WASHINGTON — The Motion Picture Assn. of America has thrown the full weight of the seven major studios and the nets they own behind its strongest and most public anti-piracy campaign to date.
Enlisting the help of its powerful media holdings and allies — 35 networks and cable outlets and 5,000 theaters — the MPAA will launch a series of public service announcements on primetime TV Thursday and on thousands of movie screens across the country starting Friday.
“This is the most comprehensive and unified program we’ve every embarked on,” MPAA prexy Jack Valenti said Tuesday. “These usually antagonistic companies all came together on this. … Every company had a piece of this.”
Studios want to jump on the digital piracy issue before speedy Internet connections make movie file-swapping as easy as ripping off music online. Right now, the MPAA estimates traditional piracy alone has inflicted a $4 billion loss.
Trailers for change
Produced by 20th Century Fox, the 65-second theater trailers will drive home the theme, “Movies — They’re Worth It.” They’ll strive to change perceptions that online movie theft is either a victimless crime or mainly affects the wealthy showbiz elite.
The ads will focus on the legions of off-camera employees, such as make-up artists, stuntmen and grips, who claim piracy robs them of a living.
“The piracy issue — I don’t think it will affect the producer,” set-painter David Goldstein remarks in one ad. “It does affect them, but it is minuscule compared to the way it affects people like me — the set-painters and construction workers — because we are not million-dollar employees. … All I want to do is work and put out the best product I can put out.”
The separate 30-second TV spots will air simultaneously at 8 p.m., the first primetime break, on the Big Four nets and the WB and UPN, as well as 33 diverse cable outlets such as A&E, BET and Comedy Central. It will feature individuals from all levels of the moviemaking business — from celebs such as Ben Affleck to theater employees serving popcorn.
Hitting classrooms, too
MPAA plans to run the coordinated TV spots only once; the trailers will continue indefinitely.
The movie industry also has joined forces with Junior Achievement, a group of volunteers and educators who teach kindergarten through 12th grade students about business and the economy. The group plans to incorporate a lesson on piracy for instructors to use in 36,000 classrooms nationwide. The MPAA also will continue to reach out to college campuses through its Universities Council.
The campaign strategy was created by the MPAA PR Council, made up of the trade org’s public affairs team as well as senior reps from 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, Buena Vista Pictures and affiliates of the Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Studios.
“This is a result of a lot of sweat equity,” said Warner Bros.’ Barbara Brogliatti.
At first glance, the comprehensive campaign provoked only mild caution from consumers-rights groups.
“They have every right to get their message out,” said Computer Electronics Assn. topper Gary Shapiro. “I just hope they’re also highlighting consumers’ fair-use rights.”
Valenti views the public education campaign as another weapon in the industry’s arsenal, which will continue to pursue legislative protection and legal action against pirates.
“It will take time. … I wouldn’t want to forecast it in 30 days or nine months,” Valenti said, predicting consumers will become increasingly aware of the issue as more people go to theaters and see the trailers.
“Any time you can educate people and make them more aware, you’re making progress,” said Sony’s Susan Tick.
The studios also collaborated on Web site http://www.respectcopyrights.org, a resource about the ethical and legal implications of digital piracy that’s designed as a portal for movie enthusiasts.