|Motion Picture Association of America|
|Type||Film ratings, lobbying, anti-piracy|
|Membership||Walt Disney Studios
Sony Pictures Entertainment
20th Century Fox
|Chairman and CEO||Chris Dodd|
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is an American trade association that represents the six big Hollywood studios. Founded in 1922 as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), it advances the business interests of its members and administers the MPAA film rating system. Former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd is the current Chairman.
As part of its campaign to curb copyright infringement, the MPAA fights against sharing copyrighted works via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The MPAA's anti-piracy campaign has gained much publicity and criticism.
Foundation and early history: 1922 to 1929 
The Motion Picture Association of America was founded in 1922 as a trade association of movie companies and was originally named the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). Former Postmaster General Will H. Hays was named the association's first president. At its founding, the MPPDA represented approximately 70 to 80 percent of the films made in the United States.
The main focus of the MPPDA in its early years was on producing a strong public relations campaign to ensure that Hollywood remained financially stable and able to attract investment from Wall Street, while simultaneously ensuring that American films had a "clean moral tone". The MPPDA also instituted a code of conduct for actors in Hollywood films governing their behavior offscreen, and sought to protect American film interests abroad by encouraging film studios to avoid racist portrayals of foreigners.
From the early days of the association, Hays spoke out against public censorship, and the MPPDA worked to raise support from the general public for the film industry's efforts against such censorship. At the time of the MPPDA's founding, regional censorship boards in the US often edited Hollywood films to comply with local laws regarding the onscreen portrayal of violence and sexuality. This resulted in negative publicity for the studios, and low numbers of theater goers, who were uninterested in films that were sometimes so severely edited that they were incoherent.
In 1924, Hays instituted "The Formula", a loose set of guidelines for filmmakers, in an effort to have the movie industry self-regulate the issues that the censorship boards had been created to address. "The Formula" requested that studios send synopses of films being considered for production to Hays for review. This effort largely failed, however, as studios were under no obligation to send their scripts to Hays's office, nor to follow his recommendations.
In 1927, Hays oversaw the creation of a code of "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" for the industry. This list outlined potential issues that movies might encounter in different localities. The MPPDA also made the SRD available to the movie studios to review scripts and advise them about any problems. Again, despite Hays's efforts, studios largely ignored the "Don'ts and Be Carefuls", and by the end of 1929, the MPPDA received only about 20% of Hollywood scripts prior to production. Further, the number of censorship boards continued to increase, and by 1929 more than 50% of American moviegoers lived in a location overseen by such a board.
The Production Code: 1930-1934 
In 1930, the MPPDA introduced the Production Code, sometimes called the Hays Code. The Code consisted of moral guidelines regarding what was acceptable to include in films. Unlike the "Dont's and Be Carefuls", which the studios had ignored, the Production Code was endorsed by studio executives. The Code incorporated many of the "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" as specific examples of what could not be portrayed. Among other rules, the code prohibited inclusion of "scenes of passion" unless they were essential to a film's plot, "pointed profanity" in either word or action, "sex perversion", justification or explicit coverage of adultery, sympathetic treatment of crime or criminals, dancing with "indecent" moves, and white slavery. Because studio executives had been involved in the decision to adopt the code, MPPDA-member studios were more willing to submit scripts for consideration. However, the growing economic impacts of the Great Depression of the early 1930s increased pressure on studios to make films that would draw the largest possible audiences, even if it meant taking their chances with local censorship boards by disobeying the Code.
In 1933 and 1934, the Catholic Legion of Decency, along with a number of protestant and women's groups, launched plans to boycott films that they deemed immoral. In order to avert boycotts which might further harm the profitability of the film industry, the MPPDA created a new department, the Production Code Administration (PCA), with Joseph Breen as its head. Unlike previous attempts at self-censorship, PCA decisions were binding—no film could be exhibited in an American theater without a stamp of approval from the PCA, and any producer attempting to do so faced a fine of $25,000.
