The movie Food, Inc. is premiering this week across the United States. The movie, according to its promotional Web site, “lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”
I like conspiracy flicks, so judging by the above description, I might like this one too. If I choose to see it, I’ll purchase a ticket at the movie theater or maybe wait to order it on Netflix. I won’t download a bootlegged copy from an Internet file-sharing program or order a black-market copy on eBay – that would be stealing. How do I know? Because movie disclaimers tell me so:
THIS MOTION PICTURE IS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES AND OTHER COUNTRIES. UNAUTHORIZED DUPLICATION, DISTRIBUTION OR EXHIBITION MAY RESULT IN CIVIL LIABILITY AND CRIMINAL PROSECUTION.
The above warning appears at the end of the credits for Food, Inc., according to the movie’s Web site. The disclaimer serves to remind viewers that the people involved in the production of the film invested a great deal of time, effort and money into the production of the film–and that the resulting product is their intellectual property.
Ironically, the defense of intellectual property is the bone that Kenner has to pick with Monsanto in Food, Inc. Reviews of the film state Kenner depicts our company as a bully that prevents farmers from saving “their own seed” after harvest, and that Monsanto lawyers pick on farmers until they are broke or put out of business.
In actuality, farmers are our customers–and we are only successful when farmers are successful. Moreover, we know farmers are businesspeople who choose seeds that will provide them with the highest profit. As a result, many choose biotech seeds (whether produced by Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, etc.) for higher yields and lower input costs.
The first time growers purchase Monsanto seed, they sign a stewardship agreement and contract agreeing not to save and replant seeds produced from the crops they grow from Monsanto seed. In excess of 250,000 growers a year give their word that they’ll abide by their grower agreement. Over the last 10 years, only 138 lawsuits were filed against those suspected of patent infringement, and of those cases, nine were resolved by trial. In all nine cases, the court found in favor of Monsanto’s right to protect its intellectual property.
I assume that those with a financial stake in the movie’s performance will have various safeguards in place to protect their investment. As when most films debut, I assume that movie theater operators will have their staff on the lookout for hidden cameras and other recording devices that could produce the aforementioned “UNAUTHORIZED DUPLICATION.” Public relations staff will likely monitor sites like YouTube© for bootleg movies, and I imagine lawyers will be at the ready to threaten legal action against file-sharing sites that facilitate the transfer of pirated video–that “UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION” the credits warned us against. Taking these steps does not mean that the makers of Food, Inc. and their associated partners are being bullies–it means they are simply defending their intellectual property from theft.
And we’ll understand.
And if they happen to win a piracy case in court, I’d suggest they do what Monsanto does and donate the proceeds from patent infringement settlements to non-profits. I think they’ll find it to be quite rewarding.
John is a Manager of Public Affairs at Monsanto. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. He has worked in government on the federal, state and local level. Immediately prior to coming to Monsanto, he worked at a local public relations firm. John has an extensive background in Internet communications and looks forward to writing about a wide variety of issues, especially intellectual property, corporate ethics and biofuels.