Advanced Television

MPA plans movie piracy crackdown

April 11, 2024

By Colin Mann

Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, has confirmed the body will work with Members of Congress to enact judicial site-blocking legislation in the US.

Delivering a State of the Industry address at CinemaCon 2024 in Las Vegas, Rivkin noted that in 2023, box office was up 20 per cent from the previous year in the US and Canada, and nearly 30 per cent abroad.

“Even with that steady recovery, we can’t shy away from the stark challenges of this moment,” he warned. Nor can we ignore this time of volatility in our industry. Yet none of us should fear that uncertainty. After all, we work in a business where unexpected twists can make for an epic story where the unpredictable can breed renewed bursts of creativity. We understand the stakes. We recognise the need to do everything possible to ensure the enduring health of cinema.”

“And we know that the only way to reach our common goals is by working together – the creative minds who develop the films, the studios who produce them, the union workers who make them, and the theatres who share them with the world. As a partner in that cause, the MPA focuses on two pillars: Protecting content and the people who produce it. And by doing so, ensuring the creative forces of this industry can reach even bigger audiences worldwide,” he asserted.

“Today, our job involves another plotline countering a central threat to the security of workers, audiences, and the economy at large: Widespread, digital piracy,” he stated.

“Now, I’ve talked about piracy here before. This problem isn’t new. But piracy operations have only grown more nimble, more advanced, and more elusive. These enterprises are engaged in insidious forms of theft, breaking laws each time they steal and share protected content. These activities are nefarious by any definition, detrimental to our industry by any standard, and dangerous for the rights of creators and consumers by any measure. Remember – these aren’t teenagers playing an elaborate prank. The perpetrators are real-life mobsters … organised crime syndicates – many of whom engage in child pornography, prostitution, drug trafficking, and other societal ills,” he said.

“They operate websites that draw in millions of unsuspecting viewers whose personal data can then fall prey to malware and hackers. In short, piracy is clearly not a victimless crime. Across the globe, it undermines everyone who works in production – actors, directors, writers, carpenters, craftspeople, and more. In the US alone, it steals hundreds of thousands of jobs from workers and tens of billions of dollars from our economy, including more than one billion in theatrical ticket sales. Let me repeat that last point: in an average year, online piracy costs your theatres more than one billion dollars at the box office.”

“We each have a vested interest in defeating this menace. And meeting this challenge is one of the MPA’s core priorities,” he declared. “Two years ago, at CinemaCon, I told you about key tools in this battle. First was our Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, or ACE as we call it, which has grown substantially since then and now has nearly 60 members throughout the world – all collaborating with local law enforcement authorities and global cybersecurity experts to identify and investigate illegal piracy operations.”

“Second was our Trusted Partner Network, or TPN, which now features almost 1,000 partners – all working to secure content along every step of the journey from script to screen. These initiatives are vital – and very effective. But this danger continues to evolve – and so must our strategy to defeat it. So today, here with you at CinemaCon, I’m announcing the next major phase of this effort: the MPA is going to work with Members of Congress to enact judicial site-blocking legislation here in the United States. For anybody unfamiliar with the term, site-blocking is a targeted, legal tactic to disrupt the connection between digital pirates and their intended audience. It allows all types of creative industries – film and television, music and book publishers, sports leagues and broadcasters – to request, in court, that internet service providers block access to websites dedicated to sharing illegal, stolen content.”

“Let’s be clear: this approach focuses only on sites featuring stolen materials,” he noted. “There are no grey areas here. Site-blocking does not impact legitimate businesses or ordinary Internet users. To the contrary: it protects them, too. And it does so within the bounds of due process, requiring detailed evidence establishing a target’s illegal activities and allowing alleged perpetrators to appear in a court of law,” he noted, pointing out that this was not an untested concept. “Site-blocking is a common tool in almost 60 countries, including leading democracies and many of America’s closest allies. What key player is missing from that roster? Take a look at the map behind me. It’s us! There’s no good reason for our glaring absence. No reason beyond a lack of political will, paired with outdated understandings of what site-blocking actually is, how it functions, and who it affects.”

“Yet experiences worldwide have now answered these concerns and taught us unmistakable lessons: Site-blocking works. It dramatically reduces traffic on piracy sites. It substantially increases visits to legal sites,” he stated, describing it as “a powerful tool” to defend what our filmmakers create and what reaches your theatres.”

He noted that back in 2012, there were claims that site-blocking would ‘break the Internet’. “Well, I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but even after site-blocking became commonplace around the world, the internet is doing just fine,” he suggested.

“Back then, we heard concerns about the potential use of site-blocking to stifle free speech. Well, that’s something we take seriously in an industry that embraces an unflinching commitment to the First Amendment. But again, real-world experience proved those dire predictions wrong. Examples of free speech violations are practically non-existent. Safeguards exist to ensure the protection of everyone’s legal rights. We can get this done – and do it right. And even if Members of Congress can’t seem to agree on much these days, surely they can find common ground on action to protect American businesses, defend American workers, and strengthen our public safety. It’s long past time to bring our laws in line with the rest of the world,” he admitted.

Categories: Articles, Business, Content, Piracy, Policy, Regulation, Rights

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