By DCM Kurt Tong
Official poster for the movie "Battleship"
I spoke to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day.
May 17 - Recently I gave a speech for the first time ever in a movie theater - just before watching the new film "Battleship."
First about the movie, which was pretty cool: Battleship is a board game involving navy ships. People have been playing it in the United States since I was a child. I don't want to give away the story, but the movie's special effects were dazzling, and the audience got to see whether Japanese ingenuity and American naval hardware are good enough to save the earth from annihilation at the hands of nasty aliens with scary eyes.
By the way, the director used real U.S. Navy veterans in the movie, including one of the main heroes who lost both of his legs fighting in Iraq. If you go see the movie, the actors having the most fun aren't really actors at all!
So why did I give a speech at such an unusual place? In fact, I attended the movie to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day and to help raise awareness that intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime.
Giving a speech in a movie theater
As you probably know, "intellectual property" refers to the right of content creators to benefit from the sale of their creations. Intellectual property rights are protected through copyright, patents, and trademarks, covering all types of content ranging from books to animation characters to machine tool designs.
In the case of a film, the copyright protects the producers of the film so that the people that made the movie get a fair share of the revenues, so they can make more movies. For example, the company that put "Battleship" in theaters will use the revenues of the movie to pay the thousands of people responsible for making, distributing and showing the movie - from the guy who keeps everyone fed on set to the highest paid actor. They may use any left-over profits to invest in better technologies to enhance the movie-going experience, or in other industries to develop new products.
When revenues are eroded by piracy and illegal sales, however, companies cannot expand, and they cannot invest in future projects. Drug makers, for example, cannot invest in research into new life-saving drugs. Also, consumer safety is degraded, since infringing products now go beyond movies, music, and fashion to include fake pharmaceuticals, fake automotive brakes and tires, and even fake airplane parts.
Here's an actual battleship, USS Missouri in action during the Korean War (Wikipedia photo)
In Japan, in a single year, movie piracy alone cost the Japanese economy over 56 billion yen (Source). Those economic losses meant that 2,600 full-time jobs that could have been created were not. Since 71% of movie piracy in Japan occurs online rather through physical purchases of bootleg DVDs, it's online piracy that is taking money away from the movie industry and robbing ordinary people of economic opportunity.
The anonymity and relaxed culture of the Internet sometimes makes people forget that harm is done to real companies and people when a movie is stolen. While very few people would take a bag of DVDs and run out of a store, surveys show that one out of every six Japanese people has illegally downloaded a movie. The numbers in the United States are worse, by the way, so please don't think I am singling out Japan.
The good news is that studies conducted in Japan show that when people are aware that illegal downloading hurts others, they are less likely to do it. So, simply by telling your friends that illegal downloading is not a victimless crime, you can help!