ACTA Important for Consumers, Workers

by Chris Marcich 07/03/2012 05:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

On July 4th, the European Parliament will vote on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – a treaty that should be supported. This treaty would reward the millions of hours of hard work and creativity put into Europe’s cultural and manufacturing sectors while also allowing for consumers to receive reliable, high-quality, and safe products.

ACTA is a useful and important step towards attaining a more balanced and ordered system for trade in IP-based goods and services. Unfortunately, there are rampant negative rumors about the treaty that are causing widespread misconceptions about its scope and intent. Some points of clarification about the most prominent falsehoods. First, the treaty will protect the rights of hard-working individuals in countless industries rather than just assist the entertainment industry as opponents have claimed. Second, the treaty will not restrict the rights of anyone nor will it “break the internet”. Far from being a secret internet censorship police force, the treaty will simply work to ensure the limitation of merchandise, both physical and digital, making its way illegally across international borders.

Measures like those contemplated by ACTA are necessary to ensure the future growth and sustainable development of the general economy and society in Europe. If we hope to continue to be seen as a place of innovation, creativity, and quality we must take part in the move into the future. This international agreement will follow all EU laws while protecting the hard-work of EU right holders in foreign markets and improving the safety and quality of the market for consumers. Such a development would allow for the strengthening of job positions for the approximately 120 million people already employed in IP-reliant fields throughout Europe while also permitting the sectors to improve prospects for the creation of new jobs.

If clarifications are needed to confirm the facts, let them be provided. If lessons need to be taken about the handling of future international trade negotiations to improve transparency, let them be learned and applied prospectively. But let us not sacrifice a good agreement that is itself innocent of the nefarious charges against it simply to make a point. It is too high a price to pay for those whose livelihoods depend on IP and for future economic growth in Europe.

Agreements like ACTA are the economic necessities of the future and we urge a considered, responsible, and informed decision at its plenary vote.

SurfTheChannel Decision A Victory for Creative Story Telling

by Ted Shapiro 06/28/2012 08:57 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Yesterday, a court in the UK took another important step in the effort to ensure that the millions of people worldwide who pour their hard work and creativity into the production of movies and TV shows are in a position to receive compensation for their work.  A jury of his peers convicted Anton Vickerman of criminal charges in connection with his operation of Surfthechannel.com, formerly one of the most trafficked “leeching” pirate sites in the world. The site by some estimates generated more than $50,000 per month in advertising revenue for the criminals who ran it.  The jury’s verdict reaffirmed the simple fact that intentionally distributing stolen content is stealing, regardless of where the content is hosted.

This verdict, which comes in large part thanks to the work of the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft, is an important victory for all audiences who love watching high quality TV shows and movies online.  It means that viewers looking for their favorite shows and movies can be that much more confident that the sites they are visiting are legitimate, safe and secure.  It also means that the advertising revenue generated by their visit isn’t going to a criminal organization that rips  off the hardworking people – electricians, makeup artists, construction workers, to name a few – who make their living making movies.  It ensures that the creativity behind beloved  shows and movies will continue to be funded -- and flourish.

At the end of the day, the people running Surfthechannel were profiting by stealing other people’s hard work.  They were killing jobs by stealing revenue from the people who put their creativity, effort and ideas into developing the new and innovative entertainment audiences love.  Undermining even a little of the success of their work now makes it substantially harder for them to create at all in the future.  Yesterday’s verdict is an important step toward making sure the storytellers who create content will be able to continue to do so.

German Court's Verdict in Kino.to Case Supports an Internet that Works for Everyone

by Ted Shapiro 06/20/2012 06:11 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

GERMANY: In the recent decision, where the kino.to ringleader was convicted and sentenced to over 4 years in prison, the public prosecutor made the important argument that shutting down kino.to is about ensuring that consumers have access to their shows and movies from trustworthy, safe and legitimate sources.  We sometimes forget that in addition to harming the creative community, mass dissemination of infringing content on the internet also has a negative impact on consumers who are concerned about their privacy and safe internet use and rightly expect to view shows and movies online through safe, legitimate outlets.  The fact is, the operators of sites like kino.to value their own privacy as it is key to their “business” but they have no regard for the privacy or online security of internet users.

