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Creator Spotlight: Lisa Hammer
This blog is a part of a series covering the impacts of digital piracy on individual creators, filmmakers, producers and artists. This blog was crafted in collaboration with CreativeFuture.
At its best, the internet is a space for creators that creates space – the symbiosis between creators and the World Wide Web spawns new ideas, creative mediums, and collaborations at high-speed. But this resource bares a double edge that cuts deep. The web at its worst, the same resource artists rely on to share their work, hosts a number of bad actors seeking to prey on their success.
Digital piracy deprives creators of a safe space to distribute their work online; we found that approximately 26.6 billion viewings of U.S.-produced movies and 126.7 billion viewings of U.S.-produced TV episodes are pirated digitally each year, mostly from outside the U.S. And while the impact of thousand or so pirated views might not be felt by a big studio, it could rob an independent creator of their livelihood.
Lisa Hammer has been dedicated to the arts her whole life. An award-winning independent film director, writer, actor, and musician, she has invested hundreds of hours and dollars into honing her craft, studying filmmaking, music, and acting. For the majority of her career, her creativity and talents provided her livelihood. Through recording and performing with her band or writing, directing, and screening her films, Lisa was able to achieve success. From there, she invested her revenue back into her work and continued to develop more original projects.
One day, Hammer decided to search for her bands online. Upon doing so, she discovered dozens of sites offering free downloads of her songs and charging for them by selling ads. To add to her horror, Hammer had never heard of any of these companies, and had no knowledge that they were contributing royalties to her or her label. And although her label would wage war with these pirate sites, they grew like weeds; as soon as one was taken down, two more sprung up in their place. A similar phenomenon has happened with her films; she used to profit from the distribution of DVDs and videos on-demand (VODs), but her films are almost immediately uploaded to Youtube by pirates after their initial release.
Although she has worked with platforms to combat these pirate sites, it seems to be a never ending uphill battle. Each time one is taken down, more are created; and each week, she and her team have to dedicate their efforts to combating this issue on their own dollar and time.
Lisa used to make a decent living from her creative efforts. As the internet has grown and distribution methods have become widely digitized, piracy has flourished, crippling creators like her. For perspective, her last film made roughly $100 on a legitimate site because it was being distributed for free all over the internet.
“I am not a huge, greedy studio as the pirates and fans might imagine. I am a small, indie filmmaker creating content with my own pocket money and fan-funding,” Lisa wrote in a blog post on CreativeFuture. “For the first time in my career, my bills are piling up and I can’t keep up. I have no idea how to monetize my work or continue to afford making my films and music.”
The economic impacts of piracy are exponential, estimated to cost the U.S. economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year, but the incremental impacts felt by independent filmmakers and creators hit hardest. They discourage creators from investing in their craft out of fear of theft, and rob them of income and livelihood. It’s time for our policymakers to step up and step in – expanded enforcement strategies are long past due. Let’s mobilize to make the web a safe space for creators.