Tag Archives: United States

After Marathon Negotiations, TPP Agreement is a Reality

If it seems like you’ve been hearing TPP this and Asia trade deal that every few months for years now, you wouldn’t be wrong.

A summit with leaders of the member states of ...

A summit with leaders of the member states of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) — (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been ongoing for some five years now, but the agreement was confirmed by all 12 participants today, marking the largest trade deal ever signed. It now awaits ratification by governments in each country, which include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Taken together, the countries involved make up forty percent of global trade and a combined population of some 800 million people.

Viewed through those numbers – and understanding that the agreement covers everything from the agriculture and automotive sectors to pharmaceuticals and entertainment. The last two in particular have perhaps unexpectedly overlapping interests, with intellectual property rights at the forefront of negotiations for drug patents and movie copyright.

With such a vast marketplace in play and the potential to synchronize creative rights across some key countries, it’s no surprise that the agreement’s announcement is welcome news for North America’s creative sector.

Echoing the sentiments of movie makers around the country, MPAA Chairman and CEO, Senator Chris Dodd, had this to say about the agreement:

“Enacting a high-standard TPP is an economic priority for the American motion picture and television industry, which registered nearly $16 billion in exports in 2013 and supports nearly two million jobs throughout all fifty states. We look forward to reviewing the agreement’s final text.”

The proposed agreement creates a robust environment in which to ensure creativity is protected, and brings profits only to those who work hard to bring us the kind of movies and television productions that we enjoy every day. It sets a firm foundation for creators to sell and distribute their work, with less worry that international infringement will prevent them from taking the proceeds and channeling them into new productions.

Unsurprisingly, longstanding opponents of this landmark trade agreement are once again trotting out their familiar mix of hyperbole and confused hysteria. The myths are as many as those who believe the negotiating behind closed doors marks the TPP out as some kind of clandestine discussion, when in reality the final version will now face public and political scrutiny in every country that it will effect.

This is to say nothing of the many distributed earlier version that have already made the rounds after previous meetings between the participating nations, which have served to make the agreement a comprehensively reviewed document, even before it was anywhere near a reality.

As every media outlet explains, the TPP provisions will now face the full review that each respective member’s democratic process allows for. The negotiations were behind closed doors because they were just that, negotiations. If sufficient opposition exists in any participating nation, the agreement will not be ratified and will be forced to reconsider any sticking points.

If not, and if every government successfully explains to its citizens just how valuable the deal will be to their economic prosperity and protection of intellectual property, we will all witness an historic trade agreement that stands to secure and boost economies around the Pacific Rim for years to come.

Varied Results for Organizations Who Want Off the World’s Notorious Markets List

Following on from the MPAA’s submission of international offenders who fail to respect American intellectual property to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the office today released its annual list of “notorious markets,” designed to name and shame those included into cleaning up their act. As has become the norm, it provided relief for some, and throws down the gauntlet for others to up their efforts in the year ahead.

The idea is simple enough: flag organizations and online platforms who facilitate the unlicensed use of American intellectual property.

Seal of United States Trade Representative Exective OfficeBy putting these companies and sites on show for all to see, the USTR forces them to choose a path; either commit to improving the legality of their site by removing content and practices that infringe upon intellectual property rights, or confirm that they have no interest in respecting the law and expect the appropriate authorities to come calling.

Marking the importance of protecting those IP rights, the office’s Ambassador Michael Froman had this to say about the 2014 out-of-cycle report:

“American innovation fuels our economy.  Intellectual property protects the contributions and livelihoods of the 40 million Americans whose jobs are supported by intellectual property-intensive and associated industries. The theft we’re shining a light on today is detrimental not only to creators and inventors, but also to consumers.”

The report singled out entities like Spain’s seriesyonkis.com, China’s Xunlei, and software provider Aiseesoft for their positive progress on curbing infringing content on their respective platforms, since appearing on the list’s 2013 edition.

Providing these positive results is an important element to the report, placed prominently at the front as an example to those who find themselves on the notorious list further in. A prominent example held up by the press is Alibaba, whose subsidiary Taobao facilitated counterfeit operations around the time the Notorious Markets list came into existence. Since then Alibaba has made significant efforts to clean house and went on to make a record debut on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

On the other side of the coin, companies that didn’t make it off the offender’s list must redouble their efforts. The gap between expectation and reality can sometimes be wide, however, as demonstrated in the case of VKontakte. The Russian social network remains on the list despite appealing its presence after it took steps to curb pirated content sharing. But as we discussed in February, VKontakte has made only limited attempts to deal with this illegal activity, and it will evidently take much more for it to reach legitimacy in the eyes of U.S. rights holders.

