Paul Brigner, whom the MPAA hired in January 2011 as its chief technology officer, has left the industry’s trade and lobbying organization, CNET reports. He’s now a major critic of legislation championed by the MPAA such as the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act that stalled in Congress earlier this year because of swelling opposition to bills that initially looked like sure bets. “I firmly believe that we should not be legislating technological mandates to protect copyright — including SOPA and Protect IP,” Brigner says. “Did my position on this issue evolve over the last 12 months? I am not ashamed to admit that it certainly did,” Brigner writes in a statement on CNET. “The more I became educated on the realities of these issues, the more I came to the realization that a mandated technical solution just isn’t mutually compatible with the health of the Internet.” An MPAA spokesman had no comment for CNET on Brigner’s about-face. Last month Brigner became director of the North American Regional Bureau of the Internet Society, an organization whose stated goals include “the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone.”
Film piracy has a very little impact on box office results in the U.S. but likely cuts into studio profits overseas depending on the time lag between a film’s American debut and rollout overseas. Those are the surprising conclusions of an extensive study titled “Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales,” spearheaded by Brett Danaher of Wellesley College and Joel Waldfogel at the University of Minnesota and the National Bureau of Economic Research.
While researchers in the study acknowledge an increase in piracy — especially for genres such as science fiction and action films — U.S. audiences still prefer the theatrical experience. The study found that Americans are heading to theaters in about the same numbers they would have otherwise in the absence of piracy, suggesting that perhaps people opt to see a film in a theater despite an initial pass online, or word of mouth from a pirated copy of a film may push others to the multiplex.
Federal officials took down 16 websites today that they say illegally stream live sports and pay-per-view events — three days before the U.S.’ biggest live-TV event the Super Bowl. The government said he sites offered links to pirated telecasts of NFL, NBA and NHL games and wrestling events. A Michigan man has been charged for running a majority of the sites. The news came soon after New England Patriots quarterback said in an interview that he watched last year’s Super Bowl via a pirated web feed. “Last year I was rehabbing my foot in Costa Rica, watching the game on an illegal Super Bowl website,” he said. “And now I’m actually playing in the game. So, it’s pretty cool.” Brady and his Patriots face the New York Giants on Sunday in the NFL’s title game, which last year set an all-time TV record when it drew 111 million total viewers. NBC, which has the game this year, already has taken a step to stomp out piracy by announcing it will stream the Super Bowl live.
Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman acknowledges that it will take time before Congress revisits the anti-piracy bills that Hollywood supported: the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But the one-time lawyer says that studios and their representatives at the MPAA didn’t lose the recent lobby push on the merits of their case. There was “a lot of misinformation” from Silicon Valley, he said today at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Opponents including the tech industry said that the bills giving the government the power to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content could be misused to stifle innovation and free speech. “It became almost religious dogma,” Dauman says. He still considers the proposals to be ”very reasonable”, adding that piracy “makes the standards more difficult in greenlighting a film.”
Looks like Wednesday’s massive Internet protest against the Hollywood-supported anti-piracy legislation worked. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this morning that “in light of recent events” he’s calling off the planned Tuesday vote for the Protect IP Act — which would give government officials the power to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content. Shortly afterward, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said he will ”postpone consideration” of a similar bill — the Stop Online Piracy Act – “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Both lawmakers claim the issue isn’t dead: Reid says that he’s “optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweets: “You’ve been heard. [The Protect IP Act] has been pulled so we can find a better solution.” But the general feeling is that supporters of the legislation will have a hard time getting the bills back on track — and certainly not with the enforcement muscle that Hollywood wants. Here’s Reid’s statement:
The Obama administration may not like the Hollywood-supported anti-piracy bills pending in Congress — but it showed today that it’s prepared to crack down on the pirates themselves. The Justice Department calls its attack on Megaupload — said to be the world’s largest file-sharing site — “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.” Megaupload allegedly made $175M in criminal proceeds and cost content owners, including music and movie companies, $500M in lost revenue. Officials say that seven people and two corporations were involved in “racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.” New Zealand officials today arrested four Megaupload execs: founder Kim Dotcom (also known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor), marketing chief Finn Batato, CTO Mathias Ortmann, and programmer Bram van der Kolk.
