If you happen to follow CreativeFuture on social media, you will see that we travel from our Los Angeles office to Washington, D.C. four or so times each year with creative teams from films or television shows. Ever wonder why we do that?
It’s not because the copyright gods require regular pilgrimages to the Library of Congress. Rather, it’s because we need to keep fighting for stronger laws to support workers and protect the creative economy.
Over the last three decades, the internet has transformed the way we work and live. For better or worse, we live our lives online more and more – that includes, of course, enjoying television shows, movies, and music.
Unfortunately, outdated laws allow Big Tech to avoid investing in reliable content moderation or effective measures to prevent infringement. Far too often, billion- or even trillion-dollar behemoths turn a blind eye to criminal activity on their platforms so they can reap massive ill-gotten profits from advertisements.
Despite the growing dominance of Big Tech, creatives remain a vital component of our national economy. The core copyright industries – which include film and television, music, publishing, photography, and video games – employ 9.6 million American workers, which equals 4.88% of the entire U.S. workforce. They generate $1.8 trillion of value to the U.S. GDP, which is 7.76% of the U.S. economy. And U.S. copyright products sold overseas amounted to nearly $230.3 billion in sales in 2021, which is more than many other major industries including pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and agriculture.
That’s why we like to begin each workday by climbing to the top of our office building, facing Silicon Valley, and yelling, “Don’t tell us we don’t fucking matter!”
It’s a message that the skinjobs – erm, tech CEOs – really need to hear because their products have horribly exacerbated piracy. The days of bootlegged DVDs smuggled in trench coats – bad though they were – now seem quaint. Today, streaming accounts for 80% of film and television piracy. Every year, it costs American workers 230,000-560,000 jobs and takes between $47.5 billion-$115.3 billion from the U.S. economy.
Have you ever stuck around during movie credits, perhaps for stingers, buttons, and cookies? (Pro tip: they’re terms for mid- or post-credit scenes.) If so, then you may already have some sense that piracy impacts hundreds of thousands of artists, technicians, craftspeople, and service workers in the entertainment industry, not to mention countless small businesses supported by productions in all 50 states.
Next time you see a movie, try sitting back and letting your mind be boggled by the sheer number of people who need to collaborate to make a couple hours of world-class entertainment. It’s an eye-opening experience!
We also recommend paying attention to where those people are employed. Contrary to a popular misconception, the American film and television industry isn’t just composed of a handful of large studios in New York and California. The industry is made up of more than 110,000 different businesses in every state, 89% of which employ fewer than 10 people.
How many jobs does that mean for your state? Learn more here!
The closing credits of a film or television show can also tell you where it was made. Filming on location, which occurs in every state, supports local suppliers, caterers, restaurants, cafés, bars, hotels, gas stations, service professionals, and more.
In fact, filming for a feature can generate $250,000 per day for local businesses. Filming for a one-hour television episode can generate $150,000 per day. That’s the kind of money that can transform a small town – turning a main street with five storefronts into a bustling avenue with dozens of thriving businesses!
Since residents of Senoia, Georgia – where The Walking Dead was filmed – witnessed such a transformation firsthand, they know a zombie apocalypse can be a beautiful thing.
Check out the before-and-after photos here.
When CreativeFuture goes to D.C., we bring composers like Sam Ewing (The Walking Dead) and Sidd Khosla (Only Murders in the Building), production designers like Deborah Riley (Game of Thrones), costume designers like Mary Vogt (Crazy Rich Asians), writers like Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani (Black Adam), VFX Supervisor Bill Westenhofer (Black Adam), showrunner John Hoffman (Only Murders in the Building), and more, so that we can help Members of Congress put faces to the names of people whose livelihoods are threatened by piracy.
Many times, the film and television industry is a victim of its own red-carpet celebrity. The truth of the matter is, the hundreds of thousands of people who comprise our industry don’t spend their days in the back of limousines drinking champagne and eating caviar. Filmmaking is an extremely demanding business, often requiring 18-hour work days! So many of these workers never appear in front of a camera, but they are essential to bringing our favorite movies and television shows to life. It’s their pensions, healthcare, and college funds that are threatened by widespread piracy.
By introducing members of the creative community to Members of Congress and their staffers – and raising awareness of what each of those creative jobs entails and what their impact on the economy is – we give our policy makers a first-hand appreciation of why copyright is so important. These face-to-face meetings help to debunk anti-copyright campaigns by Big Tech and its allied organizations.
Copyright champions on Capitol Hill have taken meaningful steps in recent years to protect creatives by passing important legislation. In 2020, the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) closed a loophole that allowed U.S.-based criminal streaming enterprises to escape felony charges. That same year, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act created an affordable way for indie artists or small businesses to get their infringement claims adjudicated.
We’re hopeful that more ground-breaking legislation is yet to come. We’re encouraged by our advocates on the Hill, particularly the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, “a bipartisan caucus dedicated to protecting the rights of the creative community.”
As the PLSA and CASE Act demonstrate, even just a few timely, carefully targeted, and commonsense measures can help protect creative rights. But due to Big Tech’s relentless onslaught, deeper reforms will be necessary to ensure that artists can continue creating the work beloved by audiences around the world.
That’s why we go to Washington, D.C.! Because when policymakers understand the plight of American creatives, they can act to make sure we may all enjoy a #CreativeFuture.