Entertainment industry's greedy lobbying is their undoing

Here's my latest column for Internet Evolution: "Big Entertainment Wants to Party Like It's 1996" explains how the entertainment industry's greedy, naked lobbying tactics will be their undoing, since these victories end up backfiring because they arouse such public ire.
It's not that these companies can't get their laws on the agenda, and not that they can't cook the process to make it run favorably for themselves. For example, when Canada was considering its own version of the WCT, the entertainment giants saw to it that the parliamentarians in charge of the process only talked to multinational entertainment giants, without conducting any kind of embarrassing public consultation. They wouldn't even talk to the Canadian record companies -- just the multinationals.

The proposed laws -- Bill C60 and Bill C61 -- were complicated and took a lot of explaining. But here's what didn't take any explaining at all: "Your government is about to introduce sweeping, controversial regulations to the Internet, and they won't talk with anyone except the jerks who are suing all those music downloaders in the States about it -- they won't even talk to Canadian record companies!"

This made the Canadian lawmakers who backed the proposal look like sellouts (which they were); made the laws look like conspiracies (which they were); and made the geeks who cared about this stuff look like heroes (which they were). The complicated story about the law became a simple story about the process.

Likewise in New Zealand, where a new copyright provision called "Section 92A" made every geek in the country freak out in unison. 92A allows a rightsholder to have your Internet connection terminated by filing three unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against you. No judge and no jury: just a rightsholder standing over you, able to administer the death penalty to your participation in electronic life without showing a shred of evidence.

Now, this is a little easier to explain to the general public -- the entertainment lobby isn't just stupid about process, they're also greedy in what they ask for -- but 92A was rammed through Parliament in a dodgy process that got those people who weren't interested in copyright or the Internet outraged anyway.

New Zealand's brilliant, tireless geeks organized around the clock, mounted a huge, high-profile global campaign through Twitter and blogs (they probably tripled the amount of international coverage New Zealand received), and forced the government to back down on its plans, sending the entertainment industry packing.

In France, the "colorful" Nicolas Sarkozy faced a revolt after trying to pass the New Zealand law there -- where it was called HADOPI -- and having it rejected by his own government.

Big Entertainment Wants to Party Like It's 1996


  1. I am a Canadian who loves Canadian media. Most of our movies and shows are unobtainable, whether via DVD, VOD, torrents, or otherwise. (I finally got Billy Van’s Eureka! but my Timothy Pilgrim died at 25%)

    I buy Canadian movies and series from the discount bin at Giant Tiger for $3, and record SUNtv on my DVR. There is no other way to obtain most of our media.

    Recent American stuff is readily available, I get it, but why should Canadians, (much less more distant foreign nationals) be beholden to Hollywood executives?

    Between the Betamax legal precedent, and earlier decisions about radio, the industry determination that all media must be paid for unseen and unheard bewilders most of us. In a lot of places they got a universal tax on blank media — still not enough.

  2. In France, the “colorful” Nicolas Sarkozy faced a revolt after trying to pass the New Zealand law there — where it was called HADOPI — and having it rejected by his own government.

    There was a revolt all right, but it was in the Parliament, not the government. It was still shocking, though, because Sarkozy’s party dominates the French Parliament.

  3. Another highly enjoyable article, Cory. Thanks!

    I admire your enthusiasm and optimism. I feel as though the destructive fiction of “intellectual property” will eventually be defeated, but not for several decades. The corporate dinosaurs supporting it — depending on it — will fight their well-deserved extinction tooth and nail. I suspect they have plenty of potential victories left in them.

  4. @ #3 (and Cory)

    The French revolt was perhaps not quite that. From what I read the vote was 21-15 – most MPs were at lunch, the opposition ambushed the vote with half a dozen extra voting MPs who weren’t out to lunch (lunch is still very important in France generally – and no doubt to French politicians too). It was less a real revolt than a fluke and a cock-up by a complacent governing party assuming an easy victory and not paying attention. Don’t assume the French govt won’t be back…(though I have read nothing to say they will or they won’t

  5. The dirty little secret of lobbyists is that they make bank, win or lose. (I know: I hire them from time to time and then take a long, hot shower.)

    They don’t mind losing the fight this time… they’ll just go to Record Label X and say, “You know, next time we’ll just need $500K more to make it work. We’re alllllmost there on votes in the Subcommittee on Screwing Your Customers and Killing Your Brand…”

  6. @ George57L #6:

    See my comment on the French Internet law thread dated 04/09 on BB. I repost here the pertinent part:

    The law is already scheduled for a vote after Easter. But it will probably be gutted out. One of the most outrageous dispositions is already discarded: to punish “Net pirates” with a fine AND cutting their Internet connection. Now, it will probably be “either”.

    Another reason for the low number of deputees today: the bill is so unpopular that members of the majority (right-wing) have discreetly “voted with their feet”!

  7. Good article, but unfortunately the comments on NZ’s S92a are more popular opinion than hard fact. Here’s the text of Section 92a:

    Internet service provider must have policy for terminating accounts of repeat infringers
    “(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.
    “(2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.