In the end, legitimacy is exactly what the Notorious Markets list is all about. It recognizes that the copyright economy is worth more than $1 trillion to the United States and a major provider of jobs around the country, and presents those that undermine that value for all to see.

If an organization that appears on the list has no interest in becoming a legitimate business in the eyes of the law, they will of course continue on their path of piracy, in which case more substantial legal power needs to be wielded to remove that threat.

For those who value their business credibility, however, the USTR is simply showing some tough love. Clean up your act, prove your commitment to valuing intellectual property, and next year perhaps your company can be held us as a positive example to follow, rather than an offender to avoid.

Around the World, The Oscars Bring Out Piracy In All Its Forms

The Academy Awards is the crowning jewel in the movie industry’s celebration of creativity; the peak intersection of critical acclaim and mainstream recognition, if the winners haven’t already made waves with the masses.

Every year as the Oscars roll around, however, there’s also the shadow of piracy. As much as a win – or even a nomination – gives each film a boost on the international stage, it also prompts a spike in activity on sites notorious for their copyright infringement.

 

The phenomenon represents all that is wrong with the mentality of piracy, as well as showing copyright infringement in all of its forms around the world.

In the United States we’ve become used to the year’s piracy being communicated in terms of illegal downloads. Popular shows like Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory inevitably top the list of TV shows, while the year’s biggest box office titles show up with the same reliable frequency. The same contemporary measure and methods apply to The Oscars, where American Sniper headed the list of most downloaded movie in the run up to the awards show. Best Picture winner Birdman can expect to soar up that list in the weeks to come.

Further afield, where connections are less reliable and online access may be limited, more tangible forms of piracy persist. 

A report in the Tico Times explains how Costa Rica sees illegal copies of all the Oscar nominees spread onto the streets and into stores as fever peaks for the awards ceremony. From Birdman to Boyhood, Selma to American Sniper, all of the titles that should be gaining revenue as well as recognition for their varied creative talents are brazenly sold as bootleg DVDs.

This occurs not just on the streets, but in stores alongside other legitimate merchandise, some even with discounts for buying in bulk, making piracy as habitual as running to the grocery store for milk and bread.

Back to the original point, and the study that revealed the Oscars spike in piracy rates confirms just how global is this concern. The research by Irdeto finds Academy Award nominees and winners prompting rises in illegal viewing in all corners of the globe, with the top ten offenders including Brazil,  India, Australia, South Korea and several European nations.

Rory O’Connor, VP of Services at Irdeto confirms: “Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies… leaving room for pirates to take advantage. ”

The challenge for creators and the movie industry is to beat the pirates at their own game, getting out in front of passionate movie fans around the world and reminding them that the best way to support even more creativity in future is to pay for the films they love and the music they enjoy.

Making titles available in good time and educating viewers about release schedules is an important part of this puzzle, as is the ability of viewers to make a moral decision that piracy is an act that only undermines the very thing that draws them to Oscar winners in the first place: a desire to create visual stories that excite the senses and compel repeat viewing.

 

 

No Cold War-esque Quotas for US Movies in Russia

As many feathers as Russian president Vladimir Putin is ruffling around the world at the moment, Hollywood is not among them. On the contrary, the controversial leader is becoming something of a firm friend to the industry.

Following a commitment from Russia to block piracy sites last year,  Putin this week struck down a proposal limiting the number of U.S. movies allowed into the country. Describing filmmakers in the United States as “talented and successful people we can learn from,” Hollywood’s unlikely ally delivered an uncompromising commitment to giving Russian audiences what they want, without limitation.

Unfortunately, getting what they want when they want it is exactly the issue that president Putin must taken up with his domestic audience if his belief in creativity is to be fully realized. 

Russia ranks among the world’s “most notorious markets for piracy,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) own report. Sites based in the country include VKontakte, a domestic competitor to Facebook, and the less well-known but no less damaging Rapidgator.net, both of which are heavily used to share unlicensed content, including many of the American movies that president Putin so admires.

So while the MPAA will undoubtedly applaud moves that keep popular movies flowing into Russia without restriction, it will simultaneously be urging the country’s lawmakers to focus on protecting the copyright of those films when they arrive. This is no less important to Russian filmmakers who would benefit from greater income and legitimate exposure of their work to an audience at home, which is often the launch pad for international acclaim.

Even so, during a period of history in which Vladimir Putin will almost certainly be cast as the villain, it’s an intriguing plot twist to see him going to bat for one of the Western world’s most successful cultural exports.