It will be interesting to see the ripple effect: Hong Kong-based Megaupload had been endorsed by celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Kanye West. The ad-supported site served as a locker for files considered too big to be emailed; the MPAA says that most of the content there was pirated. But prior to today Megaupload denied the charge: “The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay,” it said in a statement that had been posted on the site. “If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch.” Here’s the Justice Department’s release:
The last remaining co-founder of NinjaVideo.net pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Virginia. The site facilitated illegal downloads of movies and TV shows and took in $505,000 in revenue from ads and donations from users. Justin A. Dedemko, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko’s fellow co-founders Matthew David Howard Smith and Hana Amal Beshara pleaded guilty separately to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement in September. Dedemko was responsible for locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading it to servers used by the NinjaVideo.net website, some of which were located in the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko subsequently focused on marketing and advertising, which resulted in the $505,000 in income. Dedemko admitted he personally received $58,004 and agreed to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for February 24, 2012. He faces a maximum of five years.
A 23-year-old North Carolina man who co-founded a website offering illegal downloads pleaded guilty to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Matthew David Howard Smith admitted that he designed many of the features of NinjaVideo that allowed visitors to grab high-quality downloads of content including movies that had not yet been released in theaters, as well as TV shows. The site went online in February 2008 and was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. An investigation into NinjaVideo is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in conjunction with piracy task force IPR Center. Smith said he had agreements with advertisers for NinjaVideo and that he and others involved in the site collected more than $500,000 between 2008 and 2010. NinjaVideo also invited its users to make donations and in return granted its premium members access to private forums that held more copyrighted material, according to court documents. Smith faces a maximum of five years in prison on each count, and four other alleged co-conspirators associated with the site are headed for a jury trial beginning Feb. 6. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 16.
MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd and News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch both made appearances at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which kicked off over the weekend. And both took different approaches to a mostly contentious relationship between the host country and Hollywood. Dodd gave a keynote speech in front of a number of government officials and Chinese film industry leaders at the fest’s co-production forum, praising China’s strides and mostly playing nice in his official remarks, saying things like, “All the ingredients are there for China’s film industry to become a major player on the world stage, just as China has always been a major player on the world cultural stage.” On the sidelines he was slightly more pointed about what Hollywood sees as serious problems with China — piracy and a restriction on foreign studios distributing movies there — but there was nothing in his speech, for example, about China recently ignoring a WTO-imposed deadline to open its borders to foreign-distributed fare. Dodd’s explanation when pressed by the Associated Press: ”I will not ignore the concerns that Hollywood has raised for years, but I will not fail as well to acknowledge and indeed celebrate, if you will, the progress we have made.” He added, “I’ve been around long enough to know that … if I’m going to have a productive conversation with you about something, I’m not going to start off by punching you in the nose.” Meanwhile, Murdoch …
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation to provide the Justice Department with new tools to crack down on the theft and distribution of illegal digital movies, television shows and other counterfeit material by rogue websites on the Internet. The following is a statement by Bob Pisano, President and Interim CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA):
MPAA URGES TOUGHER INTERNATIONAL ENFORCEMENT OF IP PROTECTIONS AS CONGRESS UNVEILS 2010 PRIORITY WATCH LIST
WASHINGTON—MPAA President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano joined lawmakers today in unveiling the five countries on the 2010 priority watch list of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC), calling on governments around the world to develop and enforce remedies to deal with the mounting global problem of intellectual property theft. The five countries placed on the IAPC’s 2010 watch list are Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, and Spain.
