Federal Task Force Offers a Vision of a Digital Future that Encourages Creativity and Copyright Protection

by Michael O'Leary 07/31/2013 12:47 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Department of Commerce today released an interagency task force report reaffirming the importance of the creative sector, including movies and television shows, in helping to drive the U.S. economy. The report urges all stakeholders, including search engines, ad networks and others to play a role in curbing piracy.

Entitled “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy,” the study was launched in April 2010.  In an accompanying message, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker notes that “copyright intensive industries contributed 5.1 million jobs and grew by 46.3 percent between 1990 and 2011, outpacing other IP-intensive industries as well as non-IP intensive ones. This vital contribution is a tribute to the Founders’ vision in providing for the protection of creative works.”

Secretary Pritzker continues by articulating the cultural value carried by copyrighted work: “The reasons to protect creative works go well beyond the economic benefit. America’s writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, sculptors and other creators make up the lifeblood of our culture, build new stores of knowledge, and shape how we see ourselves – and how the world sees us as well. Their influence extends beyond our borders; our copyrighted works weave a compelling narrative of the opportunity and possibility of America, and continue to be at the forefront of the global creative marketplace.  We must continue to nurture such extraordinary creative resources.”

The study notes that “digital technology and networks have had a profound effect on how copyrighted works are delivered to the public. … Individuals can now access creative works through an increasing variety of legitimate online platforms.” The report also calls on the entertainment industry to help educate the public about new online platforms - something, the task force points out, the MPAA has already begun doing with the establishment of our website, WhereToWatch.org, which provides a guide to the growing number of legitimate online sites offering movies and television shows to consumers.

But at the same time, it recognizes some technological developments have given rise to new methods of mass infringement, adding: “Addressing this problem is vital to maintaining meaningful incentives for producing creative works, ensuring a level playing field for legitimate services, and promoting the broadest offerings of online content.  All stakeholders, from creators to intermediaries to consumers, have an interest in ensuring a healthy online ecosystem. The fundamental question is how best to achieve that end.”

The task force goes on to acknowledge that “there cannot be meaningful protection (of copyright online) without enforcement of rights” and calls for a collaborative effort among stakeholders. As an example, it is suggested that “Search engines can also play a role in stemming the proliferation of online infringement by taking steps that make it less efficient to operate a profitable business. According to surveys, a significant amount of Internet traffic to websites is driven by the first page of search results, and the top results provided by large search engines often include many sites offering unauthorized copyrighted content.” Further, the report praises voluntary efforts like the Copyright Alert System, which was established by the movie and recording industries in alliance with five major Internet Service Providers to alert the consumers when infringing content is being downloaded to their computers, and direct them to legal alternatives.

Finally, the report notes that the Commerce Department – led by the US Patent and Trademark Office and National Telecommunications and Information Association – “has a vision of a digital future in which the relationship among digital technology, the Internet, and creative industries becomes increasingly symbiotic: in which the rights of creators and copyright owners are appropriately protected; creative industries continue to make their substantial contributions to the nation's economic competitiveness; online service providers continue to expand the variety and quality of their offerings; technological innovation continues to thrive; and consumers have access to the broadest possible range of creative content. We believe these goals are compatible and can be achieved together.”

This is a vision that the MPAA can fully share.

National GDP Revised to Reflect The Economic Activity Generated By Film and Television

by Senator Chris Dodd 07/31/2013 09:03 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This morning, the Department of Commerce said that the United States' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is bigger than we thought -about 3% bigger. And we have R&D and a wide range of creative works including movies, like Disney's Iron Man, and television shows, like HBO's Game of Thrones, to thank for it.

Starting today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is changing the method it uses to calculate GDP to better reflect the economic contributions that come from businesses investing in research and development and the creation of copyrighted works like films and television series. Put simply, this means that the national GDP now more accurately reflects the economic activity generated by creative works.

Originally announced back in March, this "comprehensive review" is among those carried out by the Bureau every five years or so in order to better quantify the GDP, and the latest change reflects the realities of an economy that is dependent on people investing in ideas and developing new intellectual property, along with tangible goods.

The BEA has revised the calculations for the GDP all the way back to 1929, showing that it has actually been about 3% higher than previously reported. According to these new numbers, research and development and entertainment added $471 billion to the revised $16.2 trillion overall economy through the end of 2012. The investment in films, television shows, literature and music produced by the entertainment industry was approximately $74 billion in 2012, and $75.3 billion in Q2 of 2013.

For years, the BEA treated the money that was spent creating new entertainment works as current expenses -- or costs of business. Therefore the film and television industry was captured in the GDP only downstream based on revenue generated by film and television products, and did not include the impact on the economy based on their investment.

