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June 30, 2005

Hollywood, WIPO, MPAA, RIAA and the other Rapscallions and Scallywags

Who do you think sued to stop construction of the Golden Gate Bridge? If you guessed the ferries, you're right. The automobile ferries sued because it would make their service obsolete overnight. People would still be able to get to work every day, they just wouldn’t have to wait on the ferry any more. The ferries, predictably, wanted a cut of the bridge revenue, and we wisely said “get lost?.

So, that’s basically what we’re faced with today in the movie and music industry. The people who will lose, now that the genie is out of the bottle, is Hollywood, the MPAA, the WIPO, and the RIAA. And to them, I say, good riddance. They're just middlemen between the artist and the consumer anyway. Raping both parties for the benefit of neither.

Some claim that the intellectual piracy has to be addressed in some manner or we all lose. But, I'm not clear that this is the case.

Keep in mind that, until about 100 years ago, we had no means to record sounds at all. The RIAA did not exist. No WIPO. No MPAA. And guess what? People still made music. Before there were copyright laws, people wrote books and told stories. The scholars of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire wanted to be recognized as the authors of their works, but they had no economic rights from the books.

So, my point in all of this is that, people will still make movies. They'll do it for little or nothing. People will write stories and produce music for free. The artists do it because they love to do it. (Think starving artist). For them, it's cathartic. There's no reason that these artists won't continue to produce, especially given that they're doing it pro bono today.

In all likelihood, what will happen, is that Hollywood will lose their monopolistic stranglehold on the miserable movies that are made and shown in theatres. I'm not clear that this is a bad thing. Hollywood has a history of stifling creativity, and producing 1-size-fits-all big budget blockbuster. Just stereotypical, plasticine, unoriginal, hero gets the girl in the end flicks.

Let's say, for arguments sake, that Hollywood can't recoup the investments of $150 million dollar movies, and stops making them. Then what happens? You close the theatres? No. You show the films that other people produce. The theatres costs go down. They can pass on the cost reduction to the public. People go see movies that are made on a smaller budget by companies all over the world.

What will happen is that these rapists will be routed around, because they are inefficient at distributing their product to the masses. The reason that people take cameras into theatres in Asia and film movies to release them in the U.S. is partly because the geniuses at the movie industry won't release them globally at the same time.

I buy pirated DVD’s off the streets of London, San Francisco, and Mexico City because they aren’t for sale anywhere else. So, this is a problem. It’s a real problem that the distributors refuse to address. So, they will lose revenue. Laws will not change this basic fact.

The intellectual property thieves are actually entrepreneurs, as are the drug dealers and prostitutes. They're just providing a service for which there is a great demand. The reality is that this can't be stopped. Laws won't stop it, any more that they stop drugs, prostitution, or anything else.

Besides, the big media companies have never been good at predicting the impacts of technology on revenue. They said that the cassette would kill the RIAA because people would copy music. The opposite happened. People copied songs, heard them, shared them, and sales went up. The claimed the VCR would ruin Hollywood. It didn't. Ditto with the CD burner, the DVD burner, and the Tivo PVR. The media giants are just afraid of change. Afraid of the paradigm shift that is occurring, and they’re too dense to look beyond the current paradigm to how thing will be in the future.

So, let's begin to deal with reality which is:

1) Anything digital can be copied. (Someone somewhere will be smart enough to crack any recording encryption created.)
2) The amount that you can charge for a product has to be somewhat related to economic reality created by Rule 1. (If someone can download a pirated copy off the internet for an hour’s worth of effort, they might pay $5.00 for a movie, but they are less likely to pay $20.00)
3) If your distribution network is inefficient, the technology will rout around you. (You can expect people in Europe or America to watch a move in the theater and then wait a year for a movie to be released on DVD.) Laws will not change this. They don’t stop people from risking life in prison to sell a $5.00 crack rock, and they won’t stop people from selling a pirated copy of your move for $5.00 either.
4) If you don’t make movies, the world will not come to a grinding halt. The sun will continue to rise and set, and, in all likelihood, and, a hundred years from now, people won’t even remember you or your company’s name.

So, now that we understand what reality is, how can we deal with it? How can we cope? How about if we think outside the box for a second.

Music Industry

In the music industry, how do the big companies help the artists? They front them money to cut albums, pay payola to buy them airtime from the DJ’s on the FCC controlled airwaves, and then pay off the stores that sell CD’s to get good placement in the stores. So, a large part of this could go away. If the artists borrowed money and recorded the music themselves, they could sell it on the internet for a dime and make more money than they’re making from their own songs today. It would be cheaper to pay them a dime to download a song, than to try to hunt for a bootleg copy on Kazaa, Morphues, BitTorrent, or Tor.

Movie Industry

Why not use product placement to generate revenue? Ad based revenue is what drives the economic engines of television, magazines, newspapers, and the internet. Why not movies? If the main characters drink Coca Cola and read Time Magazine in the movies, can’t you generate revenue from that? Using this revenue strategy, you could distribute your movies on the internet for free, track how many people watch it, and generate revenue that way. Making “bootleg? copies this way would actually help by getting the media in front of more eyeballs.

So, it isn’t like there aren’t solutions here. It’s just that the myopic film and record industries have no talent in their marketing and advertising divisions. The decades that they have wasted focused on consolidating control of their industries, while raping the artists and the consumers alike, have left them bereft of vision and creativity. The real question you should be asking of these miscreants is “Who will miss them??

Posted by Peenie Wallie on June 30, 2005 at 4:55 PM


The **AA claim that their goal is to stop piracy. But what they're really trying to do is stop independent production and distribution.

Not too long ago, it took millions of dollars to make a movie or album. Now, since the cost of technology has come within the reach of the average American, almost anybody can produce quality music or video for a few thousand. It's also cheap to burn your own production onto CD, DVD, or distribute it over the internet.

Textbook examples of this are 405, Troops and Peaceful Hills Police. AtomFilms.com and iFilm.com are full of other examples.

What the **AA wants is every media device to have some type of DRM (so called "Digital Rights Management," but more accurately "Digital Restrictions Management) mandated by the government. With the DRM licenses controlled by the content owners.

In the **AA vison of the future, you won't be able to play your home-made movies on your DRM'ed DVD players or DRM'ed computers without paying a license fee to Sony (and/or JVC and/or Disney and/or Microsoft and/or whoever).

This isn't about stopping media piracy. It's about control.

Posted by: Robert on June 30, 2005 at 8:02 PM

"The Right to Read"
by Richard Stallman

This article appeared in the February 1997 issue of Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2).

(from "The Road To Tycho", a collection of articles about the antecedents of the Lunarian Revolution, published in Luna City in 2096)

For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college--when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her--but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong--something that only pirates would do.


Of course, Lissa did not necessarily intend to read his books. She might want the computer only to write her midterm. But Dan knew she came from a middle-class family and could hardly afford the tuition, let alone her reading fees....

Read the rest of this story at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Posted by: Robert on July 1, 2005 at 2:58 PM

Textbook examples of this are 405, Troops and Peaceful Hills Police.

Another example I forgot to mention is Starship Exeter, a fan-made 1960s style Star Trek episode.

It's obvious these guys have more love and passion for Star Trek than the bean-counters at Paramount who churn out crap like Star Trek: Nemesis.

As Allen Jeter observed several years ago: "The problem with Hollywood is that the next Star Wars like revolutionary blockbuster is sitting in some studio executive's waste paper basket, while he's approving the production of Scooby Doo 3." (From memory, so the quote isn't exact, but it's close).

Posted by: Robert on July 1, 2005 at 3:17 PM

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