Friday, January 20, 2012

Retreat, Regroup

It sounds like it's over ... all except for the semi-orderly withdrawal.

After a week in which their anti-piracy legislation got derailed by the full force of the Internet lobby, the mood in Hollywood was one of anger, frustration and a growing resignation that the entertainment industry will be forced to accept a much weaker law than originally envisioned.

A full-on counterattack by a tech industry opposed to the toughest elements in the congressional bills, including a well-publicized Wednesday shutdown by key Internet sites, halted the legislation.

With supporters defecting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday postponed a key procedural vote. The lead sponsor of the companion bill in the House said he would redraft the proposed law in search of consensus. ...

Nothing like a gazillion petitions, e-mails and letters to focus a congress person's attention ...

I got a call today from one of the people from "Creative America" one of the groups helping the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, and the IATSE shepherd the anti-piracy bills through congress. He made reference to the unfairness of the tech industry's attack. I replied with my usual mantra:

"There is no fair. There's only what one side or the other has the leverage to get."

And we got into a back-and-forth about the merits of the bills, the threats of piracy on movie workers' livelihoods, also the unwillingness of the tech and internet industries to bend a little. I replied that it didn't look like those folks had to bend, given their muscle with congress.

He had no response to that.

This is a tough time for content conglomerates and movie unions. The digital age and the internet have upended almost every status quo: television viewing; movie attendance; dvd purchases. Long-time business models are, to put it mildly, in flux.

Major parties in the entertainment industry should have seen this coming, what with those coal-mine canaries called record companies. Capitol/EMI, Warner Records and the rest battled collapsing revenues by suing their customer base (always a great idea) twelve years ago, when college kids started downloading songs off the internet. Apple and iTunes saved some of the industry's bacon when they invented a new business model to which the public flocked, but the cake had already been baked. The era of selling little silver disks out of brick and mortar stores was O-ver.

So now movie studios are in the pressure cooker, fighting the wars the old-line record companies lost a decade ago. They'll have to change to survive and prosper, and it won't be easy. But few things are when you're in the throes of radical transformation.

The Animation Guild, like other Hollywood unions, has long supported the battle against internet piracy. The health of industry pension plans depend on it. As unions and guilds said today:

"We fought for this legislation because illegal Internet businesses that locate offshore expressly to elude U.S. laws should not escape the very same rules of law that currently apply to illegal U.S. websites," ...

For the moment, it seems the fight will be waged under current laws and regulations because the fight to push through SOPA and PIPA is at a standstill. But the problem of big-time internet theft is still out there, and it would be useful to have some sharp-edged weapon to combat it.

A representative from the DGA-SAG-AFTRA-IATSE Internet Piracy Group ("Creative America") will be at the next TAG General Membership meeting on Tuesday, January 31st to talk about the battle and legislation against internet piracy. If you have questions or issues, we suggest you BE there to voice them.


Anonymous said...

...the problem of big-time internet theft is still out there, and it would be useful to have some sharp-edged weapon to combat it.

We already have that power. It's called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives the record and movie industries legal authority to force sites to remove infringing material.

I think existing law makes SOPA/PIPA unnecessary. For example, our government shut down Megaupload today over piracy. They did not need any help from SOPA or PIPA in order to shut down a foreign website accused of piracy.

Existing law also allowed the Department of Justice to shut down a popular music blog called Dajaz1 for a year, even though the blog did not infringe copyright law. The songs hosted on the website had been provided by the artists/labels that produced the tracks. If anything, this suggests that existing anti-piracy legislation goes too far.

Anonymous said...

One can be against internet piracy AND against SOPA at the same time, they are not mutually exclusive. Like the first commentator said, there already exists avenues to remove infringing material though legal channels. But that was too hard work for the movie studios. They wanted a "nuke from orbit" solution that would have caused too much collateral damage, not that they would care about that, and that's what most of the internet users have a problem with.

I am all for the scalpel technique to remove piracy from the net (which already exists), but not the nuclear technique, that is just wrong.

Won't someone think of the children?

Anonymous said...

I recently read an article on Huffingtonpost about Hollywood's main lobbyist, who is pressuring congress and Obama to push this anti-piracy legislation through. Threatening a backlash and cutting of campaign funds if Obama does not comply! And who is this lobbyist? None other than career politician Chris Dodd! That fool was hugely responsible for policies that caused the housing collapse, hasn't he caused enough damage?

Anonymous said...

The problem with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is that the do nothing wingnuts in the gNOp cut all funding for ENFORCEMENT, so Hollywood searched for a bigger, less discriminant hammer.

Anonymous said...

"He made reference to the unfairness of the tech industry's attack."

Yes. Horribly unfair of the tech industry to point out how the writers of the bill had no understanding of the architecture of the internet. Unjust of them to assert that the bill won't do what it was written to do because Congress has no idea how a website is actually hosted. And to point out that the Justice Department should be the ones enforcing law and not corporations making "good faith" claims with no oversight? My god. One would think we were ruled by the common people.

Anonymous said...

And lets pretend a single piece of legislation could end internet piracy tomorr.w

Then what? People will go to theaters more?!?

NO. They won't. The product that the studios allege people "are turning away from" doesn't exist anymore.

Movie theaters treat people like cattle, they don't hold good movies long enough for communities to see them, and they CHARGE TOO MUCH. Add to this, that you get extorted by these big theater chains in the form of being forced to sit through commercials - double dipping on the ticket price the viewer paid for.

If I pay for a ticket, I'll be god damned if they are going to make more money on me by putting car commercials in front of me for 25 minutes before the movie starts.

My sympathy for hollywood studios is ZERO. They gave away control of their product and now they are pointing the finger at piracy?! This is asinine. They are never going to get the returns that they were once getting before home entertainment technology because so advanced. Its equatable to the record industry citing drops in sales because of piracy when it is actually because they had a ten year boom while people updated their collections on CD. They started equating those dividends as a normal model of profit. Wrong.

Hollywood studios have contracts to release their movies only to large theater chains - chains that provide a crappy product. They can take a long look in the mirror why the movies they make don't put asses in theater seats.

Tough titties. Piracy abounds.

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