The change reflects that in economic terms, film and television works are an intangible asset, not an expense. Long after they're first developed, these creations continue to retain their value and deliver residual benefits. Films and TV shows, for instance, are licensed and sold to different markets for years - even decades - after their original release. It goes without saying that when productions decide to film a movie or television show in a local community, they invest a great deal of money there when they create production facilities, employ local workers as members of the cast and crew, and rely on local small businesses over the course of production - now the impact of that production investment is being reflected in the national economic calculations as well.

These artistic originals will be getting the recognition they deserve as long term investments that contribute to the strength of the U.S. economy. Today, we live in a world and in a country where researchers, technology developers, and creative artists are vital to the economy. While these changes in BEA's formula will not change the economic growth the nation has experienced, they will give us a much more accurate picture of the world we live in today. And they will more accurately reflect the important role that the American film and television industry has, and will continue to play, in strengthening our nation's economy.

This piece was originally posted on HuffingtonPost.Com and can be read in its original format here.

MPAA Hosts USIP and Sony Pictures Classics for Screening of "The Patience Stone"

by MPAA 07/30/2013 07:11 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Last week, the MPAA hosted a screening of what promises to be one of this year’s most intense, thought-provoking foreign language films, The Patience Stone. The film follows the growth of an unnamed woman played by the versatile actress, Golshifteh Farahani and the evolution of her relationship with a comatose husband. Sony Pictures Classics and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) partnered with the MPAA for a discussion after the screening focused on how civilians survive life in conflict zones.

The Patience Stone is designed to challenge our thinking about gender roles and the effects of conflicts on civilians.  Through the film, we see the author-turned-director Atiq Rhahimi explore the impact of war, violence and tradition on the unnamed Muslim woman.

In remarks before the screening, Sheldon Himelfarb, the Director of both the Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Center of Innovation and the Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding Center of Innovation at USIP, highlighted the importance of films like The Patience Stone, An Inconvenient Truth, and Waiting for Superman as mechanisms for social change.

After the film, an eye-opening panel, moderated by Kathleen Kuehnast, the Director for the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at USIP, reflected on the social relevancy and intensity of the film. In the panel, Hossai Wardak, an Afghani scholar who is a visiting Afghanistan expert at USIP, attested to the reality of the film: “As someone who actually grew up in a conflict zone, as someone who actually worked in a conflict zone, whatever you see in this film is actually matching a reality on the ground.”

The story of repressed emotions, frustrations, and suffering of women and men in conflict areas applies to a myriad of places in the world. The other panelist, Gary Barker, spoke to this broad applicability, saying, “[The film] brought to mind several impressions and memories of young men that we’ve interviewed and worked with…in Brazil.” Barker is the Executive Director of Promundo-U, an international organization that advocates for gender equality by educating men and young boys.

Sony Pictures Classics has a long track record of finding critically acclaimed foreign language films and bringing them to a larger audience in the United States, and this is no exception. The Patience Stone has already won Best Picture in both the Abu Dhabi and Eurasia Film Festivals.

The Patience Stone is slated for a limited release in the United States on August 14th.  

 

Film and Television Play Vital Role in Driving Innovation, Strengthening US Economy

by Senator Chris Dodd 07/24/2013 07:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

New infographic breaks down industry’s economic contribution

Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will examine the role of copyright as a driver of innovation in America.  The hearing will be a great opportunity to hear stories of the people who are on the ground, developing new and cutting edge ways to make the movies and TV shows we love – and the ways in which sound copyright policy makes their work possible.  Their jobs are just some of the thousands all across this country that contribute to the creation of our great American export: film and television.

Every year, the MPAA analyzes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources to determine our industry’s contribution to the United States economy. Using the most recent data available, we offer this snapshot, which summarizes the industry’s economic impact and reinforces that the production and distribution of film and television continues to be one of this country’s most valuable cultural and economic resources. 

In 2011, the motion picture and television industry supported nearly 2 million jobs and $104 billion in wages. These figures are slightly lower than the previous year, primarily due to the closure of traditional video rental stores, which are being supplanted by online platforms. As new technologies transform the way audiences enjoy entertainment, we also are adjusting our economic formulas to ensure that we capture the changing landscape – a process that is ongoing. 

The industry’s direct production-related jobs increased over the previous year to 284,000, generating $43.1 billion in wages. By direct production industry jobs, we mean the set designers, production assistants, marketing professionals, and others who are involved in the core business of production, marketing, manufacturing, and studio distribution of film and television shows. These are high paying jobs, earning an average of $84,000 per year or 75% higher than the national average. There are an additional 365,000 direct jobs distributing the content enjoyed by millions directly to consumers, like those in movie theaters or video rental stores, not to mention indirect jobs in thousands of other companies. And as we highlighted during National Small Business Week a few weeks back, many of the jobs just discussed are part of a national network of 108,000 businesses that comprise our industry, mainly small businesses. In fact, 85% employ fewer than 10 people.

