Special report on piracy part 1

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

September 19, 2013

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Jackie Chavez has been trying to make it big as a singer and musician for five years now. It hasn’t been easy.

“It’s tough when you’re just doing it independently and you don’t have connections. You rely on pure talent. It’s really hard,” she mused.

Chavez released her self-titled album in the Philippines in 2011, and she’s trying to do the same in the U.S. For now, she earns her money through gigs. But she said selling her songs online through iTunes and Amazon has been especially challenging, because of piracy.

“As artists, we put our dedication and hardwork to create music. It’s so sad that they’re just going to copy it. They’re just going to pirate it,” she added.

This year, tech companies like 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, AOL, Conde Nast, Goggle, Microsoft, Spotxchange and Yahoo, with the support of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, committed to reduce the flow of ad revenue to operators of sites involved in significant piracy. President Barack Obama’s administration supports this effort.

“I think that it’s going to be possible for us to make sure we’re protecting intellectual property that creates a lot of jobs in this country…but also do it in a way that’s not affecting the fundamental integrity of the internet as an open, transparent system,” said the president in a White House video.

Committing piracy line is done when someone downloads music, movies or TV shows and doesn’t pay for it. This is called digital piracy.

Optical piracy, on the other hand, is committed when someone illegally manufactures, sells, distributes or trades copies of music, movies and TV shows in disc formats…and then makes profit off of it.

Committing piracy is a serious offense.

For first-time offenders in the U.S., penalties include jailtime of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000.

But despite the grave consequences, intellectual property theft has gotten so bad, that in the U.S. alone, it costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year and threatens the livelihood of about two million people working in the industry.

Piracy has become so prevalent, not just in the U.S. but in other parts of the world, as proven by a recent study from NetNames, a British band protection firm.

“In the 2013 study, what we’re looking at is any type of infringing content at all – film content, television, books, software, games, music. The only thing we’re not looking at is pornography. It’s often very difficult to work out, whether pornography is infringing or not. In November 2011, we saw 297 million infringing users. By January 2013, that figure has jumped to 327 million users who are accessing infringing content,” said David Price, Director of Piracy Analysis.

Price said piracy has not stood still despite the growth of legitimate sites to watch entertainment — like Netflix and Amazon.

Meantime, in the Philippines, action star Ronnie Ricketts, Chair of the Optical Media Board or OMB, is doing what it takes to stop the growth of piracy in the Philippines.

“Piracy is deliberately taking someone’s copyrighted work and then gaining economic profit out of it. It’s like stealing a creation, an invention, and selling it, mass producing it, and then making money from it. That’s what ruins our entertainment industry,” he said.

Under Rickett’s leadership, the OMB has conducted raids all over the country, seizing pirated goods and holding perpetrators of piracy accountable. But besides enforcement, Ricketts also focuses on educating the community on the gravity of piracy.

For Chavez, it doesn’t cost much to prevent music piracy — just a buck or two per song. But she said, more than money, it’s simply doing the right thing.

“Give credit where credit is due,” she concluded.

For more information, you may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com.

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