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.
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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.
Timothy B. Lee at Ars: "the MPAA ... urged the Seventh Circuit not to draw a legal distinction between hosting content and embedding it
. In the MPAA's view, both actions should carry the risk of liability for direct copyright infringement." Read the rest
The Weinstein Company has caved to the MPAA
and edited down the documentary Bully
in order to get a PG-13 rating. Unrated, uncut versions of the movie will still be shown in some theaters -- a concession from the MPAA. See more about the story here
, and here
. (Thanks, Xeni!
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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.
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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.
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....
CreativeAmerica Literally Resorts To Buying Signatures
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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."
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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.
The White House says it can't comment on a petition
to investigate former senator-turned MPAA boss Chris Dodd
for fraud over the remarks he made
in which he implied that his industry's campaign contributions were bribes in exchange for specific legislation. The White House says it "declines to comment on this petition because it requests a specific law enforcement action." Read the rest
Writing in the Toronto Sun
tabloid, Alan Parker rails against the corruption
of the entertainment industry, and the hypocrisy of the way that they've painted Kim Dotcom and MegaUpload: "The film corporations that were spawned by the very pirates and outlaws who created a hole-in-the-wall getaway hideout in Hollywood are now leading the charge to eradicate uncontrolled Internet access to works and technology they say they hold copyright and patent title to."
) Read the rest
A great Mike Masnick Techdirt editorial deals with MPAA second-in-command Michael O'Leary's statement that, "[the Internet is] a platform we're not at this point comfortable with."
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The MPAA's O'Leary concedes that the industry was out-manned and outgunned in cyberspace. He says the MPAA "is [undergoing] a process of education, a process of getting a much, much greater presence in the online environment. This was a fight on a platform we're not at this point comfortable with, and we were going up against an opponent that controls that platform."
Yes, even when he tries to say that they're trying to learn about that confounded internet thingy, he sounds ridiculous and dismissive. But the real point is his inadvertent admission within that statement: the MPAA (and the rest of "old" Hollywood) simply "is not comfortable with" the internet. And that's really what SOPA and PIPA were about. Rather than trying to understand this new platform, and learn from the many entertainers who do get the internet, they did what the MPAA does and simply tried to regulate that which they don't understand and fear.
Furthermore, even more ridiculous is the end of that sentence: "an opponent that controls that platform." As the article makes clear, he means Google. Which shows that he still doesn't get it. First, Google didn't lead the protests. It came late to the game, after the grassroots had already taken off with this stuff and run with it. But, more to the point, contrary to what O'Leary and the MPAA seem to believe: Google does not control the internet.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, a German national formerly known as Kim Schmitz, is seen at court in Auckland, New Zealand in this still image taken from video shot on January 23, 2012. The file-sharing website founder was ordered to be held in custody by a New Zealand court on Monday, as he denied charges of internet piracy and money laundering and said authorities were trying to portray the most negative picture of him. (REUTERS/TV3 via Reuters Tv)
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Former Senator Chris Dodd, now head of the MPAA, is pissed at Obama. He's threatened to withhold entertainment lobbyist money from Obama's upcoming re-election war chest over the administration's lack of support for SOPA and PIPA. As an ex-Senator, Dodd is prohibited from directly lobbying Congress for a couple more years, and some insiders tell me he feels that this hamstrung his efforts because he couldn't sit down over lunch with lawmakers who directly owed him personal favors and demand that they stay firm on SOPA and PIPA.
"Candidly, those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake," Dodd told Fox News. "Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Dodd warns of Hollywood backlash against Obama over anti-piracy bill
(Image: Blackmail - South Congress Avenue, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from swanksalot's photostream)
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As Xeni wrote on Tuesday, the MPAA isn't pleased about sites like this one going dark to protest SOPA and PIPA. Former Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America called it "an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
Well, he should know.
After all, he is the CEO of the organization responsible for inserting those unskippable FBI warnings (which are highly prejudiced and factually incorrect, advising, for example, that DVDs can't be rented, even though the law says they can) before every commercial DVD. He's the CEO of the organization that inserts those insulting PSAs in front of every movie chiding those of us who buy our DVDs because someone else decided to download the same movie for free.
And he's the CEO of the organization responsible for the section of the DMCA that makes it illegal to build a DVD player that can skip these mandatory, partisan, commercially advantageous messages.
So he knows a thing or two about "abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
(Image: Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick)
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On its official blog, the MPAA describes Condé Nast-owned news site Ars Technica
as a "blog with a long history of challenging efforts to curb content theft
." Consider it a window to the MPAA's soul. Read the rest
MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd is making the rounds in DC, trying to gin up support for the Stop Online Piracy Act, which establishes a national censorship regime in which whole websites can be blocked in the US if the MPAA objects to them. The former senator turned shill has run out of plausible arguments in favor of the bill, so he's resorted to really, really stupid lies.
Case in point: Dodd recently told the Center for American Progress that "The entire film industry of Spain, Egypt and Sweden are gone."
Of course, this is a flat-out, easily checked, ridiculous lie.
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Sweden actually produces a number of high quality films. Released in 2008, the vampire flim Let The Right One In received critical acclaim here in the U.S. Additionally, all three best-selling books of the Millennium Trilogy are Swedish films and 2009’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was quite successful. The film made a modest $10 million in the U.S. and a respectable $104 million worldwide.
Considering the budget for the U.S. remake of the film is $100 million - as much as the original film has earned to date - perhaps Dodd meant that the film does not count until Hollywood gets a chance to remake it. Ironically, the U.S. remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was shot in Sweden.
Chris Dodd was correct to say that film is an international industry, but he was wrong to say that the Swedish film industry has disappeared and misleading to imply that all Hollywood jobs are American jobs.
The Guardian just published an investigative piece I've been working on since the summer: "How the BBC's HD DRM plot was kept secret … and why." It contains the previously secret text of a memo that the BBC sent to the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, explaining why they wanted to put DRM on publicly funded broadcasts.
The British public overwhelmingly rejected this approach, as did archivists, tech companies, activists, scholars, disabled rights groups and others. But Ofcom granted permission anyway, saying that the BBC's secret memo made a compelling case for DRM being in the public interest. Both Ofcom and the BBC refused to disclose what the BBC's arguments had been, declining both press queries and Freedom of Information requests.
Essentially, the BBC and Ofcom were saying that DRM was in the public interest, but it wasn't in the public interest for the public to know why. I acquired a copy of the secret text and, as I think you'll see, it does not contain any sort of compelling evidence in support of DRM. Rather, it makes flimsy and sometimes laughable arguments (for example, the BBC says HBO demands DRM on its programming, but HBO has an exclusive deal with BBC rival Sky, so it won't be licensing new programming to the BBC, with our without DRM). What's more, the BBC's claim that this material was "commercially sensitive" doesn't bear up to scrutiny -- is it really "commercially sensitive" for the BBC to publish the fact that people like to watch movies on TV? Read the rest
SOPA, the House version of the US Senate's PROTECT-IP Bill, might be the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun a series of articles examining the bill in depth, explaining just how insane it is. Here's part one:
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If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.
Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.