MPAA Chief: Aggressively Challenge Notion That Free Speech = Free Content

Earlier this week MPAA chief Chris Dodd delivered a keynote speech to The National Association of Theatre Owners at their CinemaCon conference in Las Vegas. He began by noting that global box office receipts for 2012 had climbed to $34.7 billion, a 6 percent increase over 2011, but according to the Senator it’s not all good news.

“These box office receipt numbers grew because admissions jumped by 6%,” Dodd explained.

“Yes, 2012 was a truly great year at the movies! And I believe the summer blockbusters being previewed this week will contribute to a highly successful 2013.”

Then, in a recurring theme underlining the movie industry’s recent overtures to the tech sector, Dodd said that Hollywood and and Silicon Valley have a lot more in common than most people realize.

“Not only do we work closely with tech companies to create and promote our films; we are ourselves tech companies,” Dodd said. “We celebrate innovation through the world’s most cutting-edge content, and we embrace technology as critical to the success of the creators in our community.”

But despite the success of 2012 and the beauty of technology, Dodd went on to paint a darker and more cautious picture than last year’s optimistic results appear to support.

“Of course, technology can be abused especially by cybercriminals,” he said.

“Stopping content theft must be a top priority to all of us. Especially when you consider that in some instances blockbuster films have been downloaded illegally hundreds of thousands of times, harming not only the producers, but you, the exhibitors as well,” Dodd cautioned.

“The good news is that we are making progress, building inroads with tech companies, and working closely with ISPs, ad bureaus, payment processors and Internet hosting providers. And thanks to NATO and your vigilance, the incidence of illegal camcording in theaters is down 50% since 2007.”

Then, in an attack on those who associate free access to online content with right to free speech, Dodd offered the following.

“Too many people still coat the pill of content theft in chocolate. Free speech, they say, gives them the right to consume and enjoy our content for free, that creative artists and ordinary working people spent years developing, producing and exhibiting.

“This fallacy must be aggressively challenged and countered by everyone in our industry. If we allow for two centuries of copyright law and respect for intellectual property to be undermined and unenforced, the consequences on innovation in this country — not just for Hollywood, film makers, studios and cinemas, but for our entire economy, will be devastating,” he warned.

“We, and you, must underscore the message that business, government, and ordinary citizens must work together to ensure that the Internet works for everyone, and that intellectual property is respected and protected.”

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