WASHINGTON -- Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced legislation that would classify the illicit online streaming of copyrighted content a felony, and bring it into line with other forms of content theft.

An entertainment industry coalition, including the Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®), the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) praised the bill for reconciling the current legal disparity between the unlawful distribution of content through streaming and peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading.

"It is high time that the punishment fit the crime. Illegal streaming of stolen content is growing and poses a threat to the profitability of movie theaters and to the jobs of our 160,000 employees in the U.S." said John Fithian, president and CEO of NATO. "We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn and recommend bipartisan support for the passage of this important legislation."

"The illegal streaming of copyrighted content is a scourge on the independent film and television community, particularly the small and medium-sized businesses without the resources to effectively enforce their intellectual property rights," said Jean Prewitt, IFTA President & CEO. "We strongly believe government enforcement and consequences are the only effective remedies for these types of illegal activities. We highly commend Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for this significant legislative proposal to ensure illegal streaming is treated as seriously under the law as is illegal downloading."

Michael O'Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs for the MPAA, added: "Criminals are stealing, trafficking, and profiting off the investment that our workers devote to creating the quality films and TV shows that entertain a worldwide audience and bolster the American economy. The online distribution mechanisms utilized by thieves may differ, but to the 2.4 million American workers whose livelihoods depend on our industry, the end result of content theft is the same: lost jobs, declining incomes, and reduced health and retirement benefits for them and their families. We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for introducing this important legislation to standardize the legal treatment of online content theft and helping ensure that federal law keeps pace with the changing face of criminal activity. We look forward to working with Members in the House and Senate towards its swift passage."

Under current federal law, a legal distinction exists between illegal streaming and downloading - two methods of distributing the same stolen, digital content. This legislation would make the illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony, thereby standardizing its criminal classification with that of illegal P2P downloading, already a felony. In March, the Office of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel presented Congress with legislative recommendations to improve IP enforcement efforts, which included clarifying this aspect of intellectual property law.


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WASHINGTON -- A broad coalition of organizations representing the creative community today applauded U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), for sponsoring the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act ("PROTECT IP Act"), a bill to deter, prevent and root out websites that profit from trafficking in stolen content.

The bill was also sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®), the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) have united in support of efforts to address today's gravest threat to the American film industry workforce: the illegal distribution of content online. And they are working closely with an even wider coalition of entertainment union workers, and organizations, businesses and labor groups involved in the production, sale and distribution of creative content.

Under the PROTECT IP Act, foreign websites, formerly operating outside the realm of U.S. law, would no longer be allowed to exploit U.S. registrars, registries, Internet service providers, payment processors, search engines and ad placement services to sustain their illicit online businesses.

Attacking the financial underpinnings of these illegal sites and the criminals that operate them will help take profit out of their illicit operations. The anonymity of the Internet would no longer provide the lucrative safe-haven for thieves that it does today.

Jean Prewitt, IFTA President & CEO commented, "This legislation will be a substantial step forward in the effort to drain profits away from rogue websites that benefit from unauthorized sales of counterfeit or illegitimately distributed goods and, in doing so, to protect consumers, creators and others in the legitimate chain of commerce. Reaching sites originating outside the U.S. is critical to fighting a worldwide epidemic that is destroying the ability of the independent film industry to obtain the financing needed to produce future films, and we are appreciative of the bipartisan Congressional leadership engaged to craft sorely needed remedies."

"Movie theater operators are acutely aware of the increasingly harmful effects that IP theft has on our nation's economy. Few issues are as bipartisan as fighting online theft, and NATO applauds our leaders on Capitol Hill for reaching across the aisle to craft balanced IP enforcement legislation that targets the rogue websites threatening the livelihoods of 160,000 movie theater employees and undermining the nation's economic growth," said John Fithian, NATO President and CEO.

"To the camera crew, the makeup artists, the truck drivers and all the other hard-working middle-class Americans involved in the making of a motion picture or television show, digital theft means declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits for them and their families," said Michael O'Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs of the MPAA. "We want to thank Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch and the other cosponsors for recognizing the true cost of online content theft and for seeking new tools to effectively enforce U.S. laws on the online marketplace."

"We look forward to working with the Senate Judiciary Committee, and in the House, Chairman Lamar Smith and other leaders who are drafting their own bill to target rogue websites to ensure that the final legislation passed by both chambers and presented to the President provides adequate online protection of the American film and television community, an industry that supports 2.4 million American jobs," O'Leary said.

Internet sites that steal and distribute American intellectual property are often foreign-owned and operated, or reside at domain names that are not registered through a U.S.-based registry or registrar, setting them outside the scope of U.S. law enforcement. The Justice Department and rights holders are currently limited in their options for legal recourse, even when the website is directed at American consumers and steals American-owned intellectual property.

This legislation authorizes the Justice Department to seek a court order directing intermediaries and other U.S.-based third parties to cease providing transactions and support services to infringing sites.

These third parties would then be required to take appropriate action to either prevent access to the Internet site (in the case of an Internet service provider or search engine), or cease doing business with the Internet site (in the case of a payment processor or advertising network).

The bill would also authorize rights holders a limited "right of action" to seek a court order against the domain name registrant, owner, or the domain name that is infringing their copyrights. To prevent the same site from simply reappearing online, this legislation would also authorize the Justice Department or rights holders to bring action against previously seized sites that have been reconstituted under a different domain name, site owner, or registrant, in the same Federal court, streamlining the infringing site's elimination from the online marketplace.


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Los Angeles, CA -- Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes and CBS president and CEO Les Moonves offered some unsolicited advice for theater owners at the Jefferies 2011 Global Technology, Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference, Wednesday morning.

According to published reports, "There has been too much excitement about this," Bewkes said about premium VOD in highlighting that exhibitors and studios share the same interests. Discussing exhibitors, he emphasized once again that "nobody in the movie business wants them to be at risk," and suggested that studios and theaters have aligned interests in making content accessible in legal and high-quality ways to combat piracy. (Hollywood Reporter, May 11, 2011)

Moonves said "I know theater owners are scared," noting that all companies in media have had to adapt to new technology. "They are going to have to change a bit to prevent a crisis." (Variety, May 11, 2011)

"Forgive us if we decline to take business lessons from the end of the industry that enabled the erosion of value in the home market," said National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) president and CEO John Fithian. "The creation of $1.99 kiosk rentals and $7.99 monthly subscriptions have undercut the sell-through model in the home-not theatrical release windows."

"Let me offer some advice in return, from the end of the business that has grown more than 25 percent globally over the last five years," Fithian continued. "Your problem is in the home window: fix it there. You will not create extra revenue by introducing in the theatrical window the same self-cannibalizing channel confusion that has decimated the home market."

On the issue of movie theft, Fithian added, "Combat piracy by charging $30 for a rental? Really? You can't compete with free. Early VOD release will only exacerbate theft by giving the pirates a pristine digital copy of the movie much earlier than they have with DVDs."

"Theater owners around the globe are indeed concerned. So are many leading movie directors and producers who care about the theatrical experience. Studio bosses should spend more time talking to their partners about models that might work, instead of asking us to calm down."


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