Awakening the Force and Protecting our Innovation

By Patrick Rosenstiel

Star Wars The Force Awakens has raked in over $600 million internationally in its opening week at the box office – one of the strongest showings from any film of all time. There are examples of economic development along the entire “value chain” of the cinematic experience. As droves of moviegoers make their way to the local theater to experience “the force.” jobs are being created each and every step of the way – from the army of technical workers needed to make the film to the employees of the theater. Either way you look at it, a blockbuster like Star Wars creates an economic impact far beyond the ticket sales by which Hollywood measures success.

Just as American technology and pharmaceutical companies utilize patent and copyright laws to ensure that they are compensated for their advancements, America’s motion picture industry looks to the same protections to ensure their continued economic success. While many do not consider “pirating” to be as serious of a violation as, say, patent infringement on a cellular phone – the repercussions to America’s economy are just as serious. This is why our nation’s leadership must prioritize copyright protection for America’s motion picture industry – particularly in international markets.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance recently suggested 13 countries to add to the United States Trade Representative’s “countries to watch” list for their lack of enforcement over copyright laws (leading to rampant piracy). Amongst these countries are Canada, Chile, Indonesia, and Vietnam – each of whom recently entered into the largest international trade agreement in history, the Trans Pacific Partnership, with the United States. As our nation continues to build an economic relationship with these countries others, the United States must demand a standard of entertainment copyright enforcement similar to ours with each of our trading partners.

The final text of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) sets the stage for a strong stand on copyright and intellectual property laws. The agreement will standardize the current American copyright laws on works of art, providing protection for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years, with the rest of the countries in the agreement. The TPP unifies copyright enforcement, creating “strong enforcement systems, including, for example, civil procedures, provisional measures, border measures, and criminal procedures and penalties for commercial-scale trademark counterfeiting and copyright or related rights piracy,” according to United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman.

Entertainment industry groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have applauded the final text of the agreement for the protections it will give to their members. As Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA pointed out in a statement, “Enacting a high-standard TPP is an economic priority for the American motion picture and television industry, which registered nearly $16 billion in exports in 2013 and supports nearly two million jobs throughout all fifty states.” These protections translate into American jobs.

If the United States continues to allow relaxed enforcement of copyright laws for motion pictures internationally, it will not be long before the next chapters of our favorite movie series will only be left to our imagination. 

Ainsley Shea