Copyright Drives Innovation

by Michael O'Leary 11/14/2013 13:30 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Today, copyright is driving innovation throughout the growing digital economy, and promoting a robust, competitive environment that constantly generates new sources of entertainment for audiences to enjoy.  This in turn supports investments in the many related applications, devices and other technologies that viewers use to access this content with increasing ease and flexibility. To help spur this creativity and innovation, I believe that the primary goal of policymakers who are reviewing copyright should be to preserve and expand the incentives in the law that have produced this unprecedented success for consumers.

I made this argument in comments filed on behalf of the MPAA as part of a proceeding by the Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration regarding their Green Paper, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.”  A copy of these comments can be found here.

There are now over 90 legitimate web-based services in the U.S. to watch movies and TV shows, and that number is growing every single day --services like Netflix, UltraViolet, HBO GO, Hulu, Crackle, WatchESPN, Amazon Prime to name a few.  The entire list can be found at These services let audiences connect to the content they love easier than ever before, and creators in both the content and technology sectors are devoting substantial time and resources to creating new, easier ways to access this content.

But in order to maintain this tremendous growth in innovation and technology, everyone in the digital ecosystem must do their part to protect the rights of creators and innovators.  The growth in access to digital content and to the Internet has been world-changing for consumers.  And I believe that all  stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem—whether search engines, advertising networks, payment processors, or cloud storage providers – share a responsibility to curb abusive practices online, including copyright infringement, and help create an Internet that works for everyone.

That means finding ways of working together in good faith on voluntary solutions where everyone shares in the responsibility of creating a healthy digital marketplace for the exchange of ideas, goods, and services; one that promotes creativity, investment, innovation and job creation.  

The motion picture and television industry is made up of media and technology companies.  They invest billions of dollars every year in creative talent, skilled workers, and supportive technologies. They produce movies and television programs that inspire, thrill, and educate audiences around the world while supporting 1.9 million jobs all across the country. They are responsible for 108,000 businesses across all 50 states, 85 percent of which employ fewer than 10 people. In 2011, the industry supported $104 billion in wages; $16.7 billion in sales tax, state income tax, and federal taxes; and a $12.2 billion trade surplus.

None of this would be possible without a robust, effective copyright system. And we must ensure that it remains the economic and innovation driver that it was intended to be.  

Celebrating Cinema's Broad Reach at the Tokyo International Film Festival

by Michael O'Leary 10/22/2013 08:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This week, the 26th annual Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is drawing artists and filmmakers from all across the world to Japan to celebrate this remarkable art form that is loved throughout the globe. On Monday,  I had the opportunity to speak to the men and women attending this year’s festival about the ongoing innovations and technological developments that are transforming the world of film and television.

As I told the TIFF audience, thanks to new technology and the massive power and reach of the Internet, we now have the ability to watch the movies and television shows we love in more ways, on more devices than ever before.  And in an increasingly connected world, where more and more people are gaining access to broadband Internet, the online marketplace is showing itself to be a truly vital one.

Today, there are over 400 unique online services throughout the world that viewers can use to legitimately watch full-length films and TV shows.  In Japan alone, there are more than 30 services including Hulu, GyaO! (Yahoo!), Nico Nico Douga (niwango) and Youku Tudou. And this explosion of innovative viewing options is continuing on a daily basis as members of our industry, along with the tech industry, are working to develop still more new and innovative legitimate platforms for delivering the content audiences want to watch. 

Basically, thanks to the imagination of creators and engineers alike, no matter who you are, what you want to see, or how and where you want to watch, there is a service for you. 

And the business models that support these services are equally varied – you can pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited access, you can pay only for the movies or shows you want to see, or you can watch on sites supported entirely by advertising – and everything in between.

The choices that these new platforms and services are creating go beyond just the viewing experience – they also give the creators and distributors of content entirely new avenues for getting their work in front of audiences.  These opportunities allow creators to experiment with how they make and distribute their work, expanding our understanding and appreciation of the art of the motion picture, and leading to a filmmaking revolution that is creating bolder storytelling from new voices and top talent, both in front of and behind the screen. And many of those fresh new voices and top talent are on display this week in Tokyo.

But just as important as these new opportunities are for the creation of new methods for creating stories on screens both large and small, these new online distribution methods are helping to ensure that talented people creating these films and TV shows that audiences love are compensated for their work.