“I sincerely appreciate the work of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus and its recognition of the problems posed by global piracy. These members’ efforts are essential to motivating governments to take action. I look forward to our continued work together to promote copyright protection and the enforcement of intellectual property rights,” Pisano said.
The bipartisan and bicameral IAPC, created in 2003 and now led by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is committed to protecting American intellectual property and reducing the scourge of piracy abroad.
“More than 2.4 million people work in the US motion picture and television industry all across the nation, earning over $41 billion in wages,” Pisano said. “These are creative, good-paying jobs — including costume designers, truck drivers, stage crews, actors, architects, directors and accountants, who face the relentless challenge to their livelihoods from IP theft. Overseas markets are vital to the motion picture industry’s continued strength and success. The industry has a
Today 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 20 FBI Special Agents were added to the U.S. Department of Justice’s intellectual property protection task force to expand its ability to respond to these crimes.Needless to say, the MPAA jumped for joy. Said the lobbying group for the Hollywood studios: “With its implementation of the IP Task Force and appointment of Victoria Espinel as the first-ever Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the Obama Administration has made it clear that stamping out practices that harm American ingenuity is a strong priority, and we applaud their efforts to combat this threat to creative workers.”
Fired Fox News freelance gossip columnist Roger Friedman’s lawyer, Martin Garbus, is making an explosive claim to journalists that Wolverine‘s Internet leak can be blamed on boss Rupert Murdoch. I’m shocked that Garbus, a respected NYC attorney who often defends media, is saying this. Is he merely repeating the rumor that has been making the rounds since April, or does he have facts to back up his contention?
Garbus told the New York Daily News‘ Rush & Molloy column that the piracy occurred because Murdoch asked the studio to make him a DVD copy of the unfinished movie. “Apparently, someone made another copy for themselves,” Garbus said. (This is different from the rumor as I heard it: that Murdoch was anxious to bring the film on board his yacht and asked 20th Century Fox to make a copy for him. But then Murdoch had outside people do it, and that’s how the film leaked onto the web.) Sources tell me Rupert saw a rough cut on the lot weeks before Wolverine was pirated.
Garbus told Rush & Molloy that he will be filing a “slam dunk” wrongful termination lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court this week over Fox News’ recent firing of Roger Friedman. News Corp stated publicly that Friedman’s promotion of Internet piracy was the cause of his firing. But Garbus contends that 4 of the gossip writer’s “editors and superiors” reviewed and okayed the column. As for Friedman, he’s claiming he was axed because of pressure from Hollywood Scientologists who didn’t like his coverage of their religion. It will be interesting to see how The Hollywood …
Turns out the South Park guys were right to blame Canada. Because a new federal government report released today on Copyright Piracy Abroad that shows several countries, including America’s Northern pal, are failing to enforce legal protections for copyrighted works and thus harming U.S. creative industries and the economy as a whole. According to a news release from his office, Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Our country and our trading partners depend on investments in intellectual property to drive our economies. But incentives and profits for engaging in copyright piracy are high, while the risks of being caught and brought to justice are low in many countries around the world. These problematic places have been identified, and now we must focus on enforcement.” The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual “Special 301” Report reviewing the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement. As in past reports, rampant illicit copying of CDs, online file-sharing of films and music, and other IPR violations in China, Russia, Spain and Thailand were noted. Canada was a new addition this year to the report’s Priority Watch List. Berman has contacted the office of the Canadian ambassador to the United States and begun work on a list of IPR concerns to be raised at the May 15-18 Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group meeting. He is also preparing legislation to provide additional resources to combat intellectual property theft.
SUNDAY UPDATE: News Corp issued the following statement from Los Angeles today confirming my reporting from Saturday — “Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post, and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman.”
