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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), originally the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), is a United States non-profit business and trade association to advance the business interests of movie studios. The MPAA administers the voluntary but dominant MPAA film rating system. As part of its campaign to stop copyright infringement, the MPAA is fighting to stop the sharing of copyrighted works via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The MPAA's anti-piracy campaign has gained much publicity and criticism.

History

In 1922, the major American movie studios founded the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America which started regulating the Hays code film rating system from 1930 to 1968. In 1945, they changed their name to Motion Picture Association of America.

Structure

MPAA members include the "big six" major Hollywoodmarker studios, which are:

MGM was an MPAA member until 2005, shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment's failed attempt to buy that studio; it ended in a partly Sony-funded acquisition. Lions Gate also joined the film rating system, but was not in the big seven. Neither is The Weinstein Company.

From 1966 to 2004, Jack Valenti was MPAA president and was strongly associated with the association because of his long tenure and high public profile. Valenti retired on 1 September, 2004. Dan Glickman, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, now serves as the MPAA Chairman and chief executive officer. On September 22, 2005, Glickman named A. Robert Pisano as Chief Operating Officer and President of MPAA.

Kori Bernards is the MPAA's corporate communications vice-president and principal spokeswoman.

Ratings

The MPAA film rating system is by far the dominant motion picture rating system in the United States. This is the current list of the MPAA's ratings:
G
The movie contains no mild violence, sexual content, and/or language. There is no need for parental guidance.
PG (M between 1968 and 1970 and GP between 1970 and 1972)
The movie may contain mild violence, mild sexual innuendo, language or very mild drug references. Young children (ages 9 and under) should have parental guidance.
PG-13 (first introduced on July 1, 1984)
The movie may contain intense violence (but some or almost no gore), some sexual content, partial nudity, mild drug references, and/or infrequent strong language. Children under 13 should have parental guidance.
R
The movie may contain strong violence (including gore) and language, drug uses, sexual content, and/or full-frontal nudity. People under 17 must be with an accompanying parent or adult guardian when watching an R-rated film in a cinema.
NC-17 (X until 1990)
The movie may have extreme violence, bloody gore, explicit sexual content, hard drug use and/or very strong language. People ages 17 and under must not be admitted to an NC-17 rated film in a cinema.


Anti-piracy efforts

Home recording

In the early 1980s, the Association was at the forefront of efforts to suppress the videocassette recorder (VCR). In Congressional hearings in 1982, MPAA head Jack Valenti decried the "savagery and the ravages of this machine" and likened its effect on the film industry and the American public to the Boston strangler.

Publicity campaigns

You Wouldn't Steal a Car

"You Wouldn't Steal a Car" was a 2004 advertisement by the MPAA that is put before the actual content on many DVDs. It is sometimes made impossible to skip on most mass market DVD players, so the viewers must sit through the advert in its entirety every time the disc is viewed. It is possible to get around this by using a DVD player with software that ignores user operation prohibition or by removing this feature using DVD ripper when creating copies.

The voiceover (and text) of the ad says "You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a mobile phone. You wouldn’t steal a DVD. Downloading pirated films is stealing…Stealing...Is Against...The Law...Piracy: It’s a crime." Later versions substitute 'pirate DVDs' for 'downloading films online is stealing.

The ad has been parodied several times and was known to appear in many copies of pirated DVDs. The trailer uses a sound-alike version of "No Man Army" by Prodigy.

Legal actions

The MPAA has taken legal actions against a number of peer-to-peer file-sharing sites (or BitTorrent trackers) that are used to upload and download copyrighted material (such as movies). Widely publicised examples include Razorback2 and The Pirate Bay.

In February 2006 the MPAA released the following statement:

Razorback2

On 21 February 2006, the servers located in a Belgianmarker datacenter were confiscated by the Belgian police, and their operator, who lives in Switzerlandmarker, was arrested. This was done after a local judge authorized the confiscation at the datacenter in Zaventemmarker near Brusselsmarker, after initiation by the MPAA.

In a Press Release the MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman stated:

The Pirate Bay

On 31 May 2006, Swedish police raided The Pirate Bay, a Swedenmarker based BitTorrent tracker, prompted by allegations of copyright violations. Some 65 police officers participated in the raid, shutting down the site and confiscating its servers, as well as all other servers hosted by The Pirate Bay's ISP, PRQ Inet. Three people, Gottfrid Svartholm, Mikael Viborg, and Fredrik Neij, were held by the police for questioning. Three days later, The Pirate Bay was fully functional again.

The raid became controversial in Swedenmarker when the Swedish public broadcast network, Sveriges Television cited unnamed sources claiming that the raid was prompted by political pressure from the United Statesmarker, which the Swedish government denies. Specifically, the claim is that the Swedish government was threatened with WTO trade sanctions unless action was taken against The Pirate Bay. There have been claims of ministerstyre (lit. "minister rule", when a politician pressures another government agency to take action, which is unconstitutional in Sweden) in connection with this allegation. A letter titled "Re: The Pirate Bay" from the MPAA to Dan Eliasson, the Swedish State Secretary, was dated two months before the raid and hinted at trade reprisals ("It is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation as a place where utter lawlessness is tolerated") and urged him to "exercise your influence to urge law enforcement officers in Sweden to take much needed action against The Pirate Bay".

