House Creative Rights Caucus: Protecting Intellectual Property Rights Protects American Jobs

By Emily Blatter | June 14, 2016 | 4:29pm EDT
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), co-chairman of the House Creative Rights Caucus. (AP photo)

( -- Members of the House Creative Rights Caucus stressed that protecting intellectual property (IP) rights protects American jobs during a panel discussion on how digital theft affects the motion picture industry last week on Capitol Hill.

The “Anatomy of a Movie” event featured a discussion of the Academy-award-winning film “Spotlight” produced by independent film company Open Road Films.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), who co-chairs the caucus with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), opened the panel discussion by stating that the creative industry creates jobs and drives the U.S. economy.

“Congress needs to have a full appreciation of what is at stake if we don’t protect the rights of creators,” Chu said. “And we need to understand the real impact of digital theft.

“We need to be aware when these works are pirated,” Chu continued, “and it makes it harder, if they are pirated, for the filmmaker to make their next movie or show, and it decreases the number of jobs on the set.”

Digital theft, or piracy, reduces the profits of film companies and other contributors to film production. Smaller profits lead to a decrease in jobs in the industry, because the economic incentives for filmmakers to produce new films is diminished.

Reduction in filmmaking activity also hurts the workers that support it, such as painters, carpenters, designers, and caterers.

According to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “the illicit nature of counterfeiting and piracy makes estimating the economic impact of IP infringements extremely difficult….Nonetheless, research in specific industries suggest that the problem is sizeable,” and is likely to be in the billions of dollars.

Rep. Collins challenged those in attendance at the hearing to think about intellectual  property rights in the context of job creation in their own areas.

“It’s about creating an economy where people can use their gifts to grow, because it’s more than just what you see on the screen... it’s about the set designers, it’s about the lighting technicians, it’s about the writers, it’s about the ones who are driving the trucks and the cars, it’s about the ones who have the catering wagons, it’s about the industries that are created all from an idea. That affects all districts in every state…

“If we understand that, then we begin to understand why creative rights truly matter,” Collins added.

Boston Globe reporter Mike Rezendes also testified that the growth of free internet media makes print journalism relatively obsolete and investigative reporting unprofitable. He added that this poses a danger to the American republic, which relies on the media to hold government officials accountable.

“The main way to support journalism is to make sure that people pay for it,” said Rezendes. “Reporters have to be compensated and news organizations have to make a profit. If that doesn’t happen, this kind of journalism will disappear, and in fact it is disappearing today, to the point where we are in a crisis in this country with journalism being threatened to the extent that… our democracy will soon be threatened,” he said.

“For a democracy to function, there has to be an institution in this society that holds powerful people and powerful institutions accountable, and that’s the media,” Rezendes concluded.

The panel also featured “Spotlight” producers Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust; Ben Bradlee Jr. of The Boston Globe, the newspaper whose reporters were featured in the film; John Slattery, actor in "Mad Men," "Spotlight" and "Veep"; Stephen Carter, production designer for "Birdman" and "Spotlight"; and Liz Biber, executive vice president for publicity at Open Road Films.

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