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Hollywood unions, networks and studios mount anti-piracy offensive

October 18, 2011 |  5:42 pm

Anti-piracy-PSA
Hollywood is launching one of its largest-ever get-out-the-vote campaigns.

A broad coalition of film studios, TV networks and entertainment industry labor groups has launched an education campaign to teach the public about the evils of piracy and prod their employees and union members to support an anti-piracy bill in Washington.

Through internal videos, newsletters, emails and booths set up in company commissaries , media giants such as NBCUniversal, CBS, Viacom, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. are encouraging their employees to join a newly formed group called Creative America, a grass-roots organization launched this summer to muster support in the creative community for tougher anti-piracy legislation.

The group operates a website where visitors can learn more about the effect of content theft on jobs and email letters to their representatives in Congress.

Hollywood has been rallying behind a bill called the Protect IP Act that would give law enforcement more tools to crack down on websites that offer pirated movies and TV shows. The Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously supported the bill, which has yet to come up for a full vote.

NBC this week began airing on its various broadcast and cable channels a public service announcement starring stand-up comedian and television writer Tom Papa.

“The message is that Internet theft is simply wrong,” said Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel for NBCUniversal. “It hurts people and has real consequences.”

Labor unions also are heavily involved in the campaign.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents technical workers on film and TV shows, and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have been sending representatives to visit sets across the country to mobilize cast and crew members to support the Protect IP Act.

“It’s happening in all major production centers across the country,” said Scott Harbinson, international representative for the IATSE. “This is a high priority for us because we really believe piracy is an existential threat to our business. It affects middle-class workers who are earning a middle-class living.”

The Screen Actors Guild also has been distributing Creative America materials to its members, including videotaped messages from board members. "SAG is passionately committed to this grassroots organization...which has brought together a diverse group of entertainment workers to educate the public and our legislators about the serious threat to our livelihood and creativity," former SAG President Richard Masur said.

Philippe Dauman, chief executive of Viacom Inc., said the campaign has united employers and unions in a common cause.

“This is an area where we can come together to protect one of America’s greatest industries that has a trade surplus in every area of the world,” Dauman said in an interview. “We need to do a better job informing our own employees and suppliers as well as the general public about our industry and the really good jobs it supports. We bring a lot of value to communities that we operate in.”

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Tom Papa in a commercial running on NBC's broadcast network and cable channels. Credit: NBCUniversal

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