The war years: 1935-1945 
In the years that immediately followed the adoption of the Code, Breen often sent films back to Hollywood for additional edits, and in some cases, simply refused to issue PCA approval for a film to be shown. At the same time, Hays promoted the industry's new focus on wholesome films and continued promoting American films abroad.
For nearly three years, studios complied with the Code. By 1938, however, as the threat of war in Europe loomed, movie producers began to worry about the possibility of decreased profits abroad. This led to a decreased investment in following the strictures of the code, and occasional refusals to comply with PCA demands. That same year, responding to trends in European films in the run-up to the war, Hays spoke out against using movies as a vehicle for propaganda.
In 1945, after 24 years as president, Hays stepped down from his position at the MPPDA, although he continued to act as an advisor for the Association for the next five years.
The Johnston era: 1945-1963 
In 1945, the MPPDA hired Eric Johnston, four-time president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, to replace Will Hays. During his first year as president, Johnston rebranded the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
He also created the Motion Picture Export Association (MPEA) to promote American films abroad by opposing production company monopolies in other countries. In 1947, the MPEA voted to discontinue film shipments to Britain after the British government imposed an import tax on American films. Johnston negotiated with the British government to end the tax in 1948, and film shipments resumed.
In 1956, Johnston oversaw the first revision of the Production Code since its implementation in 1930. This revision allowed the treatment of some subjects which had previously been forbidden, including abortion and the use of narcotics, so long as they were "within the limits of good taste". At the same time, the revisions added a number of new restrictions to the code, including outlawing the depiction of blasphemy and mercy killings in films.
Johnston was well-liked by studio executives, and his political connections helped him function as an effective liaison between Hollywood and Washington. In 1963, while still serving as president of the MPAA, Johnston died of a stroke. For three years, the MPAA operated without a president while studio executives searched for a replacement.
The Valenti era: 1966-2004 
The MPAA hired Jack Valenti, former aide to President Lyndon Johnson, as president of the MPAA in 1966. In one of his first actions as president, in 1968 Valenti replaced the Production Code with a system of voluntary film ratings, in order to limit censorship of Hollywood films and provide parents with information about the appropriateness of films for children. In addition to concerns about protecting children, Valenti stated in his autobiography that he sought to ensure that American filmmakers could produce the films they wanted, without the censorship that existed under the Production Code that had been in effect since 1930.
In 1975, Valenti established the Film Security Office, an anti-piracy division at the MPAA, which sought to recover pirated films to prevent duplication. Valenti continued to fight piracy into the 1980s, asking Congress to install chips in VCRs that would prevent illegal reproduction of video cassettes, and in the 1990s supported law enforcement efforts to stop bootleg distribution of video tapes. Valenti also oversaw a major change in the ratings system that he'd helped create—the removal of the "X" rating, which had come to be closely associated with pornography. It was replaced with a new rating, "NC-17", in 1990.
The modern era: 2004-present 
After serving as president of the MPAA for 38 years, Valenti announced that he would step down in 2004. In September of that year, he was replaced by former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. During his tenure, Glickman focused on tax issues and anti-piracy efforts. He led lobbying efforts that resulted in $400 million in federal tax incentives for the movie industry, and also supported a law which created federal oversight of anti-piracy efforts. Glickman stepped down as president of the MPAA in 2010.
After a search which lasted over a year, the MPAA hired former US Senator Chris Dodd to replace Glickman in March 2011. In his role as president, Dodd has focused on anti-piracy efforts, trade, and improving Hollywood's image since becoming MPAA president. He traveled to China in 2011 in an effort to encourage the Chinese government to both crack down on piracy and further open their film market. In 2012, he spoke out in support of the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Dodd has also highlighted the need for movie studios to embrace technology as a means of distributing content.
Film rating system 
The MPAA administers a motion picture rating system used in the United States to rate the suitability of films' themes and content for certain audiences. The system was first introduced in November 1968, and has gone through several changes since then. The ratings system is completely voluntary, and ratings have no legal standing. Instead, theater owners enforce the MPAA film ratings after they have been assigned, with many theaters refusing to exhibit non-rated films.
