The following statement is issued on behalf of the Online Film Critics Society by the organization’s Governing Committee, consisting of Erik Childress from eFilmCritic.com in Chicago, Phil Hall from Film Threat in New York and Scott Weinberg from the Apollo Guide in Philadelphia.
The Online Film Critics Society, the international professional association of Internet-based film journalists, wishes to express its extreme disappointment with the announced decision by Jack Valenti and the MPAA to end the distribution of “awards screeners, tapes and DVDs sent out by MPAA-member studios to professional trade groups and critics’ organizations for consideration during the annual motion picture awards season.
Mr. Valenti and the MPAA have lobbied the major Hollywood studios to halt the distribution of these screeners as part of a campaign to crack down on the pirating of current film releases. The OFCS feels this action will prove ineffective, and will only punish those who are not responsible.
The OFCS is well aware of the depth and scope of film piracy, and supports the film industry in its efforts to protect its intellectual property. However, Mr. Valenti’s approach suggests that the problem can be solved by withholding videotape and DVD screeners from the film community and its media. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Individual acts of video and online piracy by members of the film community have been documented, and it is important that swift punitive action be taken by law enforcement agencies, and by the employers and professional trade associations of the individuals involved. However, no evidence has been presented by the MPAA to suggest that such activity is widespread in the film community. Nor has there been any evidence that film journalists are engaged in such activity; yet film journalists, who rely on these screeners to serve their public, will no longer receive them from MPAA-member studios.
The overwhelming majority of those who receive the awards screeners are honest, law-abiding citizens. The proposed withholding of awards screeners completely ignores the well-documented fact that most video piracy is based far beyond Hollywood and the film media.
The OFCS membership consists of leading Internet-based film journalists, representing the major online news entities in North America and around the world. Our organization is willing to work with the film industry and the MPAA to ensure that their property is protected. Certainly, any OFCS member found to be involved in criminal activities regarding awards screeners will be expelled forthwith, and the pertinent studios alerted.
There are many easy solutions to preventing the illegal duplication of awards screeners, ranging from encoding serial numbers onto the image to track the source to enclosing return envelopes with screeners. But the removal of much-needed awards screeners from the hands of working journalists only creates ill-will and fails to address the basic issues of stamping out piracy activities.
For more info, visit the OFCS website.