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United We Stand

Piracy a global menace that needs shared commitment to combat

Since I joined the MPAA, I’ve learned a great deal about the film industry—how important it is to the economy, how many hard working people bring the creative visions of this profession and industry to life; how much of an opportunity there is for the film industry to grow and prosper in the future; and lastly how fragile that prosperity can be if we don’t protect the content of the film product.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit sets, studios, and production facilities in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. I’ve also met with filmmakers, exhibitors, distributors and others in our industry in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, China and look forward to my visit to India in the coming year.  What an incredible worldwide business!

One thing I’ve learned over this relatively brief period is that the film industry and profession is pretty good at marketing our products, but there is room for significant improvement in how this industry and profession markets itself.  I intend to make it a significant part of my tenure to change that impression.

So today, I want to touch briefly on and dispel two myths surrounding the film industry.

First: There are some who insist and falsely believe that the motion picture and television industry consists of a leadership that acts like dinosaurs, afraid of new technology and stubbornly refuses to evolve.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  As I’ve met with the visionaries and innovators who are at the heart of our business, I’ve seen an industry on the cutting edge—not only in developing new artistic and commercial content, but in finding new ways to deliver that content to consumers.  Not only are we not intimidated by the future—we embrace it.  Our ability to evolve, and to take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technology, has helped to cement our status as one of the most successful—and economically important—industries in the nation.

Which brings me to the second myth I want to refute.

When people discuss the film industry, too many believe that the only people affected by content theft or other issues that undermine this profession are the ones whose names appear on theater marquees.  They don’t think about the Foley artists I met at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles who provide the sounds for all of that studio’s pictures, and are part of a select fraternity—only 200 of them in the world still doing this.  Most people don’t think about all those who work behind the scenes of a movie set—and they don’t realize that most of these people don’t live in Hollywood.

We in the film industry and all who are connected with it, need to do a much better job of both educating and reminding people that this industry is not just a red-carpet industry, but more importantly a blue-collar industry.

Real people, hard working middle class people…all over this country who earn a living every day in this so called glamorous world of the movie industry.You can call it what you want: piracy, IP theft, content theft—frankly, I call it looting.  When one person breaks the window of a jewelry store and walks away with a handful of rings and bracelets, that’s called a burglary.  When millions of people hijack and steal a product like Rio, I call that looting.  And that’s exactly what’s happening at this very hour we are gathered here, and it is in our collective interests to join together in common efforts to stop it.

The same day we had the premiere of Rio in Hartford, a stolen copy of the film, camcorded from a 3D preview in Russia the day before, showed up on the Internet.  By April 8, the date of the international opening of Rio, an English language audio rip was available, stolen from a drive-in theatre in Australia, where the film had premiered the day before.  And the day before the film opened in U.S. theaters, a new high-quality, English language camcord of Rio was made publicly available.  Within a few hours after that, you could get a stolen copy of Rio in Portuguese, Hindi, German, Italian, French, Spanish,—even Castillan.

In a flash, people around the globe could download Rio without a penny going to Blue Sky or the hundreds of people who worked for months to bring this creative production to life. These are not high paid Hollywood stars—these are, for the most part, middle class people. So the next time someone foolishly suggests that only the well-heeled are hurt by content theft.

There is a reason people want our product bad enough to steal it.  Men, women and children all over the world love movies.  And as we continue to innovate, people everywhere continue to respond.  We are innovating in the technology we use to bring creative visions to life.  Each year, new films come out that not only stretch the boundaries of our imagination with their creativity, but defy our imagination altogether with their technical wizardry.

We are innovating in the experience we offer customers who come to see movies the way they were intended—in the movie theater.  Last year, the number of digital screens in the United States doubled, and one in five dollars spent at the box office now comes from 3D.  Similar growth is happening in India and throughout the world.

Yes, our industry faces major challenges.  And I know that we won’t always agree on exactly which path is the right one to take.  But I can promise you that I won’t let any disagreement or divide overwhelm that shared commitment.  Not on my watch.

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