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New York City to citizens: Web piracy kills jobs

The home to major media conglomerates and Michael Bloomberg, a media tycoon, is launching an ad campaign against illegal file sharing.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read
New York's strong ties to media are easy to find. Times Square, the heart of the city, is named for a newspaper. Greg Sandoval/CNET

New York City, the nation's largest city and its true media capital, is telling citizens that "piracy doesn't work" as part of a new publicly funded antipiracy ad campaign.

The message to New Yorkers is that downloading music and movies without paying for them "kills jobs" in the city. The ads will appear at bus shelters, movie theaters, on the Web and on the video screens found in taxicabs, according to Katherine Oliver, commissioner of media and entertainment for the city of New York.

The costs of running the campaign are minimal because the city is using many of its own resources, such as the bus shelters and the city-owned public TV stations to circulate the ads, said Oliver. She says the city has too much invested in the creation of films, books, radio, and TV to do nothing about illegal file sharing.

New York City will post ads at more than 50 bus shelters. Some posters tell citizens that illegally downloading music kills jobs in NYC. NY Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment

While Burbank Calif., home of some of the major film studios, calls itself the "media capital of the world," New York is home to the major book publishers, TV networks and music labels. Media conglomerates such as Viacom, Time Warner and NBC Universal call New York home. The heart of the city, Times Square, is named after The New York Times. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 10th richest man in America, amassed much of his fortune from the financial news service he cofounded in 1981.

More than 700,000 jobs in the city are connected directly or indirectly to media and are potentially harmed by illegal file sharing, according to Oliver's staff.

In one of the video ads for the campaign, comedian Tom Papa performs with actors in a sketch. Papa is behind a table in Union Square offering free DVDs to passerby. He tells people who stop that they are welcome to take his free films but there's a hitch: The woman behind him, who is holding a boom microphone and is supposed to be a sound technician, will lose her job.

Oliver said that New York got the idea for the campaign when it occurred to her that the sale of bootleg discs had begun to drop following a crackdown by Bloomberg's office, with the help of the Motion Picture Association of America, in 2007. She learned that street sales of pirated movies were down but illegal file sharing was up. She said she wanted to take a fresh approach.

"I wasn't aware that book publishing was being affected by illegal downloading before," Oliver said. "But I now know as reading digital books becomes more popular to read on different devices, piracy is moving into publishing. I think this is an international problem and we want to raise awareness."

As far as quantifying the impacts of illegal file sharing, there isn't much credible data. Representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office said earlier this year that they found flaws with studies done on on piracy's effects. The GAO, however, noted that their was plenty of evidence that piracy does cost jobs in many U.S. industries.