Hollywood's Strategy For The Future: Pretending The Government Can Save Them
from the yah,-ok dept
We were reasonably troubled, earlier this year, when the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] division of Homeland Security started acting as Hollywood’s private police force — not just seizing the domains of a bunch of sites it accused of being “pirate sites,” but announcing this at Disney’s headquarters. It’s difficult to understand why the US government — and Homeland Security specifically — is helping protect a single industry’s obsolete business model. It’s even more troubling when it’s doing so in such close association with that industry, and proudly noting that it’s now a priority of Homeland Security to protect Hollywood’s obsolete business model. Imagine if the FTC announced antitrust actions against Google from, say, AT&T’s headquarters. People would call that into question, as there’s a clear conflict of interest. Yet, somehow, Homeland Security and ICE get a free pass on this.
A few weeks back, I went to Hollywood to appear on a panel for the Filmmaker Forum event, all about “piracy.” You can see a short clip of the panel here. One of the panelists was Kevin Suh, who has the title “VP of Content Protection” at the MPAA. Of course, just the fact that the MPAA has a position that involves “content protection” suggests that there’s a pretty big problem with how the MPAA views where the market is heading (hint: protectionism is not going to get you very far). Kevin was extremely nice — and we had quite a pleasant conversation prior to the panel. But, at one point, he made some assertions (not in the video) that seemed odd to me. First, he went on and on about how much money these new “digital locker” sites make, and then in the very next sentence said that Hollywood couldn’t offer a competing service because it would make no money.
At one point, I challenged him on the idea that taking down these sites was effective, and he insisted that the sites that were taken down had stayed down, and no others had stepped up to take their place. While I don’t follow these sites all that closely, I’d already seen that this wasn’t true, as lots of our users like to send in tips about new sites popping up (or where those “downed” sites reappeared). And, in fact, the press is noting that at least one of the sites taken down went right back up days later.
But what’s really troubling about the article that has that info, is that it focuses in on how the US government has pledged to continue to be Hollywood’s copyright cops, based on questionable legal authority (this, by the way, is one reason why the government is so keen to pass COICA, which would give the feds some authority that they’re lacking here). But the simple fact is that this is a huge waste of taxpayer money, trying to stop the unstoppable and protect the unprotectable. There are all sorts of great opportunities for better, smarter business models for the industry, and yet rather than explore those, we have VPs of protectionism, running to the government and getting them to run crazy, legally dubious domain name seizures that do little, if anything to help.
About the only good thing that I can think of is that more and more filmmakers are realizing this. Following the panel, I was (quite pleasantly) surprised by just how many filmmakers spoke to me about how ridiculous the MPAA’s position on all of this is, and saying that it’s time for the industry to actually compete. Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t had to compete in so long, thanks in part to lobbying efforts by the MPAA, that the legacy players don’t seem to know how to do so. That’s why it’s going to be the up and coming filmmakers that figure it out.