Wendy Mitchell brings you the US piracy lowdown.

Anti-piracy efforts are proving increasingly successful in the US, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). “You need good intelligence, you need good laws, you need zealous investigators, prosecutors to bring convictions and judges to give appropriate sentences,”says John Malcolm, the MPAA’s director of worldwide anti-piracy operations.

“There’s no country where things work perfectly but in the US you have most of these elements.”According to the MPAA, the US is a bright spot in the worldwide piracy epidemic: in a 2006 study, it found 80% of studio piracy took place outside the US, with 20% - or $1.3bn of losses - within the territory. Economist Stephen Siwek estimated film piracy cost the US economy 141,030 jobs in 2005.
The situation has improved in recent years. An already-strong copyright law (passed in 1976 and strengthened in 1982) was accompanied in 2005 by the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, which made camcording in a theatre a federal felony. The government can file criminal charges against copyright infringers, and copyright owners can also file civil lawsuits. In addition to the federal law, 41 states have anti-camcording laws.

President Barack Obama has come out as a strong defender of intellectual property (IP) and has created the country’s first IP czar. In April, industry experts were invited to discuss anti-piracy issues before the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Malcolm attributes 90% of piracy in the US to illegal camcording in theatres. “We’ve devoted a lot of resources to go after professional camcorder thieves, and have had a fair degree of success,” Malcolm explains.

“A number of people have been apprehended over past couple of years.”The statistics suggest it is working - in 2008, 170 professional camcorder feeds came out of the US (significantly down from 2007) and, halfway through 2009, the number is only 62.

Consistent support from the FBI and state law enforcement is also helping the MPAA’s efforts, as is co-operation from US Customs to stop illegal DVDs being shipped into the country. With strong laws in place, Malcolm says improvements now could come from increasingly tough sentences and more law-enforcement resources - also being funded by the Obama administration.

Online, the borders are less clear than with hard goods. “The internet is a different beast, it’s borderless; targets tend to be multi-jurisdictional,”Malcolm notes, “although we have taken civil actions against peer-to-peer and streaming sites and we’ve had great success with that.”

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