By Ruth Vitale
In my more than 30 years working on the production and distribution of independent films, I’ve seen many changes in the business. Some of the biggest changes are in how we reach audiences. Today, innovations in digital distribution provide audiences with more access to films and television shows than ever before. New services, platforms, and titles are being added all the time. Check out here, here, here – and that’s just in the last month!
But even as more and more legitimate digital content sources are created, the for-profit theft of creative works remains a big problem. It jeopardizes the rights of all creative people. It threatens our jobs. And it undermines the creative economy that has led to new distribution platforms like Hulu, HBOGO, Netflix, Vudu, Vimeo, Amazon Prime, Snag Films…I could go on and on.
Something must be done. But what?
We first have to understand the nature of the problem: that piracy is driven by massive, for-profit pirate websites that make millions of dollars from others’ creativity and hard work by pulling in advertising revenue and subscription payments processed by credit card companies.
An effective, common sense way to address this problem is by establishing voluntary, cooperative agreements with legitimate businesses whose ads and payment networks are being exploited by pirate sites.
As a creative community, we are ready to work together with major brands, advertisers, ad networks, and credit card companies who understand the risks to their brands and to their customers’ security that pirate sites can cause – and to end the revenue flow to these bad actors. We know this will benefit all who create and the audiences who enjoy their work.
But for some reason, the very idea of these kinds of voluntary agreements has been attacked. Some critics have disparaged them. This is surprising and strange. Happily, important voices such as Kurt Sutter, the writer-creator of Sons of Anarchy, and other commenters have strongly defended them.
Responsible companies should be working together to make the Internet safer and more prosperous by encouraging the creation of the content that gives the Internet a lot of its value. It’s in everyone’s interest to make this happen.
There are already good examples of such voluntary agreements. For example, the creative industry is working with Internet service providers (ISPs) on the Copyright Alert System, which sends alerts to subscribers if their IP address is being used to illegally download music, films, or television shows. This program – which was developed with invaluable input from leading public interest organizations – is making progress in educating consumers and deterring piracy – without the need for new laws.
Voluntary, non-governmental agreements can make important contributions to making the Internet work for everyone. They are the right model for effective, consensus-based action to address Internet issues. And they are the right model for taking the profit out of piracy. The creative community and the tech community – and their audiences, fans, and customers – will all benefit.
So let’s make it happen.