This article is a report on the controversial Anti-piracy bill. On October 13, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the bill into law. This particular bill greatly stiffens penalties for movie and music piracy on a federal level. The law itself creates a new position or "intellectual property czar," who will directly report to the President concerning ways in which copyright law can be better protected both domestically and internationally. Previously, the Justice Department had contended that the new position would greatly undermine its authority. The law also makes criminal laws against piracy more tough. There is significant worry though that this new law risks the punishment of innocent people. It is interesting to note that the MPAA strongly backed this bill. The passing of this bill shows how ineffective some of the past legislation has been on curbing film piracy. If past laws and case ruling had made enough of an impact, then this new, and aggressive, law would not have been needed. Even though such groups as the MPAA have been making fervent efforts to curb film piracy, it is simply not enough.
The cases of DVD-CCA (DVD Copy Control Association) vs. Bunner, and DVD-CCA versus Pavlovich are closely related, but rendered different outcomes In both cases, the DVD-CCA was suing because their secret computer program, DeCSS, was posted on the internet for the public to take advantage of at their will. This DeCSS code, allows people to play an encrypted DVD on a non-CSS compatible DVD player or drive. In the DVD-CCA's case against Bunner, they targeted Bunner for making the DeCSS computer program on his website. The court found Bunner innocent, citing the fact that restraining computer programs from distribution is anear impossibility. Since the program had already circulated worldwide when Bunner posted it, he could be found at fault. In the DVD-CCA's case against Pavlovich, they targeted Pavlovich for the same reasons as Bunner. The court ruling was different concerning this case though because they decided that since Pavlovich was a Texas resident, he could not be forced to attend trial in the state of California. This decision developed jurisdiction lines for claims against posting information on the internet. These two particular cases were only the highlights of the hundreds of others that the DVD-CCA filed against other citizens who posted the DeCSS code on their websites. These cases show how difficult existing copyright law can make the prosecution of certain acts that may in fact lead to mass piracy.
In Donna Wentworth's 2004 Op-ed piece, "Dumb and Dumber: Why the Movie Industry Shouldn't Do as the Recording Industry has Done" strongly cautions Hollywood to stray away from actions taken by the music industry regarding file sharing. Wentworth points out that in 2003, movie studios profited heavily from the $41.6 billion in revenues, and enjoyed the second largest culmination of box office totals ever. Wentworth is mystified as to why the industry, and specifically the MPAA, is so worried that film piracy will destroy their business. According to her, the 6,000 lawsuits filed by the recording industry to target file sharing did little to impede illegal music downloads. The "pre-emptive strike agenda," as Wentworth calls it, will likewise be a lost cause in suppressing the prevalence of peer-to-peer file sharing, and will alienate the consumer. Wentworth goes on to reference the famous case concerning VCR use and copyright. The fact that the VCR was deemed legal in all homes allowed for Hollywood to restructure their business model, and reap the profits from VHS rentals. Wentworth also says that the digital age is no different as DVD's often make more money than their box office total. Though Wentworth makes some interesting points, I think that her statements leave a lot of statistical information to be desired. MPAA statistics show that the movie business is in fact suffering in the billions for online film piracy. This doesn't mean that the industry will go out of business in its entirety, but it does effect the output of films significantly. No doubt, the carbon copy superhero and animated films will still be green-lit, but it is the independent and more artistic films that will suffer.
Mary Erickson’s article gives an in depth examination of the MPAA’s involvement in Congressional committee hearings pertaining to piracy and copyright issues since 1976. In her paper, Erickson concentrates on witness testimonies of varying MPAA reps at copyright and piracy related hearings. Her main goal throughout the paper is to look at how and why the “interest groups” influence the policy decisions with their witness testimonies (Erickson 1). Her findings suggest that witness testimonies often have little or no affect on Congressional policy decisions, unless it is a celebrity witness. Erickson’s paper encompasses a number of informative statistics concerning the MPAA, and specifically outlines the MPAA’s “four-pronged approach to combating piracy” (Erickson 8). nsight is also given as to what compromises the legislative committee and its hearings, including the MPAA’s participation in Senate and House hearings. Erickson's article gives a different perspective on how the MPAA handles anti-piracy legislation, instead of simply what they cover during a hearing. It is important to see how the MPAA either effectively or ineffectively goes about trying to thwart piracy in the film industry.
The case of MGM (backed by MPAA and RIAA) versus the peer-to peer file sharing Grokster is one of the most important copyright infringement cases in recent times. The case came about because MGM thought that both Grokster.com and StreamCast.com were liable for copyright damages due to their supposed encouragement of illegally sharing movies. Both Grokster and StreamCast were actively marketing particular software that aided in the downloading of both pirated movie and songs. The two sites targeted the earlier ruling in the Supreme Court 1985 Betamax as their defense. The Betamax ruling asserted that VCR manufacturers are not responsible for a VCR users who copy movies illegally. The Supreme Court ended up ruling against Grokster and StremCast, saying that they could not hide behind a the 1985 Betamax ruling because unlike the VCR companies, they were actively promoting file sharing. The fact that the Supreme Court wholly disregarded a past copyright ruling is poignant, because previous rulings on copyright legislature are often factored heavily into new decisions. Two other points make this case specifically interesting. Firstly, the Supreme Court highlighted the fact that although file sharing tools have the ability to be used illegally, the file sharing software itself and the activity of file sharing is not considered to be illegal. Secondly, they state that the manufacturers of the specific file sharing products cannot be held responsible for how users choose to proceed once they have access to the software. The one exception is when the manufacturer actively promotes or encourages infringement. Ironically, it seems that although Hollywood thought that they scored hugely in this case, file sharers actually profited from this case as, ultimately, it was decided that file sharing itself is not illegal.
