Copyright piracy could take a bigger toll on US movies in the current global economic slowdown, including in China where nine out of 10 DVDs sold are pirated, Hollywood s top lobbyist said this week.
This is a high priority issue, said Motion Picture Association of America head Dan Glickman, who expressed concern that the dire financial situation would make pirated movies more popular on the streets and online.
If you look at the situation, the current economic crisis makes this problem much more serious than before, he told a forum. If we don t protect IPR (intellectual property rights), our economic losses will be far worse.
US studios are saddled with $6 billion in annual losses due to piracy but the total global cost to the motion picture industry is three times as high, said Glickman, a former Democratic congressman and agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.
About $2.7 billion of these losses occur in China, where nine out of every 10 DVDs sold are illegal copies, he said.
Film and television drive about $60 billion in annual US economic activity and support 1.3 million American jobs, he said at the forum held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Unlike the burgeoning US trade deficit in goods, Glickman said American movies ran a surplus with virtually every country, with about 60 percent of box office and home video receipts coming from outside the United States.
Citing the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace as an example, Glickman said 70 percent of the $500 million grossed as at last weekend came from overseas after it dominated five weeks of global box office.
The film premiered in London and opened in more than 60 countries – China to Chile to the Czech Republic – all before premiering in the US, he said.
Glickman urged China to step up its crackdown on copyright piracy and allow more US movies into the world s most populous nation, saying greater access would enable US studios to invest more in local ventures.
Of the hundreds of US films released annually, no more than 20 are permitted to be seen in Chinese theaters, he said. This fuels the black market for these essentially forbidden films, he said.
Washington failed to resolve the market access issue through bilateral channels and has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over broad Chinese import limits on cultural goods, such as books, music and DVDs.
US officials argued that China agreed to free up these trading rights for non-Chinese companies when it joined the WTO.
Glickman said he expected a WTO ruling on the dispute pretty soon.
We hope we will win, the government has a very good case here.
The most successful US film this year in China was Kung Fu Panda – the highest-grossing animated film in Chinese history.
The panda, of course, is the national symbol. The film celebrates Chinese culture and it was made in America, Glickman noted, quoting a report suggesting that censorship was a key stumbling block to China s film industry.
Many asked why China couldn t have made this film. The answer given to a reporter anonymously was China has first class directors, first class playwrights, first class actors, but it s a shame that we have censorship by government officials.
The censors, according to the report, would object to a Panda with weight problems, he said.