In 2007, the film This Film Is Not Yet Rated criticized the MPAA's rating process for its lack of transparency. In response, the MPAA posted its ratings rules, policies, and procedures, as well as its appeals process, online.
|G||General Audiences||"All ages admitted."|
|PG||Parental Guidance Suggested||"May contain some material parents might not like for their young children."|
|PG-13||Parents Strongly Cautioned||"Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers."|
|R||Restricted||"Contains some adult material. Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian."|
|NC-17||No One 17 and Under Admitted||"Patently adult. Children are not admitted."|
The original members of the MPPDA were the “Big Eight” film studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Loews, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, United Artists, and RKO Pictures. Two years later, Loews merged with Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
United Artists briefly resigned from the organization in 1956 over a ratings dispute, although they rejoined later in the decade. By 1966, Allied Artists Pictures had joined the original members. In the following decade, new members joining the MPAA included Avco Embassy by 1975, and Walt Disney Studios in 1979. The next year, Filmways became a MPAA member, but was later replaced in 1986 along with Avco Embassy, when the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and Orion Pictures joined the MPAA roster.
As of 1995, the MPAA members were: the Walt Disney Studios; Paramount Pictures; Universal Studios; Warner Bros; 20th Century Fox; MGM—which included United Artists after their 1981 merger—and Sony Pictures Entertainment, which included Columbia and TriStar Pictures after their acquisition in 1989. Turner Entertainment joined the MPAA in 1995, but was purchased in 1996 by Time Warner.
As of 2013, the MPAA member companies were: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Universal City Studios LLC; and Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.
Anti-piracy efforts 
Home recording 
In the early 1980s, the Association opposed the videocassette recorder (VCR) on copyright grounds. In a 1982 congressional hearing, Valenti decried the "savagery and the ravages of this machine" and compared its effect on the film industry and the American public to the Boston Strangler.
Publicity campaigns 
The MPAA has promoted a variety of publicity campaigns designed to increase public awareness about piracy, including Who Makes Movies?; You can click, but you can't hide; and You Wouldn't Steal a Car, a 2004 advertisement appearing before program content on many DVDs.
The MPAA and its British counterpart, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), funded the training of Lucky and Flo, a pair of Labrador Retrievers to detect polycarbonates used in the manufacturing of DVDs.
Legal actions 
The MPAA has instituted legal actions against a number of peer-to-peer file-sharing sites (or BitTorrent trackers) used to upload and download copyrighted material like movies. Widely publicised examples include Razorback2 and The Pirate Bay.
In February 2006, the MPAA released the following statement:
|“||"Today’s lawsuits are part of MPAA’s international campaign against online piracy which has experienced some significant victories as of late. Last week the server facilitating one of the largest Torrent sites in the Netherlands, Dikkedonder, was shut down and on Monday, Belgian and Swiss authorities shut down Razorback2 -- the number one eDonkey server in the world which facilitated the illegal file swapping by approximately 1.3 million simultaneous users. The MPAA’s strategy focuses on all levels of Internet piracy to cut off the major suppliers of illegal files and at the same time curtail facilitation of illegal file swapping by peer-to-peer networks. Approximately 75 Torrent and eDonkey sites have been shut down in the last year as a result of these efforts."||”|
The Pirate Bay 
Responding to allegations of copyright violations, Swedish police raided The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent tracker based in Sweden, on May 31, 2006. Some 65 police officers participated in the raid, shutting down the site and confiscating its servers, as well as all other servers hosted by Pirate Bay's ISP, PRQ Inet. Three people—Gottfrid Svartholm, Mikael Viborg, and Fredrik Neij—were held by the police for questioning. Three days later, Pirate Bay was fully functional again.
The raid became controversial in Sweden when the Swedish public broadcast network, Sveriges Television, cited unnamed sources claiming that the raid was prompted by political pressure from the United States. The Swedish government allegedly was threatened with WTO trade sanctions unless action was taken against Pirate Bay.
