Documentary Maker Accuses US Ratings Board of Film Piracy

james macgregorCould it be that America's leader in the global fight against movie piracy is a pirate too? That's what documentary director Kirby Dick alleges. He says the Motion Picture Association of America made a bootleg copy of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, his angry broadside against the organization's film rating system.

The MPAA has admitted it duplicated the documentary without the filmmaker's permission. But the Hollywood trade organization said it did not break copyright law, insisting that the dispute is part of a Dick-orchestrated "publicity stunt."

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, scheduled for its first public screening at the Sundance Film Festival, examines what Dick believes is the MPAA's double standard for rating explicit depictions of sex on the one hand and gruesome violence on the other.

Michael Donaldson, a lawyer representing Dick, wrote to the MPAA demanding that it "immediately return all copies" of the film in its possession and explain who approved the making of the copy.

Dick said he was "very upset and troubled" to discover during a recent conversation with an MPAA lawyer that the MPAA had copied the film from a digital version he submitted on 29th of November for a rating. This Film Is Not Yet Rated was rated - at NC-17 for "some graphic sexual content," a rating upheld after Dick appealed. Dick has since changed the film, and it is now unrated.

The filmmaker said when he asked MPAA lawyer Greg Goeckner what right his organization had to make the copy, Goeckner said Dick and his crew had potentially invaded the privacy of MPAA's movie raters.

"We made a copy of Kirby's movie because it had implications for our employees," said Kori Bernards, MPAA vice president for corporate communications.

The standard the MPAA uses for itself appears to be at odds with what it sets out for others: "Manufacturing, selling, distributing or making copies of motion pictures without the consent of the copyright owners is illegal," its Web site says.