Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


S. E. Oross

First Page



Digital technology, combined with the influence of the Internet, represents an increasingly dangerous threat to the protection of copyrights in the global marketplace. Industries like Hollywood with business models based primarily on selling and/or licensing intellectual property have much to lose if that protection falters.

Jack Valenti, the president of the MPAA, knows this all too well. In recent testimony before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection of the Commerce Committee, he described how the growing availability of certain digital technology could turn online piracy into the bane of the motion picture industry. Noting that Internet pirates have already succeeded in bringing movies such as Eyes Wide Shut, Toy Story II, and Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace to viewers-- in some cases before they were even released in theaters-- Valenti commented," Currently our films are protected by two factors-- the amount of time needed to download a full-length motion picture and the lack of unprotected digital copies of our works." Nevertheless, he advocated stronger measures for enforcing copyrights in the digital age, adding, "One of the nation's greatest trade assets is at risk. If you cannot protect what you own, then you own nothing."

This Note will examine in detail the reasons behind Valenti's warning, beginning with a look at the technology itself and its initial effects on the industry. Next, the analysis will turn to the legal avenues currently available for fighting the new forms of piracy, discussing the inadequacies of each, particularly in the realm of enforcement. Finally, it will draw from some early industry responses to the online threat in an effort to find possible alternative means of countering, or at least subduing, the rising threat of the "phantom menace" known as digital piracy.