05/01/2012 14:02 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Filmmakers, musicians, software and video game developers, and other creators of content around the world should welcome the latest in a series of rulings from European courts requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to illegal websites.
The High Court in the United Kingdom has ordered ISPs in that country to block access to The Pirate Bay, an illegal website that steals content from across the creative sector, causing widespread damage and threatening jobs in the creative industries. European courts continue to take action against sites that are predominantly devoted to illegal activities, including content theft. The Pirate Bay may be the most notorious of such sites.
The four founders of The Pirate Bay had previously been convicted of criminal copyright infringement in April 2009 in Sweden, a ruling that was upheld on appeal in 2010 and again earlier this year. Even after these criminal convictions, the illegal site continues to function.
Late Friday, in a case brought by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Mr. Justice Arnold ordered five British ISPs to begin blocking access by their subscribers to The Pirate Bay. In issuing this order, Mr. Justice Arnold has joined judges in Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, and Italy, who have issued similar rulings.
These developments are good for content creators, workers in the creative industries, and, ultimately, for consumers. As courts throughout Europe move to shut down avenues of illicit content, they are helping to ensure that consumers will continue to have access to the compelling, legitimate, and virus-free content they want, including popular music, movies, video games and software.
04/13/2012 07:59 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The growing popularity of the Internet around the world and in China presents some of the entertainment industry’s biggest opportunities and challenges. The entertainment industry is committed to innovative ways to give consumers access movies and television shows online but unfortunately piracy is a growing problem globally and in China. As part of this commitment to innovation, an increasing number of movies and television shows are available online in China and many of China’s leading actors and directors are part of a public campaign to thank and encourage consumers to purchase content online through a growing number of legal video sites.
China and the United States are two nations that have an increasing and shared stake in encouraging a healthy, legitimate marketplace for film and other creative works. Both countries appreciate not only the cultural contributions of movies, but also the extraordinary and growing economic opportunities they generate. Internationally, the entertainment industry contributes billions of dollars to the global economy and employs hundreds of thousands of individuals each year.
This week, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a first-ever report on intellectual property industries contributions to the American economy. It clearly shows that the entertainment industry is an engine of economic growth. These businesses, including movies and television, supported the jobs of 40 million American workers, or 27.7 percent of all U.S. jobs.
There are 513 million Internet users in China, more than the entire population of the United States. These users represent 38.3 percent of China’s entire population of 1.3 billion. However, the piracy of content through streaming or the sale of counterfeit DVD and Blu-ray discs on China’s increasingly popular e-commerce sites represents a major loss for the entertainment companies.
On April 11, to encourage consumers to buy content online, the Motion Picture Association together with major Chinese online video sites Youku, Sohu, iQiyi and LeTV unveiled a “Thank You” video featuring nearly 100 of China’s best-known actors and filmmakers. This was part of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s Roundtable on Intellectual Property Rights Protection.
Heeding a call from the Motion Picture Association, China’s film community turned out in droves to deliver personal messages of thanks to the sites’ hundreds of millions of users and to ask for support of legitimate online screen content, with the full backing of China’s burgeoning online video industry.
After many years of outreach to promote the protection of content online, we are now witnessing an increasingly promising online video business environment in China. Promoting and protecting the creative community in China will allow artists and filmmakers to focus on developing ideas and products that meet consumer demand. It is extremely encouraging to see the Chinese film community directly engaging their fellow citizens to support one of China’s most dynamic and culturally important industries.
03/30/2012 13:21 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The motion picture industry, like all major American job creators, is part of a growing and interconnected world economy. But it might be surprising how important foreign movie theater audiences are to the millions of Americans who depend on the motion picture industry for their jobs. What country sells the most movie tickets every year? India -- 3.3 billion tickets to movie theaters. And which country had the largest box office growth last year? China led the way with a 35 percent increase.