American films and television shows are immensely popular worldwide, making our industry one of the most highly competitive globally, consistently generating a positive balance of trade with all of our partners around the world. Total exports increased to $14.3 billion in 2011, up 5% over the previous year, as box office in countries like China and Brazil expands. Opening new markets and providing legal platforms for global audiences to watch the film and television they love will continue to be a major priority for the MPAA.
 
The economic figures outlined above are important elements in the on-going conversations about the future of the US Copyright System. As these discussions progress, we will continue to advocate for protecting America’s creative community and incentivizing future innovation while ensuring an Internet that works for everyone.

Categories: Innovation, Job Production

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MPAA “Moonstruck” Over Norman Jewison

by Melanie Gilarsky 07/23/2013 13:49 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Last night, the MPAA and guests were treated to an evening with award-winning director, producer and Founder of the Canadian Film Center, Norman Jewison. Honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his lifetime contribution to the art of film, Jewison shared reflections on his career as well as his hopes for the future of the industry. Jewison is well-known for such acclaimed pictures as: The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), And Justice for All (1979), Agnes of God (1985), Moonstruck (1987), Other People’s Money (1991), The Hurricane (1999) and The Statement (2003).

The evening was moderated by Alyssa Rosenberg, Features Editor of ThinkProgress.org. Gary Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, was also present to welcome his fellow countryman and laud the accomplishments of Jewison. “We are very inspired by all of his work; his films were nominated for over 46 Academy Awards®. Even for Canada, that is a lot of Oscar nominations.”

MPAA Chairman and CEO, Senator Chris Dodd, praised Jewison for his contribution to the industry, “For over five decades, Norman Jewison has captivated film and television audiences.  From his early years at the CBC to his time at CBS on The Andy Williams Show and directing specials that featured the likes of Harry Belafonte, Danny Kaye, and Judy Garland, and of course his decades of work on the silver screen – Norman has a versatile and critically acclaimed body of work to his name. Norman Jewison tackled controversial issues of racial injustice and violence in America.”

Jewsion captivated those in attendance with career anecdotes and reflections. He recalled Bobby Kennedy telling him that In the Heat of the Night would be an important film – “timing is everything.” He shared a memory of narrating the film In the Heat of the Night to Ray Charles, who Jewison was hoping would agree to sing the film’s theme song. Charles’ response to a wealthy white man being slapped by a black man was that picture portrayed something truly revolutionary, remarking, “that’s maximum green, man.”

Jewison summarized his career philosophy and approach by saying the films he is most proud of are those “that truly seem to affect people. In other words, the letters they write me, references made, the invitations I get to international film festivals where I get to see there is great excitement about a specific film. I am interested in communicating. I love to communicate with people and I use my films to communicate.” 

Senator Chris Dodd and Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison and Alyssa Rosenberg

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

Rep. Blackburn: “It’s Wrong To Deny Creators And Innovators The Fruits Of Their Labor”

by MPAA 07/11/2013 13:53 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In an op-ed in Tuesday’s The Hill, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) urges the government to strengthen the foundation of American innovation, arguing that intellectual property rights are essential to fostering economic growth.

As Rep. Blackburn points out, strengthening intellectual property laws would do more than ensure economic profit – it would protect the individual rights of the millions of people employed by the creative industries to benefit from their hard work. Strong IP rights foster innovation and support U.S. industries that, according to a report released last year by the Chamber of Commerce, provide more than 50 million jobs to Americans.

Blackburn writes, in part:

America has always been a society that rewards good ideas and protects property rights in a free-market capitalist system, not one premised on permission-less innovation where others can free-ride or take someone’s creation without even asking.

It’s wrong to deny creators and innovators the fruits of their labor or to deprive them of their individual right to profit for the work they legitimately create.

Calling for real action rather than more rhetoric, Blackburn says we must collectively “do more than just offer reports that include the typical feel-good language: ‘transparency,’ ‘fair use,’ ‘coordination,’ and ‘voluntary initiatives.’” She continues:

Instead of rehashing buzz terms and talking points, we need to institute a national strategy that puts Americans’ private property rights and the rule of law at the forefront. If we don’t, countries like China and India will have no problem taking advantage [of] our failures to fight for what is rightfully ours.

Creative industries like film and television production rely on the safeguards of intellectual property laws to create new jobs and protect the wages of employees.  As Rep. Blackburn makes clear, in an increasingly global economy, we cannot afford to leave ourselves economically vulnerable.


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