In a MPAA press release, 31 May 2006, entitled "Swedish Authorities Sink Pirate Bay", Dan Glickman, MPAA Chairman and CEO, states:

In the 2007 documentary Good Copy Bad Copy, as well as the film Steal This Film II, Glickman is interviewed in connection with the 2006 raid on The Pirate Bay by the Swedish police, conceding that piracy will never be stopped, but stating that they will try to make it as difficult and tedious as possible.

Controversies

Rating system

One example is the film rating system. Many believe that the intent of the various ratings has been subverted. For example, there is widespread access to R-rated movies even for those under 17, while the NC-17 rating spells commercial death for a film, undermining its purpose.

Film critic Roger Ebert has called for an entirely new system of ratings designed to address these issues. Some people criticize film-makers for editing their works to conform to the various ratings. For example, they might excise some extreme violence or sex to avoid an NC-17, or even "spice up" a children's movie so as to move from G to PG and appeal to older children. The ratings system itself is attacked as de facto censorship by free-speech activists, and conversely as too lenient in its content standards by some conservative critics, religious leaders, lawyers, and parental review sites. In This Film is Not Yet Rated, Kirby Dick argues that the MPAA tends to be considered more complacent with violent content than sexual, and that there is more bias against homosexual sexual content than heterosexual.

Copyright issues

Fight against online piracy

The rise of the Internet has further emphasized the MPAA’s role in controlling content. However, the Internet allows some users to access content they otherwise could not, such as viewing NC-17 movies that are not shown in theatres. The MPAA has responded legally by seeking to shut down piracy websites.

Although the MPAA has won several victories against online piracy such as the Razorback2 raid and a series of successful lawsuits against public torrent websites, online piracy is still growing steadily with modern studies showing more and more participants.

The effect MPAA raids have had on overall online pirating traffic is, to date, limited — the day Razorback2 (a major server on the Edonkey2000 network) was shut down, Edonkey2000 network traffic stayed the same, showing negligible change. However the MPAA has had a very successful history shutting down networks of pirated material and torrent sites, bolstering a record of approximately 75 during 2006.

Fraudulent piracy figures

In the MPAA press release from May 31, 2006 on The Pirate Bay raid the MPAA stated that they lost $6.1 billion dollars nationwide to piracy in 2005, and that internet piracy alone had cost the studios $2.3 billion. This is especially so as over 20 percent, $1.4 billion, of the $6.1 billion figure represents what is essentially making a non-commercial backups, either virtually on a device or physically on another disc, which is protected under United States law. These numbers are further suspicious due to the private nature of the study, which cannot be publicly checked for methodology or validity.

On January 22, 2008, it was revealed that the MPAA numbers on piracy in colleges was grossly inflated by up to 300%. This came at a time when the MPAA was trying to push a bill through that would compel universities to crack down on piracy.

Allegations of copyright infringement by the MPAA

In 2007, English software developer Patrick Robin reported that the MPAA was illegally using his blogging platform, Forest Blog. Forest Blog is distributed for free under a linkware license; anyone who uses it must link back to his site where Forest Blog is free offered for download. To remove the links back to his site, they must purchase a license. The MPAA had removed the links, without paying for a license. They claim that they were only testing the blogging platform, and that the blog was “never advertised to the public in any way”. The torrent community in response mocked the MPAA saying that pirating movies is legal provided that they do not advertise them and only use them for testing purposes.

On November 23, 2007, Matthew Garret notified the MPAA that it was in violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) for distributing a software toolkit designed to help universities detect instances of potentially illegal file-sharing on school networks. This tool kit was based on the Xubuntu operating system, which is licensed under the GPL. The violation was distributing a derived work without making the source code available. On December 1, 2007, Garrett notified the Internet service provider for the MPAA that, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, he was requesting them to disable the offending distribution web site. It is not clear if this request was ever honored. However, the MPAA did change the site so as not to offer the toolkit for distribution.

In the DVD extras to the film This Film Is Not Yet Rated director Kirby Dick accuses the MPAA of making an illegal copy of his film during the process of reviewing the film for its rating.

Monopoly

Since the MPAA members are the Motion Picture industry's most powerful studios, representing some of the world's largest media corporations, allegations of monopoly are often brought up by critics. Critics also point to the MPAA's support for closed standards that hinder competition. Other critics, such as filmmaker Kirby Dick, have suggested that films released by major studios (members of the MPAA) are given more deference in terms of ratings than films released by independents.

See also



References

  1. MPAA About Us - Members
  2. Washington Post, Glickman Succeeds Valenti At MPAA
  3. Motion Picture Association of America
  4. [1]
  5. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice of the Committee of the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Ninety-seventh Congress, Second Session on H.R. 4783, H.R. 4794 H.R. 4808, H.R. 5250, H.R. 5488, and H.R. 5705, Serial No 97, Part I, Home Recording of Copyrighted Works, April 12, 1982. US Government Printing Office. "We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry that is able to retrieve a surplus balance of trade and whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine. ... I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." [2]
  6. IPOS: Launch of Anti-Piracy Movie Trailer
  7. Knowledge@Emory: Can Sampling Help Curb Piracy?
  8. 'You Wouldn't Steal a Car': Intellectual Property and the Language of Theft
  9. http://www.mpaa.org/press_releases/2006_02_23.pdf
  10. Blog by Mikael Viborg, 1 June 2006
  11. "USA-hot bakom fildelningsrazzia", article in Swedish from Dagens Nyheter
  12. Steal This Film, Part 2
  13. Good Copy Bad Copy
  14. The Transformers: The Movie, audio commentary with Nelson Shin (Director), Flint Dille (Story Consultant)


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