Exhibitors Converge on Washington
Hill Day 2004 Success For NATO Membership
by Jonathan Yarowsky
NATO Washington Counsel
NATO, having only months before established
its official presence in the nation’s capital, hosted its 2004
board of directors meeting in Washington, D.C. An exciting
event marking the launch of NATO’s new headquarters,
it also gave NATO members a chance to bring their concerns
on a number of important issues to members of Congress.
The first day of the board meeting, April
20, was set aside for NATO members to go to Capitol Hill
and lobby Congress
on a number of issues. For the first time in a long time,
NATO members went to “The Hill” in an affirmative,
pro-legislative stance, voicing support for a number of
proposals that will help both the exhibition industry and
NATO members specifically. On NATO’s agenda were
anti-piracy initiatives, as well as support for legislation
that would allow NATO members to obtain health care insurance
for themselves and their employees through the association.
NATO also formally announced the formation of the Coalition
of Entertainment Retail Trade Associations (CERTA).
Formation of CERTA. At an afternoon press
conference on Capitol Hill, NATO joined with other retail
to announce the formation of CERTA. CERTA brings together
retailers of music, movies, and video games to represent
a segment of the entertainment industry that is truly the
first line of defense on many important consumer issues,
including anti-piracy initiatives. Joining NATO in CERTA
are the Digital Media Association (DiMA), the National
Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), the Video
Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive
Entertainment Merchants’ Association (IEMA). Rep.
Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), a member of the key House Judiciary
Committee, appeared with CERTA members at the press conference
and voiced strong support for the association’s agenda.
For CERTA’s first activity in Washington,
representatives from each of the member associations took
to The Hill to
educate Congress on the effects, often far-reaching and
devastating, of intellectual property piracy on retailers.
The relevant numbers are staggering: In 2003, the film
industry lost an estimated $3.5 billion to piracy, as more
than 50 major movies were pirated prior to being released
in theatres. In 2004, the industry expects to lose more
than $5 billion. More than 400,000 movies are downloaded
illegally every day. As this problem proliferates, so will
the negative financial impact on theatre owners in lost
ticket and concession sales.
CERTA enunciated a strong agenda to combat
such piracy, which includes: 1) consumer education; 2)
enforcement in law and trade agreements; and 3) creation
of pro-consumer, legal alternatives based on diverse and
competitive business models that empower consumers, while
avoiding illegal offerings of content.
Anti-Camcordering Legislation. One of the
anti-piracy initiatives on CERTA’s agenda is passage of S. 1932, the Artists’ Rights
and Theft Prevention Act of 2003 (“ART Act”).
The bill criminalizes the use of recording devices in movie
theatres. However, as introduced, the legislation did not
include liability protections for theatre owners who attempt
to stop this illegal activity. NATO has worked closely
with the Senate sponsors of the bill, John Cornyn (R-Texas)
and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to include immunity language
for theatre owners. Our efforts yielded the inclusion of
pertinent language that would protect theatre owners who
take reasonable actions to stop the illegal activity. We
are working in similar fashion with the major sponsors
of the companion House legislation.
Association Health Plans. According
to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 41 million Americans
do not have health
insurance, 60 percent of whom work for firms with fewer
than 100 employees. In an attempt to redress the problem,
NATO has joined with a large coalition of trade associations
to support association health plan (AHP) legislation that
is being considered in Congress.
As you may recall from previous discussions,
AHP legislation would allow members of “bona-fide” associations
to pool together to purchase health insurance for themselves
and their employees. While the most powerful public focus
of the debate has been the legislation’s usefulness
to small businesses, the bill would in fact allow all members
of any bona-fide association to access the insurance options
made available through this new mechanism. While the bill
has passed the House in strong bipartisan fashion, it is
currently stalled in the Senate. As a result, during our
Hill Day activities, a group of NATO’s independent
owners lobbied their home state senators in favor of S.
All of our visiting NATO “lobbyists” were well
received because they spoke from real experience. Washington
lobbyists take note: Nothing beats the “real thing”!
We extend our thanks to all NATO members
who went to Capitol Hill to bring NATO’s message as a responsible industry
to the nation’s lawmakers. We also appreciate the
efforts of those who, although they were not able to be
in Washington on April 20, have been willing to send letters,
e-mails and make calls to their members of Congress on
a variety of issues. Any way one looks at it, Hill Day
2004 was a rousing success.