Kino.to was the most popular streaming portal site for German-speaking territories with up to 4 million users a day. None of the key operators were modern day ‘Robin Hoods’ who wanted to provide movies ‘free of charge’; their main objective was to make a substantial amount of money mainly through advertising.  The site was incredibly lucrative for its operators: according to some reports the ringleader earned as much as 6 million Euro – obviously none of this money was reinvested back into the new production of content.

The case against the kino.to syndicate was an important milestone, which led to the conviction of all six core members of this criminal group who jointly infringed copyright on a commercial scale.  But most significantly, it paves the way for an internet that works for everyone by clearly recognizing that those who illegally distribute content are not in business for the greater good. The Kino.tv business model worked for its operators who made millions from ads but not for viewers whose privacy was compromised and not for the many thousands of creators and makers whose content was made available for free, denying them the value of their hard work and of the economic incentive to keep creating and making it. Courts in other countries who have taken action against Kino.to and similar sites can take comfort in the fact that their decisions have been proportionate responses to a serious problem that affects society as a whole.

G8 Leaders Commit to Importance of Intellectual Property Rights

by Anissa Whitten 05/25/2012 09:15 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

When the leaders of the G8 countries met last week in Camp David, they addressed major economic and political challenges facing today’s world. The resulting declaration stressed the importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) to stimulate economic growth and jobs.

At the MPAA, we applaud the leaders’ recognition of the critical importance of promoting IP protection worldwide. But make no mistake, this is only a step. The 2.2 million Americans, and millions more globally, whose jobs depend on the film and television industry rely on worldwide content protection to continue to produce the creative product that is a vital part of our economy.

Around the globe, creative industries are raising a united voice on the importance of protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights to further job growth and economic competitiveness.  Without measures to secure creative content, the growth of our industry is threatened on a daily basis.

With new markets opening around the world for the movie and television industry, the time for actively working with other governments to protect and promote IPR has never been more imperative. Our industry is one of the few that consistently generates a positive balance of trade for the United States and we should encourage policies that fuel further growth.

We appreciate the leaders’ recognition of the importance of IPR and look forward to learning of their next steps to improve the protection and enforcement of IPR worldwide.

Keeping the Internet Safe for Consumers

by Marc Miller 05/23/2012 09:46 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Online copyright infringement and piracy used to be the stuff of law school seminars but the ongoing debate in Washington over how to protect intellectual property has thrust these issues into the mainstream conversation.
 
Discussions about anti-piracy efforts now abound in every corner of the Internet amongst people who feel passionately about being able to access content.

I have spent my career working on these issues and I believe it’s critical to find solutions to the challenges facing both these consumers and the people who create the content.  Because at the end of the day, this discussion is about consumers and by consumers who love TV shows and movies.  They want to be able to access them quickly and safely online.
 
As the MPAA’s new head of Internet content protection, it’s my job to make sure consumers can watch their favorite shows and movies in a trustworthy and safe digital environment, while getting high-quality and reliable content. That means creating a legal and technical environment where legitimate outlets can flourish, while finding and putting a stop to the illegal activity that puts consumers and the viability of innovative new business models at risk.
 
No business in the world can compete with “free.”  But make no mistake, many of the movies and TV shows that people think are “free” are not – they’re stolen.  And they often pose a risk to unsuspecting users who think they’re getting some kind of deal from these sites.
 
Identity theft, privacy abuses and computer viruses represent some of the potential dangers consumers unwittingly encounter on these sites. Our focus is on continuing to educate consumers on where they can access great content safely and securely while also ensuring that the work that went into producing this content is not stolen.
 
As platforms for watching content continue to develop and improve, so do legitimate services for providing content.  Just this week, in fact, Verizon announced Viewdini, a new mobile app that will aggregate video and deliver content to consumers. Viewdini is the latest in a long line of services including Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, HBO Go and dozens of others that bring shows and movies to mobile screens across the country and around the world.
 
As consumers of video content increasingly move online, the MPAA is working to let consumers know about the many ways they can watch content online legitimately and safely.

Protecting American Industry by Protecting American Consumers

by Michael O'Leary 05/17/2012 08:10 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Washington Post’s Rob Malda’s recent blog post appears to argue that the success of a particular film at the box office somehow means that concerns about widespread piracy are misplaced.  This is a bit like condoning shoplifting if it’s done at a successful store.  Of course, we shouldn’t.  And it overlooks the economic damage – and the damage to consumers -- of turning a blind eye to such forms of theft. 

