This piece first appeared in The Hill on March 15, 2016.
I’ve had the great privilege of working in the film and television business for nearly four decades. I count myself among the fortunate few who have been able to oversee the production of movies and TV shows beloved by millions. To this day, despite the success I’ve enjoyed, I take nothing for granted.
So why would someone like myself care so deeply about combating piracy?
Because this is not just about me.
There is a perception that producers, of all people, are not harmed by the for-profit theft of films and television programs. This is simply not true. In fact, it is producers such as myself who directly witness the effects of piracy on a production’s bottom line. I am at the front lines, making sure budgets are met and that thousands of crew members get paid for their hard work.
Only so many names can fit onto a marquee, film poster, TV show’s credits or in a movie’s trailer. Maybe the millions of people who illegally download movies and TV shows are thinking only of the top-billed stars, excusing their actions with the notion that one viewing will not do much harm to a superstar.
But on a set, every last crew member and creative — right down to the person who designed that poster or edited that trailer — is affected if the fruits of their labor are stolen.
I have experienced this firsthand. When NBC decided not to renew “Hannibal” for a fourth season — a show on which I served as executive producer — it wasn’t much of a leap to connect its fate with the fact that the show was ranked as the fifth-most illegally downloaded show in 2013. When nearly one-third of the audience for “Hannibal” is coming from pirated sites — despite the fact that a legitimate download for each episode was available the following day — you don’t have to know calculus to do the math. If a show is stolen, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fairly compensate a crew and keep a series in production.
This is why you will see me on Capitol Hill this week at the Meet the Producers event — as a proud CreativeFuture Leadership Committee member — discussing what it means to be a producer and to illustrate how piracy undermines the entire creative community. I believe events such as these are crucial to informing the public, and our leaders in government, that measures to curb the for-profit digital theft of creative works not only need to be implemented, but also made readily available. In fact, many options exist for those in the creative Internet ecosystem — including domain registrars, ISPs, advertisers, payment processors and search engines — to voluntarily make it more difficult for piracy to thrive.
Did pirates kill “Hannibal”? Unfortunately, that is a cliffhanger that might last for a while. With more than 2 million viewers watching our show illegally, it’s hard not to think online pirates were, at the very least, partly responsible for hundreds of crew members losing their jobs and millions of fans — who watched the show legitimately — mourning the loss of a beloved program.
As I said, this isn’t just about me. This is about the livelihoods of thousands upon thousands of hardworking people who help enrich the lives of millions of fans of films and TV shows. When the plundering is done, even the pirates will have nothing left to watch, let alone steal. That is a dark future I will do my best — as a producer and a fan — to make sure never arrives at a laptop near you.
De Laurentiis formed the Dino De Laurentiis Company in 1980 and has overseen the production of more than 40 films, series and miniseries, including, most recently, “Hannibal” for NBC, “Barbarella” for Amazon Studios and the forthcoming series “Gateway.” Meet the Producers, an event presented by CreativeFuture in conjunction with the Creative Rights Caucus, will take place Tuesday on Capitol Hill.