Report from the Storefront Lines: Van Nuys Shop Frames the Movies

by Alex Swartsel 08/03/2011 08:37 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We talk a lot about the tens of thousands of small businesses all over the country that support film and television production – companies in all kinds of lines of work, from drycleaners to caterers, who count the motion picture industry as one of their many clients. 

Today, we got a closer look into one of those businesses, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.  The Company Town blog has a fascinating story about the U-Frame-It custom framing shop on Sherman Way in Van Nuys, in business since 1988, and the enormous impact of the film industry on its longevity and success. 

Together with her five employees, owner Adriana Cruz has produced frames and cases for films and TV shows including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Spider-Man 3, CSI, True Blood, and Chicago Hope

“Catering to Hollywood has become an increasingly vital source of income to small business owners like Cruz, who have been buffeted by a deep recession and an anemic recovery that has kept ma[n]y consumers from buying discretionary items like picture frames,”  the Times wrote.

“If it wasn’t for the film and TV business, we would be in hot water,” Cruz told the Times – a whopping 75% of her annual revenues come from film production, and she says California’s film tax credit program has helped push her sales up 15% over last year.  The Times reported that even though U-Frame-It’s consumer retail business has fallen by half since 2008, its earnings from movie and TV productions have filled the gap.

It’s a nice reminder that in tough economic times, going to the movies doesn’t just lift our spirits – for many small businesses, it helps lift the bottom line.

New White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime Highlights IP Theft as a Threat to U.S. Competitiveness, Health, and Safety

by Alex Swartsel 07/25/2011 15:11 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

It’s troubling to think that buying a bootleg DVD or some other counterfeit product – whether intentionally or unintentionally – could support the same criminal groups that engage in public corruption, human trafficking, narcotics, and cybercrime.  But a report out from the Obama Administration today underscores that that is, in fact, a very real concern.

The White House today released a new National Security Council Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, the product of a comprehensive study and interagency dialogue on the threat posed by organized criminal networks operating across borders.

The strategy highlighted intellectual property theft and noted that the dollar value of counterfeit goods seized by customs at U.S. ports and mail facilities doubled between 2003 and 2010, from $94 million to $188 million. 

In an Executive Order declaring the threat of organized crime to be a national emergency, President Obama wrote: “Significant transnational criminal organizations that … engage in the theft of intellectual property not only erode U.S. competitiveness, but also endanger the public health and safety through the distribution of tainted and counterfeit goods.”

The strategy includes commitments from the Administration to:

  • Prioritize “us[e of] the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an interagency and international law enforcement task force established in 2000 and led by ICE, to assist with combating intellectual property theft and maintaining the integrity of public health, public safety, the military, and the U.S. economy,”
  • “[P]lace special emphasis on IPR violations and cybercrimes due to their particular impact on the economy and consumer health and safety,” and
  • “Implement the Administration’s joint strategic plan on intellectual property enforcement to target, investigate, and prosecute intellectual property crimes committed by TOC.”

Good for the Administration for calling attention to the connections between intellectual property theft and organized crime, and for reiterating the government’s pledge to take action. 

IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel Calls for International Cooperation on Content Protection

by Alex Swartsel 06/20/2011 15:01 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Check out Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel’s post on the White House blog this morning about her recent trip to Europe, which included stops in Brussels and London.  “Counterfeiting and piracy is a global crime, and it requires a global solution,” she wrote. 

Espinel also mentioned her office’s work here in the U.S. to find collaborative solutions to content protection:  “Over the last several months, my office has been working closely with Internet Service Providers, advertisers, credit card companies, payment processors, search engines, domain name registrars and registries taking voluntary action against online piracy,” she said. “These private-sector companies, as well as foreign governments, recognize that we all have a stake in maintaining a safe and secure global marketplace. I welcome their cooperation and will continue to engage with them as we fight worldwide counterfeiting together.”

We welcome Ms. Espinel back to the U.S. and look forward to continuing to support her work to protect America’s creative community and prevent content theft.

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