Millions of people around the world make a living working in this industry – from the set-builders, costume makers, and special effects creators behind films like the ones at TIFF, to those working in television, home video, and online distribution.  And legitimate online distribution models not only create jobs themselves, they contribute to the entire process of film and television production, ensuring that everyone involved in a production are paid for their work.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy in today’s online world to make different choices, harming rather than supporting these jobs, the industry, and the economy. 

As an industry, we know we must continue to strive to provide more options to consumers so that they can view our content when they want it, where they want it.  Many others in the Internet ecosystem are stepping up to the plate too, working towards voluntary solutions that will help foster creativity and innovation. 

It’s not a short road, nor an easy one.  But in the long term, the growth of legitimate online services will not only enhance existing services and new ones, but it will mean less infringement, more high-quality content for audiences, and solid, steady, well-paying jobs for those who make their careers in the film and television industry around the globe.

For those who love film, this really is a very promising and exciting time for the industry and our audiences around the world. These online distribution services are opening up new opportunities for both traditional and innovative forms of filmmaking that were unthinkable just a few short years ago.  And although we clearly have more work to do, both to improve the quality and access to online models in places like Japan and others, the MPAA and the studios that we represent are committed to continuing to create new and innovative ways for audiences to view our content online when they want it, where they want it, and on the devices they want to view it on.



Federal Task Force Offers a Vision of a Digital Future that Encourages Creativity and Copyright Protection

by Michael O'Leary 07/31/2013 12:47 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Department of Commerce today released an interagency task force report reaffirming the importance of the creative sector, including movies and television shows, in helping to drive the U.S. economy. The report urges all stakeholders, including search engines, ad networks and others to play a role in curbing piracy.

Entitled “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy,” the study was launched in April 2010.  In an accompanying message, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker notes that “copyright intensive industries contributed 5.1 million jobs and grew by 46.3 percent between 1990 and 2011, outpacing other IP-intensive industries as well as non-IP intensive ones. This vital contribution is a tribute to the Founders’ vision in providing for the protection of creative works.”

Secretary Pritzker continues by articulating the cultural value carried by copyrighted work: “The reasons to protect creative works go well beyond the economic benefit. America’s writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, sculptors and other creators make up the lifeblood of our culture, build new stores of knowledge, and shape how we see ourselves – and how the world sees us as well. Their influence extends beyond our borders; our copyrighted works weave a compelling narrative of the opportunity and possibility of America, and continue to be at the forefront of the global creative marketplace.  We must continue to nurture such extraordinary creative resources.”

The study notes that “digital technology and networks have had a profound effect on how copyrighted works are delivered to the public. … Individuals can now access creative works through an increasing variety of legitimate online platforms.” The report also calls on the entertainment industry to help educate the public about new online platforms - something, the task force points out, the MPAA has already begun doing with the establishment of our website,, which provides a guide to the growing number of legitimate online sites offering movies and television shows to consumers.

But at the same time, it recognizes some technological developments have given rise to new methods of mass infringement, adding: “Addressing this problem is vital to maintaining meaningful incentives for producing creative works, ensuring a level playing field for legitimate services, and promoting the broadest offerings of online content.  All stakeholders, from creators to intermediaries to consumers, have an interest in ensuring a healthy online ecosystem. The fundamental question is how best to achieve that end.”

The task force goes on to acknowledge that “there cannot be meaningful protection (of copyright online) without enforcement of rights” and calls for a collaborative effort among stakeholders. As an example, it is suggested that “Search engines can also play a role in stemming the proliferation of online infringement by taking steps that make it less efficient to operate a profitable business. According to surveys, a significant amount of Internet traffic to websites is driven by the first page of search results, and the top results provided by large search engines often include many sites offering unauthorized copyrighted content.” Further, the report praises voluntary efforts like the Copyright Alert System, which was established by the movie and recording industries in alliance with five major Internet Service Providers to alert the consumers when infringing content is being downloaded to their computers, and direct them to legal alternatives.