SATURDAY PM EXCLUSIVE: News Corp like all major Hollywood studios takes the crime of piracy very seriously. Nor will the Fox parent company tolerate it if its employees don’t. Especially after a stolen, early and unfinished work print of 20th Century Fox’s big summer blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine was put onto the Internet illegally this week in a major scandal that the FBI is now investigating. So there was universal shock on Friday when long-time “Fox 411″ freelance columnist Roger Friedman wrote what I’m told his bosses felt was a blatant promotion of piracy on his Fox News web outlet. Besides writing a review from watching the purloined print of Wolverine, Friedman posted, “I did find the whole top 10 [movies in theaters], plus TV shows, commercials, videos, everything, all streaming away. It took really less than seconds to start playing it all right …
UPDATED PIRACY SCANDAL: FBI Joins Fox In Hunt For “Stolen, Incomplete & Early Version’ ‘Wolverine’ Print On Web
THURSDAY AM UPDATE: Estimates now are that the Hugh Jackman film, the 4th in the X-Men franchise for 20th Century Fox, was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times from file sharing websites on Tuesday. This is a huge blow to the studio’s major summer blockbuster if those viewers don’t go to a theater to see the film. Meanwhile, the web piracy has created a lot of buzz around the pic, both positive and negative. The Internet is now filled with fanboy comments about whether Wolverine is any good. Despite the added publicity, this is a nightmare scenario for Fox.
2ND UPDATE: I’ve just been given this statement by 20th Century Fox:
“Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on a website. It was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music. We immediately contacted the appropriate legal authorities and had it removed. We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it. The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts in the past. The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime. We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors, and …
News reports say three Southern California men were charged with illegally posting on the Internet pirated copies of Hollywood movies, including Oscar nominees Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire and Paramount’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The trio were charged in separate cases and face a maximum 3 years in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. They are accused of posting the films at Web sites like thepiratebay.org, the world’s largest file-sharing site using BitTorrent software which allows users to download and share files in 34 languages for free. The site’s founders face charges in Sweden for contributing to copyright infringement.
Los Angeles – The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on behalf of the major Hollywood movie studios filed lawsuits in federal court in Los Angeles today against campusist.com, movies-on-demand.tv, and sswarez.com – websites that facilitate copyright infringement on the Internet. These sites contribute to and profit from massive copyright infringement by identifying, posting, organizing, and indexing links to infringing content found on the Internet that consumers can then view or download on-demand.
“The people who are operating these sites are profiting from the theft of protected content. We have filed several other similar lawsuits and will continue to do so in order to hold operators accountable for their illegal activities. We have every intention of continuing to shut down these sites, and sites like them, for good,” said John Malcolm, Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA.
Sites like campusist.com, movies-on-demand.tv, and sswarez.com rely on advertisers to maintain their operations and profit handsomely from third-party advertising pitches. All three sites combined attract over 54,000 unique visitors per day who view nearly 208,000 pages of content.
The worldwide motion picture industry, including foreign and domestic producers, distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators loses approximately $18 billion annually as a result of piracy — over $7 billion of which is attributed to Internet piracy.
The Motion Picture Association Of America just released this press statement:
Los Angeles – The nation’s top movie companies filed a lawsuit today asking a federal court to stop RealNetworks Inc. from distributing the company’s RealDVD software which allows movies to be copied illegally. In their complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order, the studios said that RealNetworks’ RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because its software illegally bypasses the copyright protection built into DVDs that protect movies against theft.
“RealNetworks’ RealDVD should be called StealDVD,” explained Greg Goeckner, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). “RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s movie makers and the technology community. The major motion picture studios have been making major investments in technologies that allow people to access entertainment in a variety of new and legal ways. This includes online video-on-demand, download-to-own, as well as legitimate digital copies for storage and use on computers and portable devices that are increasingly being made available on or with DVDs. Our industry will continue on this path because it gives consumers greater choices than ever. However, we will vigorously defend our right to stop companies from bringing products to market that mislead consumers and clearly violate the law.”
The Content Scramble System (CSS) built into DVDs prevents the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material released in DVD format. The RealDVD software illegally circumvents this copyright