Dear AFTRA Member:
I'm writing to you today both as the National President of AFTRA and as an individual who, just like you, has dedicated my life to the art, craft and business of entertainment and media. I am a professional performer who earns my living and health and retirement benefits by acting, performing voiceover work, doing narration for industrials and working on other types of projects. Like for many of you, entertainment and media is my career - it is my livelihood - and right now, my career and my livelihood are under attack, and so are yours.
The digital theft of movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows - what has often been called "piracy" - is the biggest threat the entertainment community has ever faced, and 2.4 million of us who make a living in entertainment need to join together to fight back.
The term "piracy" doesn't do justice to the problem; this is THEFT on a massive scale. Movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows are illegally downloaded or streamed at least 500,000 times every day. Millions of counterfeit DVDs are sold each year. International criminal operations masquerade as legitimate sites, appear in search engines and even accept credit card payments, confusing and siphoning off our audiences. These thieves steal money out of our pockets and deprive us of the earnings we need to qualify for critical health insurance and retirement benefits. In fact, digital theft is so serious that it is one of the crimes investigated by U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement, along with human trafficking, money laundering, weapons smuggling and narcotics.
The impact on each one of us is real. The digital theft of movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows reduces our residuals and royalty payments, as well as our retirement and health benefits, and more than 140,000 entertainment-related jobs have already been lost to content theft. Every film, sound recording, videogame, audiobook and television show that is stolen represents a terrible loss to all of the people who created it, reduces funds available for future work and reduces creative and employment opportunities for AFTRA members and everyone else works on a production or sound recording.
Almost two years ago now, Delegates to the 2009 AFTRA National Convention in Chicago unanimously passed a resolution making the fight against digital theft our highest legislative priority. Since then, AFTRA has worked with DGA, IATSE, SAG, MPAA, and from time to time also AFM and the Teamsters to help raise awareness among lawmakers in Washington, DC, about the real danger this threat presents to our livelihoods and to the American economy. We have also been working closely with Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator appointed by President Obama in September 2009, to help her understand just how grave this threat is to the United States. We must devleop sound regulatory and public policies to protect creative content and ensure that the people and industries that produce the uniquely American product continue to thrive.
We are making good headway in D.C. Latest proof of our success lies in the bipartisan support for new legislation introduced on May 26, 2011: the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act was unanimously passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The PROTECT IP Act is critical to efforts to aggressively combat the proliferation of foreign "rogue websites" that steal U.S.-produced content and profit from it by illegally selling it to the public.
But, remember: this is just a step forward in what will be a long battle against criminals who are stealing our work. To be successful, we need more than just strong laws: we need a fully engaged community of entertainment and media professionals - AFTRA members like you - to stand up, make our voices heard and do our part to stop digital theft.
We pour our hearts into making the movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows that the world loves. Entertainment is one of America's most important economic engines. The theft of creative content must be stopped, so we are redoubling our efforts.
AFTRA is on the battle lines against digital theft with our sister unions, as well as producers and other stakeholders in the media and entertainment industries. This is bigger than any single group alone. So in the coming months, you'll be getting more information about digital theft and its impact on our jobs and creativity. If you would like to get involved or learn more about ways you can help protect our future, please email ProtectMyWork@aftra.com or call and we will contact you with information about how you can help in this effort.
Entertainment and media is changing fast, and we are all working to find new ways to share our creativity with audiences here at home and around the world. Please watch for regular updates and information about what AFTRA is doing, and what you can do to join the fight.
National President AFTRA, AFL-CIO