Unintended Consequences: How the Visual Effects Industry Put Copyright to Use

Before I get to the topic at hand, let me first provide a short update.  King, the makers of Candy Crush, opted to withdraw their trademark request for the word candy.  They will still maintain a trademark over the word in Europe, but will not own a trademark over the word in the US.

Today’s entry details an interesting development in the realm of copyright law.  As anyone following the news the past few decades knows, many companies have sent a number of jobs to other countries.  Recently, movie studios began sending visual effects jobs to other countries.  This development resulted in a number of visual effects studios have gone out of business, including a some award winning ones.  As a result, a number of these visual effects artists have sought ways to combat what they view as a “bleeding” of their industry.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently filed a document with the International Trade Commission (ITC) regarding 3D printing.  In the document, the MPAA argued that digital goods should receive the same respect (and protections) as physical goods in international trade.  Some of these visual effects activists noticed the filing, and began arguing that this argument should also apply to post-production work.  This would render post-production work subject to many of the same protections that domestically produced movies receive, as well as Department of Commerce requirements to impose a punitive tax on companies that benefit from foreign subsidies that undercut a domestic industry.

The Pando article linked above does note a number of difficulties.  For one, the visual effects industry has no union and very little organization.  As a result, getting everyone on the same page to present a legal argument could be difficult.  The article also notes the political influence of the MPAA, particularly given their connections in the relevant political agencies (including the ITC).  There are some more basic problems with this argument though.  This argument that the digital versions of physical products deserve equal protection is still just an argument.  The ITC hasn’t adopted this legal argument and there is no indication that their administrative judges will find this argument to be valid. 

There is more to this, particularly given a review of the feasibility study.  It should be interesting to see how this develops in the future.


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