Finally, the report notes that the Commerce Department – led by the US Patent and Trademark Office and National Telecommunications and Information Association – “has a vision of a digital future in which the relationship among digital technology, the Internet, and creative industries becomes increasingly symbiotic: in which the rights of creators and copyright owners are appropriately protected; creative industries continue to make their substantial contributions to the nation's economic competitiveness; online service providers continue to expand the variety and quality of their offerings; technological innovation continues to thrive; and consumers have access to the broadest possible range of creative content. We believe these goals are compatible and can be achieved together.”

This is a vision that the MPAA can fully share.

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.

OPEN Act Falls Short

by Michael O'Leary 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.

MPAA Response to White House Position on Anti-Piracy Legislation

by Michael O'Leary 01/14/2012 11:58 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We welcome the Administration's clear statement that legislation is needed to stop foreign based thieves from stealing the hard work and creativity of millions of American workers. For too long in this debate, those that seek to preserve and profit from the status quo have moved to obstruct reasonable legislation. While many of the elements mentioned in the White House statement are critically important, we believe, as do others in our coalition, that protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation. We are pleased that Chairman Leahy and Chairman Smith reiterated yesterday that they too support action. So now it is time to stop the obstruction and move forward on legislation.

Our industry not only fully supports free expression, our livelihood is built upon a vibrant First Amendment - it is the foundation of our industry and we would never support any legislation that would limit this fundamental American right.   As had been made clear throughout the legislative consideration of SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Act, neither of these bills implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech.   We agree with Secretary Clinton's recent statement that "There is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement and ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet."

We also share the Administration's desire to encourage innovation. The American businesses that are victimized on a daily basis by global Internet thieves are among the most innovative industries in this nation and we welcome the Administration's support of these American businesses. Every day, American jobs are threatened by thieves from foreign-based rogue websites. This deplorable situation persists because U.S. law enforcement does not have the tools to fight back.

While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted. Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines. They must be part of a solution that stops theft and protects American consumers.

We applaud the continued leadership in the House and Senate for working to enact common-sense legislation to stop foreign websites from stealing American creativity and jobs. Misinformation simply can't be allowed to replace honest debate, and derail the critically important fight to protect American jobs.  We hope the Administration’s role in this debate now will help steer the attention now to what can be accomplished and passed into law to protect American jobs.

On behalf of the 2.2 million Americans whose jobs depend on the film and television industries, we look forward to the Administration playing a constructive role in this process and working with us to pass legislation that will offer real protection for American jobs. The failure to pass meaningful legislation will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America.

Categories: Copyright, Policy


Changes to Stop Online Piracy Act a Step Forward Towards Targeting Criminals and Preserving Jobs

by Michael O'Leary 12/12/2011 15:35 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We applaud Chairman Lamar Smith and the House Judiciary Committee on working with all interested parties to craft measured legislation that targets criminal websites.  This shows that there is broad agreement that doing nothing is not an option.  

We need to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) as soon as possible to preserve American jobs and help grow our economy.  Every day that we don’t act, criminal websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of American jobs and Americans’ hard work, investment and ingenuity.

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright, Policy


Draft Legislation by Rep. Issa and Senator Wyden Goes Easy On Internet Piracy

by Michael O'Leary 12/08/2011 09:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The good news is that Congressman Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden recognize that doing nothing to stop foreign criminals who profit from stolen creative content and counterfeit goods on their websites is not an option.  American jobs are being placed at risk and consumers can face serious dangers from counterfeit drugs and other products, so it is critical that action be taken by Congress.

The bad news is that this draft legislation fails to provide an effective way to target foreign rogue websites and goes easy on online piracy and counterfeiting.  By changing the venue from our federal courts to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders.  It even allows notification to some of these companies if they want to help advocate for rogue websites.

We need action now to preserve American jobs and help grow our economy.  Every day that we don’t act foreign rogue websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of American jobs and Americans’ hard work, investment and ingenuity.  Hopefully, this draft legislation is not just a delaying tactic to prevent Congress from acting quickly on this serious problem.

The PROTECT IP Act, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch and 38 others, and the Stop Online Piracy Act, sponsored by Representatives Lamar Smith, John Conyers and 28 others offer measured, needed solutions to target online theft and counterfeiting by rogue websites.  Few bills have this type of bipartisan support and the backing of businesses and labor groups.  The draft legislation introduced by Congressman Issa and Senator Wyden goes far easier on the criminal enterprises operting these rogue websites than these two bills.

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright


Month List