Orlando (March 2, 2010) – SAG National President and AFL-CIO Executive Council member Ken Howard delivered a statement in support of the AFL-CIO's resolution on piracy today at the AFL-CIO Winter Meeting. Following a passionate speech by IATSE President Matthew Loeb and joined by AFTRA President Roberta Reardon, Howard spoke to the assembled labor leaders about the threat posed by illegal downloads, pirated CDs and DVDs and other modes of entertainment product copyright theft.
Here’s what President Howard had to say:
Good morning, and thank you for your time and attention today.
As the unions representing the working face of our industry, we are today asking for your support – the support of our fellow trade unionists – to help stem the tide of Internet theft and piracy that is destroying good-paying, union jobs.
Downloading pirated movies, television shows, or other creative product from the Internet, purchasing “bootleg” DVDs and/or participating in the theft of copyrighted material is stealing. Plain and simple. Internet users who occasionally illegally download copyrighted materials for home enjoyment often are unaware that they are engaging in illegal activity. But they are… and it is wrong.
It threatens our nation’s creative industries and the artists and craftspeople who make up the membership of the AFL-CIO entertainment and media industry guilds and unions.
We need your support to help protect the economic livelihood of the people whose creativity and skill make possible the movies and television shows we all value.
As you see in the statement before you, a majority of the revenue from motion pictures and television productions comes from “downstream” sources after the initial release of a work in theaters or on television. When a consumer purchases a DVD, for example, many of the people employed in the creation of the movie receive a portion of the downstream revenues in the form of “residuals.”
Residuals make up approximately 38-40 percent of an actor’s income and account for approximately 33 percent of the revenue supporting our pension and health funds. Let me repeat that – 33 percent of the revenue supporting our pension and health funds.
Piracy is the theft of that downstream revenue and results in declining residuals payments and declines in contributions to our plans.
Many people think artists will continue to do their work even if they don’t get paid. That’s just not true; most of our members rely on middle-class incomes to feed their families.
I would also like to speak to the production side of the case for a moment. A movie requires a large investment of money up front, and such an investment will only be made if investors can expect a reasonable return, including downstream revenues. Piracy not only threatens our ability to collect much-needed residuals, it threatens to cut off the initial employment those very residuals are based on.
Movies and television are an important part of the American economy and one of the top products exported globally. It is still a vibrant industry that I know everyone in this room values.
Your support will help fight piracy and intellectual property theft and it will provide important support to tens of thousands of men and women – middle-class union workers across the country whose many contributions have shaped our cultural narrative and built a valuable and treasured artistic heritage.
Thank you for your support of our efforts to educate union members, government officials, policy makers, and the public in addressing this very important issue
Howard is attending the council meeting with SAG National Executive Director David White and key staff. The executive council meetings are sharply focused on working family-centered issues like jobs creation and economic revitalization. Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries, including TARP Congressional Oversight Chair Elizabeth Warren and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous addressed the council Monday.
To read the text of the AFL-CIO statement in support of anti-piracy measures, click here for the press release.