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Here's Techdirt's Mike Masnick at his finest, nailing a point perfectly:
[MPAA spokesman Howard Gantman] says that somehow, magically, because there are more crippled, annoying, expensive, incomplete movie services out there, no one should complain. You see, in the MPAA's world "offering something" is proof that they're innovating, even if it's not what people want.
Anton Vickerman is a British entrepreneur who operated a search-engine called "Surf the Channel," indexed links to online video content. After an estranged former business-partner filed a complaint, he was targetted by FACT, the UK branch of the Motion Picture Association of America (a shadowy enforcement organization staffed with former police offers), who played every single dirty trick imaginable, from illegal searches to leaning on judges, to make an example of him. He is going to prison for five years. As his final act as a free man, he was written an extensive and well-documented report of all the sleaze and slime that a vigilante group bankrolled by some of the most powerful offshore companies in the world used to shut down his business and get him jailed. It's a long read, and if you're not furious by the time it's over, you're a lot more cynical about corporate-owned justice than I am.
I was convicted of “Conspiracy to defraud the movie industry through the facilitation of copyright infringement” on June 24 2012 after an eight week trial. A trial that was brought not by the UK state prosecutor, the Crown Prosecution Service, but by a private prosecutor, the Federation Against Copyright Theft Limited. For those that are unaware FACT Ltd is the UK regional office of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the same organization that is behind the attempted extradition of Richard O´Dwyer who based his own website TVShack on STC. As will become clear as you read this piece I consider FACT Ltd and the MPAA to be dangerous vigilante organizations that have no place in prosecuting UK citizens never mind conducting up to fifteen illegal surveillance operations every month on those same citizens. FACT Ltd are a private limited company staffed almost entirely by former police and trading standards officers most of which FACT Ltd have identified as willing to go “that extra mile” in their fight against “copyright thieves.” In other words there is a reason that FACT Ltd employs the individuals they do (be that investigators, lawyers or executive officers) – because they are willing to cheat, lie and break the law for their employer. Essentially FACT Ltd is the MPAA´s private police force operating within the UK. But more of that later.
After my conviction many stories appeared in the press regarding the “facts” of my case which I found odd as not one journalist had bothered to attend the trial during those eight weeks. I later found out that these so called facts had been passed to various journalists in a 1600 word press release by FACT Ltd the contents of which were then dutifully parroted by lazy journalists who couldn’t even be bothered to check if what they were reporting was accurate. Publications such as the Daily Mail and my local paper the Evening Chronicle actually just copied and pasted the FACT Ltd press release en masse with only minor alterations. Such is the state of investigative/responsible journalism nowadays. It is because of these inaccurate articles and lies that I felt the need to give my side of the story so that publications that are not as lazy or sycophantic to FACT Ltd would have the true facts at their disposal should they want to report what has really happened here. I can but hope.
I will try to keep this story as short and to the point as possible but the reader will appreciate that this is a tale that spans the last five years of my life and a lot has happened during that time. I will be as brief as possible but you’re still going to need to give me 30 minutes of your time if you want to know the whole story. Sorry!
I started my site on October 1 2007. STC only ever contained links to third party video websites such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Veoh, 4OD and many others. It did not nor has it ever streamed content itself. It rapidly became popular and I was able to form partnerships with Warner Bros., Discovery Channel, A&E Television Networks and many other bona fide companies as they realised how important STC was becoming in the Video on Demand market. STC quickly became one of the leading video search engines in the world second only to Google Video.
You may remember Paul Brigner, the geek who quit his job as CTO of the MPAA to work for its arch-rival net-freedom advocates at the Internet Society, who manage the .ORG top-level domain. He has just filed comments with the White House's IP Czar rubbishing the techniques proposed in SOPA, which contemplated censoring the Internet by tinkering with the domain-name service in the hopes of reducing copyright infringement. At the time that Brigner left the MPAA for ISOC, a lot of us were worried that he'd officially endorsed SOPA and argued in favor of it at Congress. Brigner and ISOC both assured us that he'd had a genuine change of heart, and these comments are the proof in the pudding. As Mike Masnick notes, Brigner was a pretty half-hearted, ineffective SOPA advocate, but he's a rip-snortin', ass-kicking critic of it.
