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Exclusive: SOPA, From a Filmmaker’s Perspective

Indie writer/director weighs in on piracy

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Exclusive: SOPA, From a Filmmaker’s Perspective
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Jeff Day makes independent films. The budget for his 2010 production, “Unrequited” was just under $2 Million. Sure, those aren’t “Titanic” numbers. But, the producers got some star power bang for their buck. The movie featured Michael Welch from the Twilight series; Clare Carey from TV series Chuck; and David Keith from U-571, Major League II, many others (incl. my fave, Heartbreak Hotel as Elvis Presley).

“Unrequited” is being distributed by Lions Gate Films with a release due this summer.

Day is a member of Screen Actors’ Guild and the Writers’ Guild of America. His production house, Lucky Day Studios, has three projects listed as “in-production“. Looks like things are on the rise.

But, Day has been pretty miffed lately. It seems that his film “Unrequited” has been downloaded illegally many times. In fact, on one torrent site I checked, it appears that there were 17,752 downloads. Again, not “Titanic” numbers. But, when you work with fewer zeroes behind the number, the times you get cheated sting just a bit more.

“It’s the independent filmmakers who feel this piracy issue the most,” says Day, whose “day job” is Director of Theatre & Cinema Performance at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, near Lexington.

Day has been watching the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act for the past few weeks. He thinks it’s a good idea, from his perspective.

“Independent filmmakers know that their projects are going to be pirated and that there is nothing you as a filmmaker can do… Google says they are spending $60M a year to fight piracy. I believe they are looking the other way and these bills would make them accountable.”

Day suspects that much of his piracy issues begin overseas.

“It’s very easy for someone to pick up a DVD of a film not yet distributed by attending any of the major film markets, who aggressively hand out DVD’s of their films to get the buyers to purchase them. “Unrequited” has been released in Russia, Italy, Eastern Europe, Greece and Latin America. Any of those territories could be the ultimate source.”

But, that problem has come very close to home for him. Day says that several of his students have downloaded “Unrequited”.

What about objections to SOPA that he hears?

“The largest argument I hear is that if anyone were to say a site has pirated their material, all they need do is fill out an affidavit and present it. Then the site must come down. They also say it will cause web search engines to censor sites. Well… they should censor a site that is pirating copyrighted material. Thats a ridiculous comment. As for the affidavit issue, that is simply not true. Evidence has to be presented that the material is indeed pirated.”

While his issues with piracy are real and understandable, Day may find himself in the minority soon, in terms of SOPA/PIPA support. After Wednesdays blackout protests, legislators are abandoning it like an Italian cruise liner. Many SOPA opponents say that they want anti-piracy legislation, but not the kind being offered by SOPA and PIPA.

PIPA is due to for a Senate vote on January 24, 2012. SOPA has stalled in the House of Representatives. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, has said that the bill will not come up for a vote until a consensus is reached.

Exclusive: SOPA, From a Filmmaker’s Perspective
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