Schiff, others take aim at piracy

Lawmakers and movie studios battling piracy of copyrighted material this week unveiled a list of rogue states and a campaign to persuade U.S. corporations to pull their support from websites that allow users to illegally download films, television shows and music.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other members of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus on Thursday unveiled a watch list of countries where they say piracy is the worst. Like last year, the list includes China, Russia, Canada and Spain. Ukraine was added this year as a hub for unauthorized sales or transfers of entertainment files.

“The good news is that the amount of legitimate online content has gone up,” Schiff said, citing steps by media companies to make digital copies of their material more widely available for purchase online and through mobile applications. “The bad news is that the illegal trafficking has gone up even more.”

The Motion Picture Assn. of America estimates the cost of piracy in the tens of billions of dollars and Chief Policy Officer Greg Frazier said in a statement Thursday that piracy “jeopardizes the livelihoods of more than 2.4 million stagehands, makeup artists, actors…and others who make up America’s creative community.”

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the MPAA, said his organization also is pushing for passage of the Protect IP Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The bill would allow the Justice Department to target alleged infringers and would give media companies and others who can show their copyrights are being ignored a limited right to force infringers to shut down or alter their illegal download sites.

The Walt Disney Co., Time-Warner Inc. and NBC/Universal owner Comcast Corp. are among 170 organizations that signed a letter to the U.S. Senate backing the legislation.

The bill passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but immediately hit a roadblock when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) put a hold on the legislation out of concern that it cedes control of the Internet to corporations.

“The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet,” Wyden said in a statement.

Wyden halted similar legislation in the last Congress.

On Thursday, Schiff emphasized the use of market forces in curbing piracy. Last year, he said, lawmakers and industry leaders asked credit card companies, PayPal Inc., and others to stop facilitating unauthorized sales of digital content.

“We reached out to them, and they’ve sharpened their policies,” Schiff said.

This year, the focus is on advertisers whose pitches appear on gray-market sites, Schiff said.

“Most of [the advertisers] don’t know it’s happening because they pay an online ad firm to make sure their ad gets a certain number of impressions,” Schiff said. “But it harms the content creator and also can delude the public into thinking it’s a legitimate site.”


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