    (from the horses mouth: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2008/0027/latest/DLM1122643.html)

    This isn’t quite the same as allowing “a rightsholder to have your Internet connection terminated by filing three unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against you”.

    A working party of ISPs and rightsholders was put together to try and work out the aforementioned policy, but they could never reach consensus. This appears to be where “three strikes” and “guilt on accusation” first appeared, because they may have been mentioned during the working party discussions.

    In any event, it was a bad piece of legislation and I’m glad to see it’s been dropped.

  8. “New Zealand’s brilliant, tireless geeks organized around the clock, mounted a huge, high-profile global campaign…”

    …the campaign was actually organised and led by a group that represents NZ Artists — The Creative Freedom Foundation (not to deny that artists can also be, and are, geeks!). “Through education and advocacy, the Creative Freedom Foundation seeks to encourage, and promote New Zealand artist’s views on issues that have the potential to influence their collective creativity.”

  9. At least we can be thankfulk that they are stupid and greedy – there isn’t any mastermind scheme behind their inability to use new technology and distribution channels to their advantage. It took geeks to even get them to think about selling music online (thanks Napster, Jobs). No surprise that geeks can run circles around these idiots, like Skywalker and an AT-AT walker.

    And the lawmakers and people being lobbied don’t really seem to understand what the mindset and reality of these laws would be.

    Sarkozy was “sued” by MGMT for unathorised use of kids on some of his online video campaigns – not that he made that decision himself, but I doubt he really thought about how the laws might actually imapct him and his political machine.

  10. @Anonymous #11

    This isn’t quite the same as allowing “a rightsholder to have your Internet connection terminated by filing three unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against you”.

    Both the industry body and the geeks expected it would work out that way as a practical matter (with expectation and terror respectively) though, so I was inclined to treat it as a serious threat.

    What will actually happen in the end is of course still open.

    Incidentally, while the protest was very much the Creative Freedom Foundation’s baby, I believe the scheme was hatched at the local Foo Camp. So the geek is strong there.

  11. @buzzydotinfo, “This isn’t quite the same as allowing ‘a rightsholder to have your Internet connection terminated by filing three unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against you’.”

    Under Section 92A a rightsholder could have infact have you cut off based on on unsubstantiated accusations, or an ISP.

    If you had a particularly noble and thorough ISP copyright infringement dispute process then you might be protected, but in practice ISPs are risk-averse and cost-averse and S92A did not provide for any due process.

  12. Same goes for many book publishers who jump on the bandwagon about crippling ebooks. There was an item on a german news magazine, which provoked me into comment (translated):

    “Media industries are spending more time to castrate the new distribution channels to match their classic ones than exploring the vast possibilities – resulting in them gaining their own obsolescence soon.

    Because the internet connects originators and consumers. Payment services like PayPal allow them to directly reward the creators without the detour via the publishers, who will only have a small chance to escape this entropy by focusing on what they can do beyond exploiting copyrights.”

    Not that I’d see that happen soon.

    Greetings, LX

  13. The Entertainment Industry is so greedy they do things that don’t make any sense.

    My own personal example: I own a laserdisc copy of “Light of Day”, a film that’s been out of print for 20 years. It is the only movie that has an onscreen appearance by Trent Reznor. I uploaded a clip onto Youtube for any Nine Inch Nails fans who wanted to see it.
    One day, I log into my account and the sound’s gone. I see this message:

    NOTICE This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.

    I was baffled. The film was produced by TriStar, which is owned by Sony. Reznor was signed to TVT, which is currently owned by Universal Music Group. The song he performed was written by Buddy Holly, who was signed to Decca, now part of EMI. Why did Warner Music Group have a problem with it?
    I did some research to figure out why. At the end of the scene, Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox are having a conversation while a radio is faintly playing in the background. WMG has the copyright to the barely audible song. I’m not going to say the name of song because I don’t want to give those bastards any free publicity. I edited the song out and put the clip back up.

    Before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM0MmNjy97s

  14. I’m glad humanity didn’t invent things like leaves or blades of grass because then photography would be outlawed and copyright would last 10,000 years.

    I just can’t believe this culture is going down this insane rabbit hole.

  15. This was both a great article and a terrible article.

    It was great because it had a strong, clear point — that the entertainment industry lobbyists are shooting themselves in the foot by having private negotiations, because people don’t need to argue the outcomes, only the process. It also highlighted just how poorly this process has worked for them in the past and how they keep doing it over and over again. The article also showed that we can do something about these private negotiations and that we’re already doing a great job. It was an enlightening, inspiring piece.

    But it was also terribly biased, and I don’t just mean the “a person is always biased to what they believe in” bias, but filled with nearly propagandist speech. In each of Cory’s “summaries” of the issues, he specifically uses derogatory words to describe them. He also references them to past events without showing what they have in common. He is continually making everything sound bad, without actually giving facts showing that this is really what they are doing and why it’s a bad thing.

    I appreciate that this is an op ed for a column, and by all means, you’re free to take a stand for one side, but backing up your statements is important to the credibility of your argument. Using scary words and painting horrendous pictures is only fair if you can show that those fears are real. Otherwise, it ends up sounding like paranoia.

    I agree with you, but you’re not doing yourself or the movement any favors with your writing style.

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