03/20/2013 15:52 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The MPAA, together with The Embassy of Israel to the US, The Human Rights Campaign, and A Wider Bridge hosted a screening Tuesday night of “The Invisible Men”, a documentary that sheds light on the largely unknown population of gay Palestinian refugees hiding in Tel Aviv. Winner of several international film festival awards, it has been called a darker “Huck Finn” of the Middle East for its social importance, exposing and personalizing an unpleasant but very real issue of persecution based on sexuality in the region.
The film’s writer, director, and producer Yariv Mozer was on hand Tuesday evening and answered questions following the screening. Mozer has produced more the 15 documentaries, including the award winning “My First War”, a first-person account of the Second Lebanese War, and is currently working on his first feature film “Snails in the Rain”. Mozer said many from his homeland have reacted positively since watching his film:
“I have received numerous phone calls, texts, and Facebooks telling me thank you, saying that I opened their eyes and showed them something happening among them that they did not know.”
The Honorable Dan Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State and Noam Katz, Minister of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel were also present at last night’s screening. Das Baer, in his opening remarks, commented:
“If you look at the Human Rights Reports, the Middle East is a tough place to be gay.” He added “We look forward to continuing to think creatively on how to engage on this issue.”
Katz, in his introduction of Mozer, said that his film has “opened an important dialog within Israeli society and ensures that we are always moving forward.”
“The Invisible Men” has completed a North American tour and is available to buy or rent online at http://www.theinvisiblemenfilm.com/.
Filmmaker Yariv Moze
The Honorable Dan Baer
03/18/2013 05:08 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
This past Thursday's decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject the application of The Pirate Bay founders Frederik Neij and Peter Sunde clearly draws a line in the sand and demonstrates that criminal conduct should result in appropriate and proportionate punishment. Last year, Mr. Sunde and Mr. Neij filed a complaint with the EU Court of Human Rights on the basis that their criminal conviction (for operating TPB) violated their rights of freedom of expression under the Article 10 of the Convention. The EU Court of Human Rights did not see it that way and concluded that the application was “manifestly ill-founded”.
What we have seen in the past is that the term “freedom of expression” has been hijacked by those who operate and provide Internet access to illegal sites under the pretext of doing so for the greater good of society. And the entertainment industry has too often been accused of oppressing freedom of speech because it is trying to protect the artists and creators who have invested time, their creative talent and money in developing films and shows.
It is gratifying to see that the EU Court of Human Rights was not receptive to such an argument and rather focused on the fact that the activity both Sunde and Neij had been convicted for – the distribution of materials most of which protected by copyright – could actually not be equaled to “political expression and debate”.
The concept of “freedom of expression” and what it stands for is far too important to be bantered around and used as a smoke-screen for irresponsible and sometimes even illegal activity on the Internet. And it is certainly not the case that the entertainment industry is seeking to censor the Internet or to stifle free speech. Free expression is the cornerstone of our industry and we would not exist without it.
The Internet is a central part of our lives. Citizens across the world, particularly young people, care about it passionately. So do we. We just want to ensure the Internet works for everyone. We want an Internet where the creative property of artists and creators is protected along with the privacy and security of all users. An Internet where the values society holds dear in the offline world, shape how we interact online. And yes, these include freedom of expression, freedom of information and the freedom to protect the things we create and own.
Today, we are one step closer to achieving such an Internet.
03/13/2013 15:33 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” will be filmed entirely in New York. With scenes shot both upstate and downstate, it is expected to result in 3,500 jobs and the casting of 11,000 extras and will be the largest production filmed in New York to date. Major projects like this with a large economic footprint are the result of a strong production incentive program, which makes New York an attractive place to shoot. In the words of Governor Cuomo, “This production will also help generate new jobs and economic activity both upstate and downstate which is great news for our local communities and fans of the franchise.”
