Filmmaker Insists That Only People Whose Livelihood Depends On Copyright Really Understand It
from the oh-really-now? dept
A bunch of folks have sent over filmmaker Bevin Carnes’ rant against “free culture supporters,” claiming that they don’t understand copyright. In some cases, she’s absolutely correct. There are many free culture supporters who don’t accurately understand copyright (though, I’ve found that they’re often quick learners). But, the misunderstandings most certainly aren’t limited to free culture supporters. In fact, it quite frequently appears that supporters of ever stronger copyright are quite a bit more confused about copyright… and that seems to include Carnes, herself.
I’m always baffled by how many people who’ve perhaps read about an issue for five minutes or so have immaturely lashed out at an industry they barely understand, just because they want something for free, and the owner of that something wants them to pay for it. Some, I suppose, are not simply acting immature, but are actually thirteen years old. Them, I understand!
I’m always baffled by how many people who’ve perhaps relied on an artificial monopoly for years or so have immaturely lashed out at basic economics and the basics of copyright law that they barely understand, just because they want to keep an old and obsolete business model, and the people who want to make use of what the technology allows want to push them forward into smarter distribution methods. Some, I suppose, are not simply acting entitled, but are actually really old and unwilling to change. Them, I don’t really understand.
I’m amazed, for example, by how many supporters of the free culture movement have tried to tell me how the film industry works. That’s pretty funny, I think, because I studied filmmaking in college, I’ve won a Student Academy Award, worked at two of the major studios, and am currently working as an independent filmmaker. I’m also an I.A.T.S.E. member who has seen my union benefits dwindle over the past 3 years. So I’m always puzzled when people who know next to nothing about how my industry works try to instruct me on how it supposedly works, and why it’s not fair that they should have to pay anything for the work that I’ve created.
I’m amazed, for example, by how many supporters of ridiculous copyright levels have tried to tell me how basic economics and business model innovation works. That’s pretty funny, I think, because I’ve studied economics, technology innovation and business models in college. I’ve graduated at the top of my class, advised some of the biggest companies in the world on these topics and am currently working to help such folks adapt and embrace these new things. So I’m always puzzled when people who know next to nothing about the economics of infinite goods try to instruct me on how they supposedly work, and why it’s not fair that they should have to adapt to the times based on the changing market.
One of the favorite arguments seems to be about how “greedy” companies are for wanting to be paid for content. That’s odd, because when a company in my industry profits, its employees get paid (and not laid off), and they get to pay their mortgage and feed their families, etc. When someone steals a song, that person doesn’t have to pay a dollar or so (which probably doesn’t mean much to him in the long run), but the power of the collective decision of millions of people not to pay all those single dollars destroys the American dreams of hundreds of hard-working people’s families in the industry they’ve chosen not to support. Oh, and the pirate site owners get the sweetest deal of all — they profit from the advertising they sell from putting someone else’s work online illegally. Still think we’re the greedy ones?
One of the favorite arguments seems to be about how new methods of distribution are destroying the industry. That’s odd, because when those in the industry learn to embrace such methods of distribution, in combination with smart business models, they tend to get paid more, and they get to pay their mortgage and feed their families, etc. When someone sticks to an old and obsolete business model, and watches their organization fail in the face of a changing business model, that person doesn’t offer up a real reason for fans to buy their product (which probably means an awful lot to fans in the long run), but the power of the collective decision of millions of people to really support the creators who embrace these new methods of distribution and business models helps massively promote the American dreams of hundreds of hard-working people’s families in the modern industries they’ve chosen to build. Oh, and the whining content creators who don’t want to adapt get the worst deal of all — they come off sounding ignorant and uninformed, while they sit back and watch other content creators embrace opportunities, earn lots of money and gain the love of fans worldwide. Still think we’re the “immature” ones?
So, I’m calling on you, anonymous downloader and free culture supporter, to step up and be an adult. Admit that perhaps you don’t really understand the issues the way that people whose livelihoods depend on them do, and it probably wouldn’t kill you to just pay that dollar when you want to download a song, or that $15 when you want to download a movie.
So I’m calling on you, named fillmmaker and obsolete business model and distribution supporter, to step up and be an adult. Admit that perhaps you don’t really understand the issues the way that people whose livelihoods have been made much better by these new markets, technologies and opportunities do, and it probably wouldn’t kill you to just adapt with the times and put in place a smarter, better business model when you want to create a movie.
Ok. Now that that’s done, let me be clear: I don’t necessarily agree with all of the points I made in response to Carnes specifically here. The point was to show how easy it is to make nearly identical points on the other side. What Carnes does, unfortunately, is conflate the idea that because she’s a filmmaker, she knows copyright law and economics. That’s not the same thing. She certainly understands how the film industry works today better than lots of people. But that doesn’t mean that the film industry always has to work that way, or that the people she attacks in her column really just want stuff for free. As we’ve seen over and over again, filmmakers who have embraced sharing have done quite well by it. Perhaps she should look into that.