NYC targets pirates

Bloomberg uses public-nuisance laws

NEW YORK — Gotham Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday announced a new program to crack down on piracy under which the city will use public-nuisance laws to target the landlords of suspected bootleggers.

“This will make landlords think twice about taking easy, sleazy money from the counterfeiters,” Bloomberg said at a City Hall press conference Monday morning.

Public-nuisance laws have been used to tackle other difficult social problems; for example, Gotham’s City Council recently used them to increase the professional requirements for bouncers after several nightclub-related deaths.

City also will push for a New York state law that criminalizes the act of recording a movie in a theater. Proposed law would make it a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and a felony for repeat offenders.

It’s already a crime under the federal Family Entertainment & Copyright Act to record a movie in a theater.

The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting and the MPAA are coordinating the Gotham antipiracy program.

Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Dan Glickman joined Bloomberg at the City Hall presser, telling assembled media, “New York is not the only place (piracy) happens, but it happens here too much.”

The MPAA also said it saw the program as a model that could work in other cities.

Officials estimate film piracy costs the U.S. economy as much as $6 billion per year in lost sales and jobs, and 43% of pirated DVDs in the U.S. originate in Gotham.

Bloomberg believes the high number of premieres and early theatrical bows in the city are partly to blame.

Still, the approach of targeting the landlords of counterfeiters has a very limited track record, one attorney familiar with copyright law said.

Asked whether theater owners and street vendors also would be a focus of the increased scrutiny, officials said they believe the best approach is to target the distribution network.

A public-service campaign educating the public about the dangers and victims of piracy is also planned, officials said; the MPAA will finance the campaign in consultation with the city.

The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting is celebrating its 40th anniversary and a remarkable run that has brought the city thousands of jobs and productions. Bloomberg cited a total of more than 30,000 location days last year and noted that even movies set in other cities, such as “The Departed,” increasingly are shot in Gotham. Glickman applauded the Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting, saying, “California is the heart of the business, but New York is really the soul of the business.”

Separately, the mayor announced he’s forming a task force to explore issues of diversity in Gotham’s entertainment biz and has appointed Whoopi Goldberg, who turned up at the press conference, as a member of that task force.

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