The internet has given, and it has taken away. It has created abundant riches for some, and brought about staggering, even ruinous losses for others – and nowhere has this dichotomous paradigm been more apparent than in industries supported by copyright.

People employed in the production of books, journalism, movies, music, television, and software have seen their livelihoods threatened by digital piracy on an enormous scale. The online theft of film and television content alone is estimated to be costing the United States between 30 and 70 billion dollars annually, and between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs. Meanwhile, companies like Google and Facebook continue to profit massively from all activity on their platforms, whether their users are directed to actual pirate sites, or uploading unlicensed works to a site like YouTube.

In any other industry, this level of open criminal activity, and its subsequent impact on workers, would be a crisis that stokes outrage and immediate action. But when inflicted on the creative industries, across and by the world’s biggest internet platforms, it is often dismissed as a trade-off for the myriad of conveniences provided by the internet.

CreativeFuture believes our government could, and should, be doing much more to hold platforms accountable – and to mitigate the catastrophic level of copyright infringement on the internet. With the April 3 Presidential Memorandum on “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods,” the White House demonstrated that it has an awareness of this issue, and an interest in starting to resolve it.

But, any subsequent administrative action resulting from this Memorandum must absolutely address online piracy in addition to the stealing of hard goods. The creative communities that enrich our culture, foster innovation, and provide joy and entertainment for millions, depend on it.

On July 29, we joined the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), and the SAG-AFTRA labor union in responding to the U.S. Department of Commerce request for comment on the Memorandum. This filing provides a background on how piracy has been facilitated via online marketplaces and internet intermediaries (Google and Facebook), and how this threatens not only creators of content – including the skilled craftspeople who earn a living bringing film and television productions to life and whose pensions and healthcare are dependent on revenues generated by these productions. 

The filing also provides the Department of Commerce with an outline of measures that, if taken, would immediately help mitigate the mass infringement that is decimating the creative communities. These include: 

  • Urging user-generated content platforms, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook, to collaborate with our creative community on devising voluntary best practices for curbing piracy
  • Encouraging the Department of Justice to bring criminal actions against entities engaged in online copyright infringement
  • Raising the level of copyright protection and enforcement abroad through trade negotiations

Piracy is a for-profit, criminal enterprise that contributes directly to financial losses for creatives and to reduced investment in new projects. Pirate and counterfeit sites also degrade and devalue the digital market, creating an environment that is unreliable for legitimate businesses and unsafe for consumers. We thank the current Administration for their heightened attention to this terrible problem, which poses an existential threat to a creative community of more than 5.7 million American workers, and the entertaining, inspiring, sometimes life-changing works they create. 

You can read the filing here.