NBC Universal & MPAA Get NYC To Run Propaganda 'Anti-Piracy' Ad Campaign

from the yeah,-that'll-work dept

Jarrett Streebin alerts us to the news (via BusinessInsider) that the the NYC Mayor’s Office of Michael Bloomberg is running an unintentionally hilarious ad campaign called Stop Piracy in NYC. This is actually a followup to an effort by the MPAA a few years back to get New York City to put in place even more stringent anti-camcording laws (it was already against the law to record a movie in the theater, but the MPAA demanded that it be made criminal, rather than civil, so that the NYC police could do its job for it). Of course, in order to do this, the MPAA simply made up numbers, claiming that 40% of all pirated movies came from camcorded films in NYC. The world is a large place, so attributing 40% of all such movies to NYC seemed like a stretch — made even more ridiculous when that same MPAA, just a few days later, claimed that 70% of all camcorded films come from Canada, where it was pushing for similar legislation. 40% plus 70% equals… a great big lie for political purposes — something the MPAA is no stranger to.

Reading through the details of the “ad campaign,” we’re not surprised to see the driving force behind it is our old friend, Rick Cotton, the General Counsel at NBC Universal, who often seems to have no shame in saying stuff that makes absolutely no sense concerning movie piracy. Cotton, most famously, is the guy who once made a filing with the FCC where he tried to claim that movie piracy was killing the American corn farmer. This ignored two rather important points: (1) people who watch unauthorized copies of movies can also eat popcorn and (2) corn — one of the most subsidized crops in the US — continues to grow as a market. Oh yeah, speaking of growing markets, have we mentioned how the movie industry keeps breaking records at the box office, despite all of this file sharing.

Is NYC spending taxpayer money on Hollywood propaganda, or is it being funded by the MPAA? According to one report, this is funded by the city itself, so, yes NYC taxpayer money is going towards this. The city is trying to downplay the cost, by saying it’s using resources it already has, but that also means those resources can’t be used for other ads. Wouldn’t it actually save more jobs if NYC wasn’t wasting taxpayer money on propaganda campaigns based on bogus information?

Anyway, the campaign has some hilariously misleading commercials. One has a guy pretending to offer bootleg DVDs, but if you take one, he says, the depressed looking person holding a boom mic next to him will lose her job. Of course, it’s not as if the MPAA and Cotton’s company have done everything possible to reject new business models that might keep more people employed. But, none of that matters according to the campaign. It’s because some kids, who would never buy the DVD in the first place, download a movie that someone won’t get a job. Uh huh. And it ends with the blatantly false line: “There’s no such thing as a free movie.” Someone should tell Nina Paley or Stevie Long or the folks at Double Edge Films or any of the filmmakers using Vodo, etc. There is such a thing as a free-to-consumer movie, contrary to the ad campaign’s central message. In fact, if the message is “if you’re watching a movie for free, it’s infringing,” then people probably shouldn’t turn on their TVs to watch movies played on broadcast TV.

The problem, once again, is not “piracy.” It’s folks like Rick Cotton thinking that the business model that Universal used to have must forever be the same. It’s pretty sad that NYC is supporting such backwards thinking.

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Comments on “NBC Universal & MPAA Get NYC To Run Propaganda 'Anti-Piracy' Ad Campaign”

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46 Comments
Mr. Smarta** says:

One thing to consider...

One thing that must be considered. 100% of all films are recorded. That’s a staggering and irrefutable fact that must be addressed. For the love of all, that simple stat is what makes piracy possible! Do you even realize that recording is what helps piracy come about??? We need to stop recording… *period*. No audio, no video, no film, no digital, NOTHING!

Once this world stops recording works of any kind (painting on canvas, words on paper, film, audio, music, etc.), we will end up saving trees, we won’t need so many hard drives, we won’t need to waste money on paint or writing utensils.

Can’t anyone see this!?! When the English came over to North America, the indians weren’t recording anything. And as such, guess what? NO PIRACY!! They didn’t pirate anything!! If we criminalize all recording everywhere of any kind and make it an executable offense, piracy will stop completely! They didn’t write anything down… and as such how much did Geronimo download on a daily basis??? Geez, people!! Pull your heads out…

Jesse says:

“The world is a large place, so attributing 40% of all such movies to NYC seemed like a stretch — made even more ridiculous when that same MPAA, just a few days later, claimed that 70% of all camcorded films come from Canada, where it was pushing for similar legislation. 40% plus 70% equals… “

Perhaps they are suggesting that 10 percent of camcorder movies originate in the Canadian embassy in NYC. Or maybe they are suggesting that the pirates are giving it their 110 percent. Who knows?

Daniel Morritt (profile) says:

I’m just amazed that a company can spout such ridiculous misinformation, and (a) get away with it, and (b) get politicians to listen to it.

Over here in the UK we have lots of regulators, every time one of the broadband suppliers starts making absurd claims, all the others go to Ofcom and make complaints so they don’t look so bad.

Personally if I voted for any of the chimps that are listening to this, I’d be complaining to them first, and not voting for them next time round.

DSchmeling (profile) says:

Urp.

The only thing I dislike about this article is the comment, “There is no such thing as a free movie” in terms of actual economics, there isn’t. The filming cost someone something. It’s possible to distribute freely, and that’s a perfectly acceptable business model for some. Others it does not work for.

That said, this is stupid, it’s a waste of money that New York does NOT have and should be spending elsewhere. Can we pass a bottle of reality juice around? I think some folks need a shot.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Urp.

