The “rampant” worldwide piracy of American films, music, TV shows, televised sporting events and books remains a “direct threat” to copyright holders, according the latest report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, although some progress has been made to curb the practice in China, Russia and several other countries.
“The increased availability of broadband Internet connections around the world, combined with increasingly accessible and sophisticated mobile technology, has been a boon to the U.S. economy and trade,” the annual Special 301 Report states (read it in full here). “One key area of economic growth for the United States has been the development of legitimate digital platforms for distribution of copyrighted content, so that consumers around the world can enjoy the latest movies, television, music, books, and other copyrighted content from the United States.
“However, technological developments have also made the Internet an extremely efficient vehicle for disseminating infringing content, thus competing unfairly with legitimate e-commerce and distribution services that copyright holders and online platforms use to deliver licensed content.”
The report found that while optical disc piracy continues in many countries including in China, India, Mexico, Peru, and Vietnam, “online piracy is the most challenging copyright enforcement issue in many foreign markets. Stakeholders report some positive developments on efforts to combat online piracy. For example, in China, right holders are encouraged by initial actions to curb online piracy, including National Copyright Administration of China action against unlicensed music platforms and Beijing Copyright Enforcement Department action against an unauthorized subscription service offering online ebooks and journal articles. However, more needs to be done.”
The report found that illicit streaming devices (ISDs) “continue to pose a direct threat to content creators, sports leagues, and live performances, as well as legitimate streaming, on-demand, and over-the-top media service providers. Stakeholders continue to report rampant piracy through ISDs, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam.”
The report also found that the proliferation of illicit camcording of movies shown in theaters “continues to be an urgent trade problem. Illicit camcording is the primary source of unauthorized copies of newly released movies found online. The recordings made in movie theaters today are very different from the dated image of a single person sitting in a theater with a bulky videotape recorder. The results are not shaky, inaudible recordings. It is now easy for a surreptitious recording in a movie theater to result in a clean digital copy of a movie with perfect audio that can be quickly distributed online. The pirated version of the new release movie may be available online while it is still in the theaters. The economic damage is magnified because movies may be released in different markets at different times. Thus, a camcord of a movie released in one market can be made available unlawfully in another market before the movie hits the theaters. In addition to theater owners who lose revenue, legitimate digital platforms, who often negotiate for a certain period of exclusivity after the theatrical run, cannot fairly compete in the market. Stakeholders reported a significant increase in illegal camcords this year.”
“Stream-ripping,” the unauthorized converting of a file from a licensed streaming site into an unauthorized copy, is another major problem and “is now a dominant method of music piracy, causing substantial economic harm to music creators and undermining legitimate online services,” the report found.
MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin praised the USTR for “drawing attention to these issues,” saying he looks forward to working with them “to protect creators’ rights and promote our nation’s creative economy.”
“America’s film and television industry is one of the most highly competitive global industries, generating a positive trade surplus of $12.2 billion and supporting 2.1 million U.S. jobs here at home,” he said. “And yet, American creators still face significant challenges in foreign markets protecting and enforcing their intellectual property rights, especially in the form of online piracy.”