According to a recent Department of Commerce report, IP-intensive industries such as film and television support 40 million jobs and add $5 trillion dollars to U.S. gross domestic product annually – nearly 35 percent of America’s economic output.  2.2 million American jobs depend on the film industry and television industry alone. 

We think that the hard work of those people should be protected.  But the reality is that rampant online theft undermines the ability of IP-intensive industries like ours to invest in new ideas and new products if it’s simply accepted fact that they will be stolen – often before they even have a chance to hit the marketplace.  Copyright protections are critical to keeping the creative industries vibrant so they can continue to employ millions of Americans and produce the films and other creative content that have become such a vital part of our cultural fabric.

Finally, in any discussion of online theft, it is important to recognize the threat that sites that traffic in stolen products often pose to the individual consumers who use them.  They put American consumers at risk for identity theft, fraud and damaging privacy violations.  They jeopardize the security of the computers that access them.  They jeopardize the security of users’ personal financial information.  Curbing online piracy means protecting American industry, but it also means protecting American consumers.

More Good News for Creative Community and Consumers Coming from the Netherlands

by Ted Shapiro 05/11/2012 12:54 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The District Court of The Hague (the Netherlands) orders that an additional four ISPs (KPN, UPC, T-Mobile and Tele2) block The Pirate Bay before 20 May 2012.  This is the second major milestone in the Netherlands with regard to blocking this particular file-sharing site, as earlier this year the same court had taken similar action against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL.  What this effectively means is that every ISP in the Netherlands now needs to block The Pirate Bay.

The court verdict found that The Pirate Bay is predominantly devoted to illegal activities with more than 90% of all content infringing on copyright.  Particularly noteworthy is that the court verdict also considers site-blocking an important step to reduce overall infringement, “…without site-blocking infringement cannot be tackled effectively …”


In a second legal case against the Dutch Pirate Party, the District Court of The Hague found the Dutch Pirate Party responsible of facilitating active circumvention of The Pirate Bay block and ordered it to stop offering services that allowed continued access to The Pirate Bay.  The court states that this does not infringe upon free speech or the possibility of the Dutch Pirate Party to take part in the political discourse.

The UK ruling and indeed other recent ones in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Finland as well as this one are positive developments that support not only the creative community but also consumers.  The number of sites that offer legitimate creative content continues to increase dramatically.  But to fully enable this growing sector to thrive and provide consumers with content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it, it is imperative that the content not be siphoned off and distributed illegally by those seeking to profit from the work and creativity of others.

Read more here.

Hollywood Created By Pirates?

by TJ Ducklo 05/09/2012 10:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

How did Hollywood become Hollywood? If you ask the operators of The Pirate Bay and their apologists, they’ll say Hollywood was built by a band of pirates, fleeing stringent East Coast patent protections to a free and open land to create at will. This theory conveniently parallels their own existence, as they seek to justify profiting from digital theft.  Spoiler alert: their story is fiction.  Copyhype’s Terry Hart chronicles the origins of the heart of showbiz in a recent piece, debunking the theory that filmmakers’ migration west was to flee enforcement of intellectual property laws.

As Hart points out, the patents at issue were held by the Motion Picture Patents Company, which, through restrictive tie-in agreements and licensing practices, severely impeded independent filmmakers from entering the market.  But the status quo was challenged, and shortly afterwards, the Supreme Court determined that MPPC’s licensing practices give it “a potential power for evil over” movie producers which “would be gravely injurious to th[e] public interest.” This 1917 ruling severely undermined MPPC’s unfair business practices.

So why did so many filmmaker make the trek cross-country to the Golden State? Geography is one good reason, says Hart.

The landscape of Southern California provides a multitude of options for filmmakers when choosing their films’ setting. Weather is another good reason, he adds. The transition from harsh East Coast winters to 70 degrees and sunny was certainly a welcome one for the film community.  Not to mention land was cheaper and labor more available. It seems landscape, climate, and business were all an improvement for creators looking to relocate.

Thus, while the “Hollywood was created by pirates” schtick may be cute, it is a false narrative pressed primarily by copyright opponents as a way to validate online content theft.


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