The economic boon to the state is not just limited to the set itself. According to the Governor’s office, the production will require 6,000 hotel room nights in New York State, and will use a number of Long Island-based businesses to supply food and equipment. The estimates on spending range from approximately $279,000 in container rentals to $130,000 in crane rentals to $19,000 for auto parts and more. Put simply, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” will mean money for local communities in New York.
Started in 2004, the production tax incentive program has meant estimated $12.1 billion worth of direct spending for New York and become a significant job generator. In 2012 alone, 134 productions have applied for New York’s production incentive. Gov. Cuomo has now proposed a 5-year extension of the program in this year’s budget.
Gov. Cuomo’s release can be read in its entirety here.
03/13/2013 12:27 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
In his final meeting of the President’s Export Council as the United States Trade Representative yesterday, Ambassador Ron Kirk made a very compelling argument that protecting intellectual property rights both at home and abroad is essential to the continued economic success of our country.
Speaking briefly at the beginning of the meeting, Ambassador Kirk stated that here in the United States “we have a knowledge-based economy and we have to be able to protect that.” As the U.S. Trade Representative the past four years, Ambassador Kirk has been a strong advocate for enforcing the protection of intellectual property rights with our nation’s trading partners. Throughout negotiations on international and trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Kirk and the Obama Administration have been adamant about ensuring “the strongest intellectual property protection that we can possibly seek in these agreements.”
Pointing out that all of the members of the President’s Export Council seated around the table yesterday “as different as [their] businesses are, are all linked by the ability to protect [their] work product,” Amb. Kirk asked for the thoughts and help of the other members of the council to help convey the crucial message to the American public that “if we give away our work product, we just don’t have a future.”
As representatives of an American industry that thrives on innovation and the distribution of content to audiences around the globe, we couldn’t agree more with Ambassador Kirk’s assessment. You can watch the full video of the meeting, including Ambassador Kirk’s remarks, HERE.
02/08/2013 13:12 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Last night public policy experts and mental health professionals gathered at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association for an educational presentation and screening of Silver Linings Playbook, hosted by the MPAA and The Weinstein Company. They were joined by MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd, the film’s director/screenwriter David O. Russell, lead actor Bradley Cooper and former Member of the House of Representatives and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy.
The remarks focused on creating awareness for mental health issues and the role that film and popular culture play in elevating these topics on a national scale. The film Silver Linings Playbook helps to promote awareness by taking an important look at mental illness, and how it affects so many lives – both directly and indirectly. David O. Russell explained how he was drawn to the story of a family struggling to cope with the effects of mental illness because of his own son’s struggles with the disease.
Senator Dodd and Patrick Kennedy discussed their roles in passing laws to help those suffering from mental illness have more opportunities to receive treatment, through the Mental Health Parity Act and the Combating Autism Act.
Dodd: “It takes popular culture, through films like Silver Linings Playbook, to show us not just the struggles but also the joy that can be found in life by those living with these illnesses, and to change the stigma around them.”
Kennedy spoke about the need for films like this in today’s society: “The timing of this is so crucial. The power of this film is so valuable right now.”
Cooper discussed screening the film with soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center the week before and talked about the response the film received from the military and veterans communities.
Russell is best known as the director of many critically acclaimed films, including Three Kings and more recently, The Fighter. Bradley Cooper, most popularly known for his work in The Hangover series, has also appeared in Wedding Crashers, The A-Team and Limitless.
from left to right: David O. Russell,Patrick Kennedy,Bradley Cooper, NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd
Photo credit: Joy Asico
02/07/2013 13:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Three, shiny gold Oscar® statues made their way into the MPAA last night for an evening honoring a giant in the film industry, George Stevens, Jr. Stevens recently received an Honorary Oscar® for his over 50 years of work as a writer, director, producer, and founder of the American Film Institute. Stevens is the son of George Stevens, who won the Academy Award for Best Director for both A Place in the Sun (1951) and Giant (1956). All three Oscar awards were on hand for an evening that featured Stevens discussing his career with current AFI President and CEO Bob Gazelle.
