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Remarks to the Motion Picture Association of America


Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Remarks to the Motion Picture Association of America
Second Biennial Industry Summit
Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Dan, and a good, East Coast, early morning to all of you.

As some of you may know, this is the beginning of my fourth full week on the job, and I find myself here today having recently traded one Washington address for another.

From 1997-2005, I served as governor of Washington State, and it was as governor that I learned first-hand just what your industry can mean to a community. That’s one of the reasons I’m honored to speak to you today.

I saw the economic impact local productions had. I watched them fill hotel rooms with crew members and hire extras. I also noticed how your work encouraged tourism and the way productions beautified cityscapes.

So before I begin, I want to acknowledge Chairman Glickman and the leaders we have in the room today whose studios have huge impacts on the economies of communities across the nation.

Your companies do remarkable work, and I applaud you for it.

At its best, film and television shed precious light on the human condition. They allow us to better understand ourselves and the communities in which we live.

Your products enrich, inform and entertain. They provoke and question.

And lest I be accused of being overly dramatic—amidst times of great difficulty—times in which we find ourselves today—your work can simply mean a few hours of needed diversion.

Recent numbers reinforce that point. While many sectors of the American economy are struggling, in the first part of 2009, revenue for the American movie industry actually posted a double-digit gain over the same period in 2008.

While it shouldn’t need to be stated that—as a matter of policy—we should foster and encourage economic strength—let me be clear that I see yours as an industry worth fighting for.

The new report crystallizes, in objective, economic terms, the importance of your work to the country – 2.5 million U.S. jobs and a trade surplus worth nearly $14 billion.

What also jumps out at me is the average salary for production employees—$74,700. These are family wage jobs.

In the past, perhaps there was a tendency—because your work is more abstract than a semi-conductor or a bushel of apples—to dismissive of what you produce.

That’s not my view. I see your product as a uniquely American commodity. Movies and TV shows are direct products of the freedoms we enjoy.

That’s part of why they’re so popular around the world.

And with some 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside our borders, the international market is increasingly important for American big-screen and small-screen products alike.

The U.S. industry has managed to expand its international presence rapidly. Now, nearly half of revenue is derived from outside the United States. That underlines just how important international markets are to creating American jobs.

This great success is not only due to overseas audiences’ appreciation of American products. It’s also a result of our industries’ innovative business strategies.

These include co-producing films and television shows with foreign companies and acquiring and distributing foreign-made films and television shows in the Untied States—all of which have a positive impact on the American economy.

It is my priority to continue that growth. Trade is a cornerstone of our economic recovery. I will work to make sure the United States develops strong and fair trade partnerships around the world that adhere to rigorous environmental, labor and safety standards.

In the past, the United States has too often allowed our trade partners to ignore these standards, and I believe that is a significant reason why we are running an unsustainable $700 billion annual trade deficit.

Let me state further that when U.S. goods and services containing intellectual property arrive in world markets, they should benefit from basic safeguards similar to those they enjoy at home.

The cost of counterfeiting and piracy to your companies and to our nation is billions of dollars in losses and hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

The recent revelation that an illegal copy of the upcoming movie “Wolverine” had been posted on the Internet prior to its theatrical release underscores the problem the industry faces.

I’ve seen examples of this sort of piracy on the streets of China during my many visits there each year. I’ve walked past the stands of counterfeited movies.

Our ability to trade in a rules-based system around the world is critical to your success and our economic success as a nation. And as a former prosecutor, I believe in the full and impartial enforcement of the law.

The Obama administration is well aware of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy on our industries and workers, and we’re working to combat it.

At the Commerce Department, among other strategies:

  • We’ve placed IP attaches in strategic markets around the world, including China, India and Brazil.
  • We have a Web site ( to provide updates and links to Executive Branch IPR programs. The site also allows businesses to file complaints about IPR-related trade problems, which are answered by a trade specialist from our International Trade Administration.
  • We established the 1-866-999-HALT hotline answered by Patent and Trademark IPR experts, who work to help businesses secure and enforce their IP rights through international treaties.
  • We’ve created a range of tools to help U.S. businesses, especially small and medium sized firms, identify, register and protect their intellectual property at home and abroad.

I understand the extent of the problem and the need to challenge it on several fronts. I’ve seen it in Asia, first hand.

That’s why we need to work together—government and industry—to build international coalitions with like-minded foreign governments and film industries.

Efforts to effectively address the problem of IP theft will require collaboration among government and industries across borders.

By working cooperatively, we can ensure that the United States remains the leading producer of entertainment.

And, importantly, we also can ensure that we remain a leader in developing cutting-edge solutions to the growing problem of Internet piracy. I will pledge to you today that the Commerce Department will be a partner for you in devising ways to improve the security of your products.

I want to thank you again for the contributions the film and television industries are making to the American economy and American jobs.

And I look forward to working with you to address the critical issues you face both in the United States and around the world.

Thank you.