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.

When It Comes to Jobs: Movies Matter

by Senator Chris Dodd 09/08/2011 13:55 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

When President Obama speaks tonight, America's creative community will, like all Americans, watch and listen and hope that our leaders will come together, help correct the course, and set our economy back on the right track. And, like workers and businesses in every sector, the creative community knows the importance of putting this nation's economy back on its feet and Americans back to work.

We have a long and storied history of promoting and practicing what is great -- and what is possible -- in our nation, and we are confident that the men and women who make American movies, television shows, and other creations will be part of the ultimate solution.

While people are familiar with the big screen and the red carpet; the Oscars and the Hollywood sign, they might not be aware of what the American creative film and television community means in terms of jobs. In a struggling economy that has 9% unemployment, the U.S. film and television industry stands out as a unique and worthy asset to the American economy. We have weathered hard times and grown while keeping our products affordable and creating new jobs in every region of the country.

Over 2.2 million Americans are employed as a result of film and television production. Those jobs result in $137 billion dollars in wages to hard working, mostly middle class, men and women each year. These jobs are not just in California and New York. Motion picture and television production occurs in ALL 50 states; states such as Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Mexico, Utah and my home state of Connecticut. In many of these states, infrastructure is being built to support production and local workforces of skilled technicians are developing.

And when production comes to a local community it means business not only for those whose work centers on film and TV, but for caterers, hotels, dry cleaners, and lumber yards too. These businesses are local and, time and time again, plow the money they make directly back into their communities, generating even more returns from local production. Vendors and suppliers, predominantly small businesses, earn over $38 billion in payments annually from the film and television industry.

Films and television series produced in America are also a leading export and help the United States remain competitive around the globe. For the three-year period of 2007 to 2009, the production industry generated a $36.4 billion trade surplus.

The coming year will bring a great debate about the best, most cost-effective way to produce new jobs and protect those we now have. Our voice in this debate will be clear: the craft of making films and television series is clearly worthy of our efforts to protect jobs here at home and to grow even more as the economy recovers. While America's creative film and television community is indeed thriving, the global economic downturn remains a serious challenge today -- and an inescapable threat in the future -- to us, as it does to most American businesses.

Further, the threat posed by theft of the products we create, by thieves both foreign and domestic, is real and has a direct impact on the millions of jobs created by our community. When people steal film or television, it is these workers that suffer.

Fewer jobs are created and health and pension benefits are harmed. Strong protections for intellectual property will help sustain a craft that historically and consistently makes such a valued contribution to America's economy.

So while our leaders in Washington spar over how best to resolve this crisis, we can never lose sight of the enormous good film and television production brings to our country and to our people -- a source of well-paying jobs for hardworking men and women, of valuable trading opportunities, of astonishing technological innovation, and of stories that endure forever.

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

Our Thoughts on Google's Progress Report on Copyright Protection Efforts

by Michael O'Leary 09/02/2011 13:27 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Google’s progress report today on its steps to curtail content theft online is very encouraging for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on film and television production.  For creators racing the clock to respond to deluges of illegal copies of their works online, the notice-and-takedown process can’t be fast enough, and revisions to auto-complete and AdSense that deter piracy are commendable changes.  If these efforts have indeed shown progress, they are undoubtedly steps in the right direction.

But here’s the real question: can Google and the tools it provides be conveniently and easily used to locate illegal content online?  Unfortunately, the answer is still "yes."  Clearly more needs to be done, and we look forward to working with Google to address these challenges as it continues to refine its approach. 

In particular, we would welcome Google to join the hundreds of other businesses, workers’ groups, trade associations, and law enforcement officials that support federal legislation – such as the PROTECT IP Act – aimed at preventing access to foreign rogue websites that serve up unauthorized content.  Notwithstanding Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s pledge earlier this year to "fight" this measure, we believe it could have a truly significant impact on online content theft.

Salute to Costume Designers

by Jessica Garcia 08/26/2011 15:26 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Think about Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Iron Man. What do all of these films have in common? Great costumes, of course! The wardrobes in these films all created a unique personality, atmosphere, and setting. Costumes, and especially those who make them, deserve special recognition for enhancing our movie-watching experience. 

In its new “Give Credit” campaign, Creative America is celebrating the many unique professions that make up our entertainment community week by week. This week, they’re highlighting costume designers, the inventors and creators of the stylish, beautiful, whimsical, and pitch-perfect clothes we’ve seen in our favorite movies, television shows, and theatrical productions. We’re happy to join Creative America in saluting the hardworking costume designers of our entertainment industry.

Meet Janie Bryant, costume designer for award-winning television series, Mad Men. Learn about her job, how she started in the business and why she loves it. She is one of thousands of designers dependent on film and television production to make a living.  One important way we can support her hard work is to help protect her job by standing up against content theft, which drains wages and benefits for the many people behind the scenes of great movies and TV shows.

As we learned from legendary award-winning designer Edith Head, fashion is an intricate layer of every character, always carefully designed to be seamlessly woven into every plotline. Like Edith before her, Janie is setting trends in fashion today.  We need Janie Bryant and others like her to follow in Edith’s footsteps by continuing to create timeless costumes for our films and television programs. After all, what would Scarlett be without her curtain-rod dress or Dorothy without her ruby red slippers? The Joker without his colorful suits or Indiana Jones without his brown fedora hat?

Check out CreativeAmerica on Twitter and Facebook to #GiveCredit and share your favorite costumes of all time!


Content Theft and the People Who Make the Movies

by Jessica Garcia 08/25/2011 11:57 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Imagine going to work for a full day but only receiving half a paycheck. That hardly seems fair, right? You put in the hours, you did your job – you deserve to receive your full paycheck. 

But for many people who work in motion pictures, the rampant theft of films, TV shows, and other creative content online means it doesn’t always work that way. 

Take 127 Hours, for example.  This film, an Academy Award nominee for Best Motion Picture of the Year and numerous other honors, was seen at least 9.4 million times at the box office around the world based on data from Rentrak Corporation and Box Office Mojo. But in 2011 alone, 127 Hours has been downloaded illegally 6.6 million times through BitTorrent and other key P2P applications, according to Peer Media Technologies.

The TV show Game of Thrones is another powerful example.  Game of Thrones was watched by 3.9 million people in the U.S. during its finale in June according to Nielsen Media Research – but illegally downloaded using BitTorrent and other P2P protocols 1.4 million times in the U.S. and 11 million times worldwide in 2011, Peer Media says.

Creating a film or television series requires a lot of time, money and labor. No creative work could reach completion without the collaboration of many people – including some you may not expect.  Truck drivers, caterers, dry cleaners, make-up artists, accountants, and so many more can all be part of keeping a production running effectively and making a great movie.

The film and television industry supports over 2 million American jobs, all dependent on movie and TV making, in ways big and small, to earn a living and support their families.  And often, most of the money that goes into paying those workers and helping them save for retirement comes not from the box office, but from what’s called the after market – sales of movies and TV shows online, on DVD, in syndication, and so on. 

So when someone downloads or streams a movie on an unauthorized site that pays nothing to the people who made the movie, instead of through a legitimate source, that means workers and their families end up with less. 

If the people who viewed 127 Hours or Game of Thrones by downloading illegally had watched in legitimate ways instead, just imagine what a difference that might have made.

When you think about content theft, consider this: every time you buy a theater ticket or DVD, or watch filmed entertainment from a legitimate, authorized source, you are helping to support more than 2 million workers involved in our industry.

Categories: Content Protection, Job Production


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