A quick trip to China provided Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman a little personal experience in the battle to fight software piracy.
In the country to speak at the annual Shanghai International Film Festival over the weekend, Glickman and an associate made a quick, unplanned stop into a local video shop — one named “The Oscar Store.”
They were given a can of Coca-Cola, a business card featuring Garfield the Cat from a store employee — and an offer to purchase one of the thousands of pirated DVDs the store had on sale.
“We went to review the inventory, and there were a large amount of pirated DVDs, from all over the world,” Glickman told TheWrap. “We bought a couple for evidence purposes, and the proprietor thanked us for coming.”
The proprietor wasn’t so happy the next day. Acting on Glickman’s complaint, the Shanghai Municipal Cultural Task Force seized 529 DVDs to use against the store for carrying pirated content.
The irony, Glickman said, is that they love American things, but don’t want to pay for them. "You have this shop named after the Oscars, Garfield on the business cards, you’re given a genuine can of Coca-Cola, but pirated home movies are ubiquitous,” Glickman said.
Further troubling, he said, is that the manufacture and rampant availability of pirated material comes as the market to legally exhibit films in China remains tight. The Chinese government allows only 25 foreign films into the country — and only 14 of those are from the U.S.
“We can’t get through the front door [by exhibiting movies in theaters], yet pirated products are so inexpensive and there’s [an industry] that employs 2 to 3 million people,” said Glickman, citing the number of people who produce or distribute pirated DVDs. “This is very serious.”
The MPAA chief spoke at the festival about the enduring power of movies and the increasingly global nature of filmmaking. While he only casually touched on piracy in his talk, he was hopeful the festival could help generate support for a crackdown by highlighting of the growth of the Chinese film industry.
He also met with Chinese officials both in Shanghai and Hong Kong to discuss piracy and attempts to open up the Chinese marketplace to more American films.
The festival featured movies not on the normal list of U.S. films shown in China — among them, “The Reader” and “Angels & Demons,” shown unedited. It also showcased Chinese filmmakers — many of whom are having the same piracy issues as in the U.S.
“There is a growing Chinese film industry, and they are very worried about [piracy, just as American studios are],” Glickman told TheWrap. “For the first time, I detect a much greater commitment to help us deal with this problem.”
The U.S. already has a complaint with the World Trade Organization over film piracy activities in China, and Glickman, a former congressman and agriculture secretary, said he hopes the Obama administration will pursue piracy issues. “It’s a little soon to make a firm judgment,” he said.
The new chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, is a former MPAA official and the expected new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, has a background that includes working for a company in the broadcasting industry.
Glickman also encouraged visits to China by studio and congressional leaders. “Visits are helpful in that the message gets reinforced when I, studio execs and members of Congress go,” he said.