We are also of the opinion that any enforcement attempts – at both national and international levels – should ensure and not jeopardize the stability, interoperability and efficiency of the Internet, its technologies and underlying platforms. The Internet – a network of networks – is based on an open and distributed architecture. This model should be preserved and should surpass any enforcement efforts. For the Internet Society preserving the original nature of the Internet is particularly significant, especially when enforcement is targeting domain names and the Domain Name System (DNS) in general. There are significant concerns from using the DNS as a channel for intellectual property enforcement and various contributions have been made on this issue by both the Internet Society and the technical community. It needs to be highlighted that from a security perspective, in particular, DNS filtering is incompatible with an important security technology called Domain Name Security Extensions or DNSSEC. In fact, there is great potential for DNSSEC to be weakened by proposals that seek to filter domain names. This means that DNS filtering proposals could ultimately reduce global Internet security, introduce new vulnerabilities, and put individual users at risk.
Our second recommendation relates to the legal tools that should be in place in any enforcement design. ISOC would like to stress the absolute need for any enforcement provisions to be prescribed according to the rule of law and due process. We believe that combating online infringement of intellectual property is a significant objective. However, it is equally important that this objective is achieved through lawful and legal paths and in accordance with the notion of constitutional proportionality. In this regard, enforcement provisions – both within and outside the context of intellectual property – should respect the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of individuals and, subsequently, those of Internet users. They should not seek to impose unbearable constitutional constraints and should not prohibit users from exercising their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression.
As a general recommendation, we would like to emphasize our belief that all discussions pertaining to the Internet, including those relating to intellectual property - both at a national and international level - should follow open and transparent processes.
The MPAA and the DHS have teamed up to increase the punishment meted out to people who buy their DVDs instead of downloading the same movies for free from the Internet. Now when you buy a DVD, you'll get twice as many unskippable anti-piracy warnings, including one with a Homeland Security Investigations “special agent” badge next to the FBI badge, as well as a screen telling you that "digital theft harms the economy" and inviting you to visit a taxpayer-funded website that parrots a bunch of unsubstantiated lobbynomics numbers that the MPAA pulled out of its ass.
Only MPAA members are licensed to use these government logos, because other studios are apparently not entitled to a share of whatever imaginary protection the DHS is extending here.
Here's ThreatLevel's David Kravets:
That screen, like the others, presumably will be made unskippable during viewing. The warning says, “Piracy is not a victimless crime. For more information on how digital theft harms the economy, please visit www.iprcenter.gov.” The center’s logo is tough, too, with a hawk clenching a banner that reads “Protection Is Our Trademark”.
Oddly, such warnings are rarely included in versions uploaded and downloaded via P2P networks.
A post by Slashdot user Dangerous_Minds summarizes a series ZeroPaid's Drew Wilson, who has been examining 20 file-sharing studies from the decade-plus-long filesharing wars. Time and again, the studies show that the effect on markets is marginal, and that the big entertainment companies are opposed to file-sharing a means of suppressing competition and innovation:
While most writers would simply criticize the study and move on, Wilson took it a step further and looked in to what file-sharing studies have really been saying throughout the years. What he found was an impressive 19 of 20 studies not getting any coverage. He launched a large series detailing what these studies have to say on file-sharing. The first study suggests that file-sharing litigation was a failure. The second study said that p2p has no effect on music sales. The third study found that the RIAA suppresses innovation. The fourth study says that the MPAA has simply been trying to preserve its oligopoly. The fifth study says that even when one uses the methodology of one download means one lost sale, the losses amount to less than $2 per album. The studies, so far, are being posted on a daily basis and are certainly worth the read."
Former senator Chis Dodd is now the CEO of the MPAA, and was the primary moving force behind SOPA.
He's a bit weird.
His latest act of performance art, or fabulism, or whatever, is to make up a completely bullshit story about the history of Hollywood, in which the Hollywood film industry sprang into being because of strong "IP protection." He's sorta right. The founders of studios like Universal and Fox and Famous Players came to Hollywood so that they could violate Thomas Edison's film patents in peace, far from New Jersey and Edison's patent enforcers.
But that's not what Dodd means. In his imaginary world, it was the (nonextistent) heavy law enforcement in the wild west that gave birth to the industry that gives him millions of dollars today.
Perhaps some quotes from A Fish Called Wanda are in order:
Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.
To which we can add, "Hollywood was not founded on the principle of vigorous IP enforcement. That is a mistake, Chris. I looked it up."
My latest Guardian column is "Why did an MPAA executive join the Internet Society?" which digs into the backstory on the appointment of former MPAA CTO Paul Brigner as North American director of the copyright-reforming, pro-net-neutrality Network Society group, which manages the .ORG domain name registry.
