CreativeFuture: Coalition Looks at Solutions to Online Piracy

Independent film executive Ruth Vitale — who has held positions at New Line Cinema, Paramount Classics and First Look Studios — was recently named executive director of CreativeFuture, a coalition of movie and television producers, unions and companies that is aiming to steer Hollywood’s digital future. After tech giants convinced Congress that proposed antipiracy laws were too restrictive of online freedom, the film and television industries remain threatened by online piracy. CreativeFuture hopes to change that.

Hollywood has taken to legal battles against pirate sites such as Megaupload and, more recently, Popcorn Time.

“An app that allowed instant streaming of newly released films with Netflix-like ease, Popcorn Time was quickly taken off the Web this month under what its developers, who were based in Argentina, hinted was legal pressure,” reports The New York Times. “But similarly designed apps popped up elsewhere, underscoring the difficulty of slapping down global film theft with lawsuits or prosecution.”

A study commissioned by NBCUniversal recently reported that online piracy in North America, Europe and Asia had risen 160 percent in two years. Some have argued that the best way to combat piracy is a disruption to the longstanding distribution model by releasing day-and-date in every window.

Vitale and others suggest that losing audience to sites like Pirate Bay has become a factor in the declining number of studio films produced each year, a trend that is now evident in the independent film business.

“Vitale attributed the falloff to piracy-driven problems that have made it more difficult to finance an independent film by selling rights to foreign territories, where viewers flock to poorly controlled pirate sites, bypassing conventional outlets and the revenue they once provided to finance films,” notes the article.

CreativeFuture was founded in 2011 by CBS, Warner Bros. and several entertainment unions with the intent of providing Hollywood’s antipiracy efforts with a public face besides that of the MPAA (often viewed as an alliance of corporate heavyweights). CreativeFuture’s backers now include Killer Films, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and talent reps such as Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

“Now the question becomes what to do with that support,” says NYT. “For the moment, Ms. Vitale said she hoped to extend voluntary arrangements with payment processors, ad agencies and others. To date, the most prominent of these agreements is the Copyright Alert System, under which several Internet service providers last year agreed to send an escalating series of notices to suspected copyright infringers, imposing restrictions on service after six ‘strikes.'”

In addition, Vitale hopes that children raised with legitimate streaming services from Netflix and Hulu can be persuaded to think differently than today’s millennials, and that alliances with educational nonprofits could help enforce the idea that stealing someone’s work online is similar to stealing from a classmate’s desk.