The opening of new markets across the world for the motion picture industry is a cultural and economic achievement. Movies contribute to the richness of cultures across the world, with filmmakers from every nation telling interesting and important stories that can only be expressed through the medium of film. And there is nothing like watching a movie in a packed theater. Throughout the world, people are going in increasing numbers to the cinema to have the special experience of seeing a movie on the big screen.
In 2011, global box office receipts increased by three percent to $32.6 billion. Much of that growth was driven by overseas markets. Every international region, from South America to Asia, experienced box office growth. These numbers underscore the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of a trip to the local cinema, which remains one of the most affordable entertainment options for consumers.
I recently traveled to Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai to encourage greater partnership with the film communities in China and India and to encourage more market access for American films.
While in Beijing, I spoke with some of the American and Chinese officials who helped create a landmark trade agreement last month that allows Chinese audiences to see more American movies. This agreement significantly increases the number of American films allowed to be shown in movie theaters in China and provides a larger share of revenue for U.S. film companies.
China is of great importance to American filmmakers. The marketplace for American movies is thriving with the strongest growth in overseas markets, especially China. The Chinese box office had, by far, the largest growth of any major market in 2011 and is the second largest overseas market behind Japan.
Like America, India is a nation where movies matter. They enrich the culture while creating a more vibrant economy that helps the prosperity of the Indian middle class. In Mumbai, I spoke with many Indian government officials along with film and entertainment industry leaders at the FICCI FRAMES conference about the rapid growth of the Indian motion picture industry. Two years ago it was a $3.2 billion industry. Two years from now it is estimated to exceed $5 billion, which is truly incredible growth.
The box office in India is also growing. Last year, there were $1.4 billion in ticket sales, the fifth largest box office receipts in the world.
The expansion of theater audiences is good for the economy in America and around the world. Many movies make from half to seventy percent of their box office revenue in foreign markets. This helps grow an industry on which over 2.2 million Americans depend for their jobs. And this industry is one of the few that consistently generates a positive balance of trade for the United States.
I look forward to another year of great movies and strong box office growth throughout the world. Innovation and technology continue to be a driving force for the motion picture industry. Movie theaters are filled across the globe with people excited about great films and new technology that enhances the movie going experience.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
01/30/2012 12:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The vigorous online piracy debate produced a critical consensus: stopping foreign criminals who profit from stolen creative content and counterfeit goods on their websites is important to protecting jobs and American intellectual property. Doing nothing is an option that has been taken off the table. Each day we fail to act, American jobs are placed at risk and more consumers will face serious dangers on the Internet, including unknowingly purchasing counterfeit products.
The question now is what is the best method to target these foreign criminal websites. We believe the legislation sponsored by Senator Wyden and Representative Issa, the OPEN Act, falls significantly short in targeting foreign criminal websites in several ways.
SEARCH ENGINES ALLOWED TO BE PORTALS TO PIRACY. The OPEN Act denies the International Trade Commission (ITC) the authority they already have today to make search engines block infringing websites. Typically, the ITC can stop infringing material from being imported to the U.S. The OPEN Act omits language that requires search engines, like Google, to block “importation” of a link to foreign rogue websites.
IT TAKES TOO LONG TO GET TO THE CRIMINALS. The OPEN Act re-writes a bureaucratic process instead of relying on experienced enforcement by the Attorney General and U.S. Federal Courts who have been successfully moving against criminal websites for years in the U.S., without any claims of breaking the Internet. This new hurdle – going through the ITC – creates a time consuming and costly method for all copyright holders to go after foreign thieves. The ITC takes an average of 18 months before issuing a final decision in a case.
SMALL BUSINESSES & ARTISTS ARE HURT MOST. The ones who are especially hurt by this new bureaucracy: American artists and small businesses, who will not have the means to come to Washington, DC to cut through the red tape to stop these thieves from stealing their content and goods.
IT DOES NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS. The bill does not contain language to block dangerous goods, such as counterfeit drugs, from the American marketplace. It allows criminal foreign websites to continue to be a threat to American consumers.