Taking new steps against piracy

Columns

Perhaps the biggest problem facing the motion picture industry today is piracy. The industry has addressed this issue for decades, but with the advent of the Internet and broadband, the problem has gotten worse.

Recently at the Cinema Expo International convention in Amsterdam, Frederick Huntsberry, chief operating officer of Paramount Pictures, gave an in-depth talk on this topic and shed new light on the matter with a great many illustrations of how and where piracy is happening. Coincidentally, as the attendees listened to Mr. Huntsberry, the White House announced a new plan to combat piracy, which Hollywood is viewing as a historic moment that marks a new day in the fight against movie theft.

The report is heavy on means to boost current law-enforcement efforts and to make them more effective, either by better coordination among government agencies or via a more vigorous push to engage foreign governments to curb infringement.

The specific action steps outlined by the government signal recognition of the strong need to protect the U.S. economy, and the important role that copyrighted material plays in our nation’s economic health. Some of the recommendations include:

* Coordination of federal, state and local law enforcement in ways that have already been used to combat narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism.
* Coordination of federal law-enforcement efforts to avoid duplication and waste, including such things as a shared database with information about investigations and cases.
* A plan to combat foreign websites that infringe on copyrights.
* Greater cooperation among the business community through carefully crafted and balanced agreements, and getting the private sector to effectively address repeated acts of infringement.

It’s unclear and too soon to predict how effective these actions will be. Hollywood has been pushing for a “graduated response” system for fighting Internet piracy, in which Internet providers block service for users who are warned of copyright violations but fail to stop.
The industry is optimistic that the government is stepping up its fight against this terrible blight, which costs American companies billions of dollars a year.

Saluting Bud Mayo
Digital cinema was first introduced at ShoWest nearly a decade ago. Since that time, great strides have been made by the manufacturers to improve on the equipment and bring down the costs. With digital conversion now accelerating at a record pace, one company stands out as an industry leader in third-party integration.

That company is Cinedigm Digital Cinema and the real driving force behind it and the person responsible for its success is A. Dale “Bud” Mayo. Bud recently retired as president and CEO, and he leaves quite a mark on the industry with what he has achieved in the ten years that he stood at the helm of Cinedigm.

Under Bud’s leadership, Cinedigm developed into the industry leader in providing the essential services, content and technology that paved the way for the transformation of movie theatres into networked entertainment centers. Bud has been a proactive supporter of digital right from the beginning and has focused on both the exhibitor and studio partners as they offer customers a great digital experience.

Bud did it his way, and as the conversion proceeds he will be remembered for being one of the pioneers in this great technology shift and forever changing the way movies are seen in theatres. We all wish Bud a great deal of health and happiness in his retirement.

Pixar’s Winning Streak
One of the most eagerly awaited films of summer 2010, Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 3 exceeded all expectations, garnering ecstatic reviews and charting Pixar’s biggest opening ever. At press time, the film had generated $301 million domestically and was on track to become the animation studio’s most successful feature ever.

Remarkably, Toy Story 3 is the eleventh Pixar film in a row to debut at number one, a streak that began with the very first computer-animated feature, the original Toy Story, in 1995. In a business where even the most reliable stars and directors experience the occasional critical or box-office failure, Pixar continues to defy the odds.

What’s their secret? Just watch the behind-the-scenes material on any of Pixar’s DVDs and you’ll get a sense of the meticulous effort that goes into every detail of their bountifully entertaining and groundbreaking movies. The artists at Pixar always set the bar high, crafting highly original stories with brilliant visuals that consistently delight and astonish moviegoers worldwide. The screenwriter William Goldman once famously declared that in the movie business, “Nobody knows anything.” Nobody, that is, except the amazing artisans at Pixar.