In 2004, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) set out to complete a study on film piracy through the L.E.K. consulting group. The goal of this study is to asses the film industry's U.S. and international losses, as well as the specific demographics who are to blame for the rise in film piracy. The resulting statistics are the most in depth to date, in 2004, and focus on three main issues: the losses incurred because of both internet and hard goods piracy, the cost that piracy inflicts upon both domestic and international industries, and a demographic overview of the typical piracy culprit. According to the the findings in this study, MPAA studios lost $6.1 billion because of piracy in 2005. 62% of the $6.1 billion comes from piracy of hard goods, such as DVD's, and 38% comes from internet piracy. Out of the $6.1 billion, $4.8 billion was lost to international piracy, and $1.3 billion to United States piracy. The MPAA further breaks down the loss noting that, approximately $2.4 billion was lost to bootlegging, $1.4 billion to illegal copying, and $2.3 billion to internet piracy. Demographically, the average piracy perpetrator is a 16 to 24 year old urban dwelling male. Specifically, College students located in the U.S., Korea, and Hungary are extremely high contributors to film piracy. The 16 to 24 year old age range accounts for 71% of people who are downloading film. The MPAA's statistical breakdown gives hard evidence as to how prevalent film piracy has in fact become. It also helps to pinpoint the greater effect such piracy has on the Hollywood and worldwide film industries. In addition, the new statistical information provided forces policy makers and policy enforcers to regard film piracy as an important and substantial issue.
This legal complaint was filed on November 16, 2004 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) against "the people," or the unknown offenders of piracy in the U.S. It is important to clarify that it was the MPAA who filed the complaint on behalf of the studios it represents. The Document is outlined by three different sections: 1) Jurisdiction and Venue, 2) Parties, and 3) Count I: Infringement of Copyrights. The document references itself as, "a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States." The complaint also states that the MPAA is targeting the Defendant (the people) for specific film piracy actions such as distributing and offering to distribute copyright works via the internet. A particularly informative portion of the "Parties" section of the formal complaint consists of a description of how the Plaintiffs (the studios) are affected by the Defendant. Described in this section is the fact that piracy allows people to freely and illegally obtain unauthorized copyrighted works. The Defendant then has the ability to distribute the illegal copy in near perfect condition regarding both sound and picture quality. The Plaintiff's main argument here is that just one copy of a film can cause an explosion of illegal distribution worldwide by limitless people. Included under the Infringement of Copyrights is an equally as informative explanation of willful process of the Defendant's piracy acts, and how the court should go about punishing those said acts. This formal complaint document shows how Hollywood is reacting to the piracy movement, and what measures they are taking to fight against it.
Kerry Segrave's book Film Piracy in the Motion Picture Industry dedicates its entirety to my topic. Segrave's research though, extends significantly farther back into the history of film than I will be including in my analysis. She provides a wide berth of information about past and present domestic film issues as well as specific international ones. Chapters 6, "Domestic Piracy, 1975-2001," and 7, "Foreign Piracy, 1975 to 2001," are laden with the utmost pertinent material for my research. In these two chapters, Segrave goes into exquisite detail, not only providing an enormity of statistics, but also documenting vast amounts of specific legal action taken to prevent film piracy over sixteen years. Segrave's in depth method of relaying information allows me to get more than just a surface level understanding of Hollywood's constant struggle concerning film piracy. Her attention to detail regarding legislative measures and the strategic moves made by Hollywood to suppress piracy will add substantial support to my own analysis.
Shujen Wang's article, "Recontextualizing Copyright: Piracy, Hollywood, the state, and Globilization" provides a careful analysis of the copyright and piracy issues in the Hollwyood film industry while framing it in relation to the global impact. Wang does this by endeavoring to answer four major issues surrounding the issue of piracy and copyright in film. This article gives a much less centralized argument about my topic's issue, as it touches more on a general overview, though still focusing on the essentials. It allows me to step back and look at my research in a more broad sense. One crucial aspect that Wang brings up is the existence and role of the Motion Picture Export Association of America (MPEAA), which my other sources have left out. Throughout the article, Wang provides a more grounded view of issues concerning how and why the copyright issues have infiltrated our society so egregiously. He adds a certain complexity to the arguments surrounding film piracy that is difficult to find on other research regarding my topic. In addition, his conclusion touches on some of the more open ended questions of film piracy that I hope to answer in my research paper.
This particular case involved Universal City Studios and the Sony Corporation of America, and is most often referred to as "the Betamax case." In 1976, Sony introduced their Betamax VCR, and used the machine's ability to record television as a marketing strategy. Universal City Studios countered that Betamax's technological ability to copy programming for was a direct copyright infringement. Sony argued that their consumers had the right to record various programs in the privacy of their own home. Rulings and appeals were traded back and forth until the case reached the Supreme Court in 1984 The Court eventually ruled that the company itself could not be held accountable for its creation of a new technology, even if said technology is used for specific infringements of copyright law. As long as the technology can be used for legal purposes, then the manufacturer is not at fault for any user infringements. The court's reasoning behind this ruling was that the public should not be deprived of a productive technology simply because some users choose to use the product unlawfully. This case may in fact be the most important copyright infringement case in regards to how it affects and influences the decisions made regarding piracy and, specifically, peer-to-peer file sharing. Another extremely famous case of MGM versus Grokster used the ruling of this case to argue in their defense. It provides a great point of reference for my paper, as it shows the way in which the early beginnings of piracy were dealt with on a legislative basis.