Stevens began his career working with his father on the classic motion pictures Shane, Giant, and The Diary of Anne Frank. In 1962, he was named the head of the U.S. Information Agency’s motion picture division by Edward R. Murrow and more recently, has served as President Obama’s co-chairman of the President Committee on the Arts and Humanities. His most significant contribution to the film industry, however, is arguably his role as the founding director of the American Film Institute, an organization established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to “enrich and nature the art of film in America.” Stevens spoke of the organization’s beginnings last night:
“I never hesitated, never questioned whether this was a good idea or possible. (It had) that energy. Ask not, do it. It was a wonderful adventure, and a tremendous collaboration.”
Gazelle described AFI’s founding in the Rose Garden as an “idyllic moment when the President said we will invest in the arts.” MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd was also in attendance, and described Stevens as a uniquely humble individual who could bridge the gap between Hollywood and Washington. “He was the Democratic Party’s Ronald Reagan,” said Senator Dodd.
Bob Gazelle (left), George Stevens (middle), Senator Chris Dodd (right)
photo credit: Joy Asico
01/24/2013 08:10 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
In the country of Israel, the Israeli Secret Service, known as the Shin Bet, lies at the center of a highly visible and often dangerous clash of cultures. Through groundbreaking interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, filmmaker Dror Moreh explores the conflict through their unique eyes in The Gatekeepers, focusing in on key decisions and actions that have shaped history. The film has already won Best Documentary from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, was an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, and is an Academy Award® nominee for Best Documentary Feature. Moreh shared his thoughts last night with moderator Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm, who is a George Washington University professor with over 30 years of experience as a foreign service officer:
“With this film, I wanted to put a mirror in front of Israeli society. Then they’d have two options. If they didn’t like the mirror, they could just put it away. Or if it was telling them something they didn’t like, they’d be forced to change something fundamental about themselves. I hope people chose the second.”
Moreh is one of Israel’s leading cinematographers, having shot several other feature films including Urban Feel and Desperado Square, which won the Best Film Award at the Montpelier Film Festival. The Gatekeepers, a Sony Pictures Classics film, is set for a limited U.S. release on February 1st.
Gnehm (left) and Moreh (right)
photo credit: Michael Kandel
12/13/2012 12:31 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
This week, Google announced that it will make the data it publishes on the number of DMCA takedown requests it receives downloadable, making it easier for everyone to analyze the information. While we are pleased to see Google take another important step toward meaningful transparency, Google’s reading of the data in the blog post accompanying the announcement is missing some critical perspective: if the process is cumbersome for Google, it is even more cumbersome for the creators and makers who must constantly be on the lookout to protect their work from theft.
There is a staggering amount of copyright infringement taking place every day online and much of it is facilitated by Google, as their own data shows. According to Google, they receive 2.5 million takedown requests per week – and that data does not even include YouTube, where an enormous amount of infringement takes place. That means that by Google’s own accounting, millions of times each week creators are forced to raise a complaint with Google that the company is facilitating the theft of their work and ask that the infringing work or the link to that work be removed. Often, even when the links are removed, they pop right back up a few hours later. That’s not a reasonable -- or sustainable -- system for anyone.
One thing that’s important to make clear in any serious discussion about tackling online theft: absolutely no one is advocating for the restriction of speech on the Internet. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of the Internet, and a cornerstone of the film community, which has spent the last century advocating for artists to be able to express themselves freely on the screen. Removing infringing works online isn’t limiting access to information or ideas, it’s ensuring that the creativity and hard work that went into making a film is encouraged to flourish.
We couldn’t agree more with Google that this data shows that our current system is not working – for creators, or for Google. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that it also confirms the important role that Google has to play in helping curb the theft of creative works while protecting an Internet that works for everyone. We look forward to continuing to work with them to tackle this urgent challenge.