During a screening of "Live Free or Die Hard" on January 11, 2008 representatives from the Motion Picture Association of America served Pirate Cinema Knoxville with an order to cease-and-desist.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its international counterpart, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) serve as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries. They are private lobby organizations that advocate for the control of cultural products – and, on behalf of various American production studios, target and prosecute acts of piracy.
"It was clear by the in-person appearance of an MPAA representative that the primary intention was to intimidate and threaten,” reported one eyewitness. "The 'piracy investigator' was really very nice to us, so I would hate to disparage him - but it was clear that the MPAA demanded he appear in person to make clear the authority they have and the very real possibility of police action in response to us. ... He was carrying a folder that said very clearly "The Fraternal Order of Police" on the front - and he described in detail how the bulk of his job consisted of criminal arrests."
Actions such as this one are frequently enacted by the MPAA to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense so that they abandon their criticism or opposition.
This is known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP").
"There were only five people in the audience. The investigator had to drive from Nashville (three hours away!) on the orders of the MPAA. This was clearly not an action to stop the potential loss of revenue- it was an action meant to intimidate, threaten, and immediately stop any conversation about piracy."
"After knocking on the door, and being invited into our space - he began making phone calls. He talked on the phone for a few minutes and then summoned us to speak with him directly. We talked at some length and at one point were handed the phone to talk directly with his supervisor."
"Once he served us with the order to cease-and-desist, the investigator appeared eager to leave ... but we encouraged him to talk with us about piracy investigation and his role in prosecuting piracy violators. He confessed to us that he was concerned about an attack on Pirate Cinema because he considered it to be a "rights" issue. He continued to say that after spending some time reading information on the Pirate Cinema website he informed the MPAA anti-piracy supervisors they should be cautious, and that he believed that Pirate Cinema understood this to be an issue of (human or civil) rights."
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (the kind used to prevent the organization of groups to discuss public issues) are prevented by the U.S. States of California and Tennessee, Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16 and corrections to the law as enacted in the Code of Civil Procedure § 425.17.
Pirate Cinema Knoxville is part of an ongoing discussion about rights and property. It is the position of Pirate Cinema that these are substantive issues, the discussion of which is socially significant and in the public interest.
Confronted with the threat of a lawsuit from the MPAA, Pirate Cinema Knoxville will suspend all screenings of artwork legally represented by MPAA.
We will resume Friday January 25 with screenings of artwork currently accessible in the public domain - from international work outside the domain of the MPAA, to artwork licensed under terms that are more compliant with the reality of our contemporary digital society.
- Pirate Cinema Knoxville 1.22.2008