Last year many of you helped crowd fund a legal study done by a Washington DC-based law firm I met two years ago. The goal of the study was to suggest a path for the VFX industry to mitigate the effects of the subsidy race that was putting so many facilities out of business and causing so many jobs to be lost.
That study, released in 2013 led by David Yocis and the legal team of Picard, Kentz, & Rowe, was the centerpiece of a big story by national journalist David Sirota explaining why this could be a huge game changer:
Pando has also learned that the visual effects workers have just been handed a powerful new legal and political weapon, one with the potential to fundamentally change the economic dynamics throughout the entertainment and tech industries.
And here’s the twist: It is a weapon the MPAA itself created in its own desperate attempt to prevent Internet piracy.
What the legal study suggested was that we use the same anti-subsidy duty laws for imported goods on internationally subsidized VFX which would help us effectively discipline the subsidy race The study also pointed out some potentially big legal hurdles:
- This has never been done before for electronically transmitted digital products.
- MPAA would argue that VFX is a service and and not a good since the anti-subsidy duties only applies to goods.
MPAA Affirms VFX Soldier
About three weeks before the March in March protest, I woke up to an email sent by David Yocis with blockbuster news. The MPAA submitted a 14 page consultation with the US Court of International trade that affirmed our position on the issue:
I was stunned. One of our biggest anticipated battles with the MPAA was conceded by them without even filing our case yet, and funny enough it was a case that had to do with friggen dental retainers! Of course the reason why the MPAA, Samsung, and Google responded to the court’s question was because it was a potential precedent-setting battleground for anti-piracy law enforcement.
After David Sirota’s piece came out last Tuesday, social media and the internet went on fire. The VFX industry, which has been beaten down by the US studios since its inception, had a chance to use the MPAA own words against them and potentially place duties on subsidized imported VFX.
Uranium: VFX’s Most Powerful Weapon Against The MPAA
The MPAA responded three times to media questions about our effort. While they reiterated their position that digital products like films are goods, they argued that VFX is a “service” and therefore the anti-subsidy duty laws do not apply. Unfortunately for the MPAA the force was quite strong with Master Jedi David Yocis and the Jedi Knights of PKR as they anticipated the Empire’s attack in our legal study.
Last year when Mr. Yocis was anticipating the “service” argument and doing research for the legal study, he pointed me out to a landmark trade case that made it to the US Supreme Court concerning uranium. Essentially US energy producers were sending US mined uranium to heavily subsidized French facilities for enrichment.
US enrichment facilities which were being injured, submitted a case to have duties levied against the uranium imports. The US energy producers made the same argument the MPAA is making: While uranium is a good, the enrichment of the good was a service and therefore duty laws did not apply. In one of the rarest instances, the trade case made it to the US Supreme Court which ruled that the duty laws could be applied as the enrichment was for a final product that is a good.
Given all this, you can see why there was such a strong turnout of almost 600 people in support of our legal effort. Now obviously opponents of our effort in the VFX industry are going to comment below after attaining their JD in international trade law from GoogledIt School of Law but let’s leave the legal analysis to the trade law experts at PKR shall we?
Those same people may also argue that while we may be successful, the studios will find a way to weasel around the law. They better be careful. Any attempt to weasel around that will be frowned upon by the federal judges of the court and may open gaping loopholes for Google and others to exploit to prevent piracy enforcement. Furthermore, circumvention of duties is a federal crime and can lead to huge penalties.
So big thanks to PKR and those of you who helped fund the legal study. That path to victory has never been clearer!