International Intellectual Property Protection

By Li Y. Wang, Entertainment Lawyer

Insufficient intellectual property protection and enforcement pose another problem for American films abroad. In Greece, inadequate terms of protection exist, where many TV stations broadcast U.S. owned movies without licenses and without paying fees. Other countries such as Italy fail to protect new technology that lead to rampant piracy of U.S. films on video and DVD. American film distributors estimate that 40 percent of the video market in Italy consists of pirated material. Other nations, such as Guatemala, fail to protect interception and unauthorized retransmission of U.S. satellite-carried programs. Hence, with the rise of digital technology it has become even more difficult to protect intellectual property and laws must catch up to the existing technology.

Even when intellectual property law is adequate, procedural formalities hinder enforcement of these protections. In both Sweden and Denmark, enforcement is difficult since these governments do not allow provisional relief for copyright holders to prevent ongoing infringement or preserve evidence for civil litigation. In addition, the Swedish government does not have sufficient financial and personnel resources, or training to police and prosecute intellectual property infringement claims.

Existence of intellectual property laws and enforcement can still be insufficient to protect films if the penalties imposed are not strong enough to deter infringement. For example, in China, the fine for illegally reproducing films averages about $4,000, which is a meaningless amount for pirates who make considerably more from their illegal activities.


U.S. producers and distributors should push for adherence of international treaties and lobby the American government to use its economic and political power to compel nations to protect intellectual property rights. New laws must to adopted to protect intellectual property delivered through digital technology to assure distribution with minimal piracy. In addition, the U.S. film industry should coordinate tactics to break down foreign trade barriers such as collective boycotts of film exports to countries with unfair trade restrictions. This boycott tactic was successful in Canada where the U.S. majors became exempt from the requirement of using Canadian distributors to release foreign films in Canada.

Author acknowledges the contributions of Jan D’Alessandro; and Lara Gerardo.



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