The Swedish government denied these allegations. However, a letter titled "Re: The Pirate Bay" from the MPAA to Swedish State Secretary Dan Eliasson, dated two months before the raid, hinted at trade reprisals. The letter stated, "it is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation as a place where utter lawlessness is tolerated." The letter went on to urge Eliasson to "exercise your influence to urge law enforcement officers in Sweden to take much needed action against The Pirate Bay."
In an MPAA press release, which has since been taken down, dated May 31, 2006, entitled "Swedish Authorities Sink Pirate Bay," Glickman states:
|“||The actions today taken in Sweden serve as a reminder to pirates all over the world that there are no safe harbors for Internet copyright thieves.||”|
In both the 2007 documentary Good Copy Bad Copy and the film Steal This Film II, Glickman spoke about the 2006 raid on The Pirate Bay and conceded that piracy will never be stopped. He emphasized, however, that the MPAA will try to make it as difficult and tedious as possible.
Controversies and criticisms 
Disputed figures 
On January 22, 2008, the MPAA admitted publishing incorrect figures in a study in which it claimed 44% of film industry revenue losses in America due to piracy were occurring at colleges. The study had been produced by the MPAA to put pressure on universities to crack down on illegal file-sharing and to lobby for legislation before the House of Representatives that would force them to do so. The MPAA's revised figure reduced the claimed loss of revenue to 15%.
Rating system 
Copyright issues 
Online File Sharing 
The rise of the Internet has further emphasized the MPAA’s role in controlling content, notwithstanding that some users may access content they otherwise could not, such as NC-17 movies not shown in theaters. The MPAA has won several victories, like with Razorback2 (a major server on the EDonkey2000 network) and a series of successful lawsuits against public torrent websites.
Arguably, the effect MPAA raids have had on overall online pirating traffic is limited. For example, the day Razorback2 was shut down, EDonkey2000 network traffic remained constant. The MPAA, however, claims to have had a very successful history shutting down networks of pirated material and torrent sites and alleges that during 2006, for example, 75 were shut down.
In 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and its counterpart, PIPA to the Senate. After Wikipedia, Google and other major technology websites staged an online protest, many people contacted their representatives and the bill was taken out of consideration. Days later, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd threatened that campaign contributions to politicians that failed to support the legislation would be cut off.
Allegations of copyright infringement by the MPAA 
In 2007, English software developer Patrick Robin alleged that the MPAA illegally used his blogging platform, Forest Blog, which is distributed without cost under a linkware license, whereby users must link back to his site. To remove these links, one must secure a license, but Patrick Robin claimed the MPAA removed them without purchasing a license. The MPAA responded that it was only testing the blogging platform and that the blog was "never advertised to the public in any way." On November 23, 2007, Matthew Garrett notified the MPAA that it was in violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) for distributing a software toolkit, based on the Xubuntu operating system and designed to help universities detect instances of potentially illegal file-sharing on school networks. Garrett alleged that the MPAA violated the GPL by distributing a derived work without making source code available. On December 1, 2007, Garrett notified the Internet service provider for the MPAA that, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, he was requesting them to disable the offending distribution web site. The MPAA subsequently changed its site so the toolkit was no longer offered for distribution.
Because MPAA members are the motion picture industry's most powerful studios, in turn owned by some of the world's largest media corporations, critics of the association often raise allegations of monopoly. They also cite the MPAA's support for closed standards that hinder competition. Other critics, like filmmaker Kirby Dick, have suggested that films released by major studios (members of the MPAA) are given more deference in terms of ratings than films released by independents.
In other media 
This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an independent documentary film about the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system and its effect on American culture, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Eddie Schmidt. The film discusses disparities in ratings and feedback: between Hollywood and independent films, between homosexual and heterosexual sexual situations, between male and female sexual depictions, and between violence and sexual content.
See also 
- Australian Classification Board
- Australasian Film and Video Security Office
- British Board of Film Classification
- Center for Copyright Information
- DeCSS: decryption program for DVD video discs using Content Scramble System
- Entertainment Software Rating Board
- Federation Against Copyright Theft
- National Association of Theatre Owners
- Operation Red Card
- Pre-Code Hollywood
- Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
- This Film Is Not Yet Rated
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