Hollywood’s New Approach to Antipiracy Efforts
Positioning itself as an alternative to other groups that have tackled the issue of movie piracy, the just-rebranded CreativeFuture coalition hopes to gain some traction on an issue that's often eluded the film industry's grasp.
The battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was symbolic of many things for the internet, including a clear victory for tech and open-web advocates against a movie industry some had seen as too aggressive in fighting copyright infringement.
But more than two years have passed since the fateful website blackout that changed the conversation around that bill for good, and the movie industry is ready to give the antipiracy battle another go.
To do that, it’s putting on a new face. CreativeFuture, an industry coalition that launched as Creative America in 2011 and rebranded in February, will use new tactics in the battle. It will largely avoid another push for legislation like SOPA, which would have restricted access to sites that provide pirated content and would have expanded criminal laws pertaining to infringement. As The New York Times notes, CreativeFuture will instead favor deals with businesses such as payment processors and advertising companies that might be engaged with such sites. The goal? To weaken big-time piracy efforts.
“We’re not talking about a couple of kids in a basement—that’s a common misconception. In fact, nearly every pirate website operates to make a profit, and many of them make millions of dollars a year from others’ stolen creative works,” executive director Ruth Vitale explained in a February statement. “It’s the people behind these websites and their funding sources that we need to focus on. Our goal is to unite our global creative community in this effort—from individual creatives, to companies large and small, majors and independents.”
An Effective Response
Part of this change in approach extends to messaging and mindset, too: Vitale has deep industry ties, as a result of her role helping to launch the specialty film studio Paramount Vantage and working at other independent-minded studios, and her experience speaks to the more creative side of Hollywood. (She’s probably the only executive director out there who has executive-produced a Harmony Korine film.)
This is reflected in the group’s membership, which isn’t limited to the big studios but includes independent studios, talent agencies, and big-name producers.
That sort of clout came in handy last month, when Vitale was able to enlist Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter to write a piece for Slate in response to a Google lawyer’s criticism of renewed antipiracy efforts in the same publication a few days earlier.
Sutter’s response evokes something a tad edgier than your traditional comment on copyright and lobbying, with more than a few casual profanity drops. Ultimately, it drew far more social media shares than the piece he was responding to.
“Every kid out there who aspires to be an actor or musician or artist: This is your future that’s at stake,” Sutter wrote. “More importantly, everyone who enjoys quality entertainment: This impacts you most of all. Content excellence cannot sustain itself if it loses its capacity to reward the talent that creates it.”
The fight won’t be easy, though. While the other side of the conflict over piracy—made up of groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and companies like Google—will continue to have the technological upper hand, and apps like the dead-simple Popcorn Time make piracy easier than ever, CreativeFuture’s tonal differences could make a difference in how the debate plays out.