As the Associated Press reported:

“Federal officials say authorities have seized nearly $5 million worth of phony Super Bowl sportswear and merchandise in a nationwide sweep.  Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the results of the four-month investigation Thursday in Indianapolis.  Agents targeted stores, flea markets and street vendors that allegedly sold counterfeit game-related sportswear.  Fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs were among the 42,000 items confiscated in Operation Fake Sweep.  Authorities put the total take at more than $4.8 million, up from $3.7 million last year.”

This operation also targeted the copyright infringement of live sports: 

“Additionally, Yonjo Quiroa, 28, of Comstock Park, Mich., was arrested Wednesday by special agents with HSI [Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations].  He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet.  Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and he operated them from his home in Michigan until yesterday's arrest.”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright, Policy

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