I asked Brigner whether his statements about DNS blocking and seizure and net neutrality had been sincere. "There are certainly a number of statements attributed to me that demonstrate my past thoughts on DNS and other issues," he answered. "I would not have stated them if I didn't believe them. But the true nature of my work was focused on trying to build bridges with the technology community and the content community and find solutions to our common problems. As I became more ingrained in the debate, I became more educated on the realities of these issues, and the reality is that a mandated technical solution just isn't a viable option for the future of the internet. When presented with the facts over time, it was clear I had to adjust my thinking.
"My views have evolved over the last year as I engaged with leading technologists on DNSSEC. Through those discussions, I came to believe that legislating technological approaches to fight copyright violations threatens the architecture of the internet. However, I do think that voluntary measures could be developed and implemented to help address the issue.
"I will most definitely advocate on Internet Society's behalf in favor of all issues listed, and I share the organization's views on all of those topics. I would not have joined the organisation otherwise, and I look forward to advocating on its behalf."
Update: Joly sez, "After his appointment we (ISOC-NY) did pull Paul up on the carpet to explain himself - you can find the salient MPAA passage here
Former Senator Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA, has hinted to the Hollywood Reporter that he's already greasing the wheels for a new version of SOPA, though he's shy about revealing details because of the public outcry that might ensue. Dodd is the guy who went on the record to tell Obama that he would instruct his members to stop donating to the Democratic party because Obama didn't usher in the laws they wanted.
DemandProgress has whomped up a petition asking Obama to end the practice of writing American copyright laws in smoke-filled back rooms.
THR: Are there conversations going on now?
Dodd: I'm confident that's the case, but I'm not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive.
THR: Did you feel personally blindsided by Obama over SOPA?
Dodd: I'm not going to revisit the events of last winter. I'll only say to you that I'm confident he's using his good relationships in both communities to do exactly what you and I have been talking about.
This exchange comes days after the White House issued a report that urges a redoubling of efforts to crack down on piracy.
Hollywood and Obama should've learned: No form of censorship will be acceptable to Internet users, and we're fed up with corrupt, back-room deals that are driven by the rich and well-connected. Any major Internet policy changes should be negotiated in the light of day, so the millions of people who'd be affected can have their say too.
Please tell President Obama to reject Hollywood's backroom deals -- just add your name at right.
CreativeAmerica is an astroturf group financed by the MPAA that pretends to represent everyday folks who want to see further-reaching, stricter copyrights, and it just happens to be run by a bunch of ex-MPAA staffers. An anonymous tipster claims that the organization has now resorted to paying people to get signups for its membership rolls:
the organization I am doing work for is Creative America, which is a grassroots organization that is working to stop foreign rogue websites from illegally distributing American content such as books, music, films, etc.... These specific websites costs the U.S. and the 2.2 million middle class industry workers $5.5 billion in wages and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Your job would be just collecting signatures from whoever is interested in signing up for updates. A newsletter may come once a month and anyone can unsubscribe if they don’t want it. We don’t care if they do; all I care about is getting initial signups.
The hours are flexible and we will pay you $1/signature, so if you collect 100 signatures a week, we would pay you $100/week. We will also pay for you to go to local film festivals in the area (SXSW, Austin Film Festival, etc.). We are also taking as many people as possible, so if you have some friends who are interested in doing it we can take them as well. Let me know your thoughts....
For ten years, Kickstarter
founder former CTO Andy Baio has been compiling his "Pirating the Oscars" reports, which document which Oscar-nominated movies are available as downloads on P2P and other file-sharing services, measuring how effective the studios are at controlling leaks of "screeners" -- DVDs set to members of the Academy for review consideration. This year marks a turning point for the industry, as it ends a three-year-long trend of increased screener leaks.
However, Baio says, the studios have "won the battle and lost the war," as this year also marks the first year that 92 percent of the nominated films were "available as high-quality DVD or Blu-ray rips." As Baio notes, "If the goal of blocking leaks is to keep the films off the internet, then the MPAA still has a long way to go."
But the MPAA may have little to do with the decline. Oscar-nominated films could be coming out earlier in the year, making screeners less important.
Or maybe the interests between the mainstream downloader and industry favorites is diverging? If the Oscars are mostly arthouse fare and critical darlings, but with low gross receipts, they'll be less desirable to leak online. It would be very interesting to track the historical box office performance of nominees to see how it affects downloading. (Maybe next year!)
The continuously shrinking window between theatrical and retail releases may be to blame. After all, once the retail Blu-ray or DVD is released, there's no reason for pirate groups to release a lower-quality watermarked screener.