The only thing I dislike about this article is the comment, “There is no such thing as a free movie” in terms of actual economics, there isn’t. The filming cost someone something. It’s possible to distribute freely, and that’s a perfectly acceptable business model for some. Others it does not work for.

Yeah, but that’s not what was said in the commercial. The actor in the commercial made the claim by suggesting there’s no such thing as a “free-to-the-user” movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

About Popcorn.

Did people know that a lot of ingredients that goes in other products come from corn?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn#Uses

– corn syrup
– bourbon whiskey
– Beer
– Dog food
– Feedstock
– plastics
– fabrics
– adhesives

And a lot of other stuff is all make from corn.
So claiming that piracy put at risk this particular crop is just preposterous if not downright ridiculous.

membiblio (profile) says:

NBC Universal - Nothing to see here...

It’s too bad NBC Universal does not produce anything that people want to watch, perhaps if they did then they would find themselves too busy to mess around with this peripheral cr^p.

Did you know Sci-Fi (read NBC) wants to remake BBC’s Being Human for the American Market? Really? What geniuses thought up this plan? “Let’s take a show already airing in America, dumb it down, put in American Actors and produce it in Canada! – How could we fail???”

Personally I wish Comcast would give up on acquisition of NBC and GE would divest themselves and let NBC die a peaceful death never to be heard from again.

MrWilson says:

One thing to consider...

The only problem I see is that the law would have to be unwritten or else it would violate itself. Since word-of-mouth would be the only plausible method of communicating the existence of the law, you’d have to take someone’s word for it. The big corporations already seem to want us to take their word for it that things are illegal when they aren’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Corporate Welfare

How is this not corporate welfare? Are the finances of NYC now in such robust good health that spending money on corporate welfare is a trivial matter? Are all NYC schools and hospitals so lavishly funded that they could not use some more? How about not taking the money in the first place? You know leave it in the hands of the taxpayers, so they can spend it on what THEY want?

Anonymous Coward says:

Gee, so all those “don’t drink and drive” or “shoplifting is stealing” ads should be removed too, because they are just to the benefits of the insurance companies and the stores? Perhaps we should shut down all the rehab centers too, because those “drugs are bad” messages just shouldn’t be out there.

Yeah right.

I wonder how much NYC makes on taxes from performances of copyright materials, such as show tunes and the like.

Shaun Butterley (profile) says:

FTA TV?

“There’s no such thing as a free movie.”

nice line.

I paid for my TV, I’ll give them that, but I don’t have cable. I don’t think the TV manufacturer paid a fee to the TV stations/movie producers did they?

Yet I can still watch movies for free on my TV.

I know I sit through commercials to watch a movie, but it’s still “free”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

“Gee, so all those “don’t drink and drive” or “shoplifting is stealing” ads should be removed too, because they are just to the benefits of the insurance companies and the stores?”

Not really. Unlike these ads, they have the benefit of making claims that are demonstrably true – and based on actual evidence of negative consequences for those actions.

Like all anti-“piracy” campaigns stretching back to the ’70s, this is just based on hyperbole, distortion, exaggerations and outright lies to protect a dying and outdated business model. There’s really no guarantee that this campaign would save jobs, even if it were 100% successful, unlike drink/drive campaigns (people do demonstrably have more accidents after drinking) and shoplifting (unlike “piracy”, shoplifting *is* stealing and causes quantifiable losses).

alternatives() says:

if the message is “if you’re watching a movie for free, it’s infringing,” then people probably shouldn’t turn on their TVs to watch movies played on broadcast TV.

Come now Mike, that isn’t true.

Citizens pay for the broadcast TV via the extra expense associated with the items advertised on TV. A large and obvious example would be the “value” of a Car. Compare the ‘new off the lot’ price VS the ‘you drove the car off the lot’ price. That difference in price reflects the expense of advertising.

Anonymous Coward says:

Urp.

The is no such thing as a “free-to-the-user” movie. Rather, the user ends up choosing one of many ways to pay for the movie, either with money or their attention/time.

The payment may not always be made in cash, but it is made. If a movie is broadcast on HBO, people paid their cable bill. If it is broadcast over the air, they pay for it with their time to (in theory) watch commercials. The companies paying for the commercial aren’t paying for a movie, they are paying for eyeballs. Those eyeballs pay for the movie.

So yeah, there really is no free to the user, just not always “user pays in cash”.

chris (profile) says:

NBC Universal - Nothing to see here...

There is a precedent…the Office.

it works both ways. a lot of american game shows get remade in the UK, and a lot of british reality TV gets remade in the US.

british shows tend to be smarter and more controversial by american standards, american shows are more stylized and have better production.

“all in the family” is a remake of a british show that i can’t remember, but there were like 2 or 3 spinoffs from “all in the family” and 1 or 2 got remade in the UK.

Nick (profile) says:

Actually, the movie industry is losing money if you adjust for inflation and the reason that ticket prices are so high is because of this. Despite the fact that ‘records are being broken’ attendance is actually down a signifigant amount. Not everyone that works in the movie industry is a mega-producer like Jerry Bruckheimer making millions. Most grips and lower level personel on movies make less than 25K and have jobs that are in jeapardy because of piracy. Great works of art are worth money and people should be paid in accordance with the law. Do you any of you who are pro-piracy work for free? I’d love for you to show up at your IT job and have your boss tell you that he loves your work, but you’re not getting paid this week and that the fact that you do such a good job should be satisfaction enough for you.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

NBC Universal - Nothing to see here...

british shows tend to be smarter and more controversial by american standards, american shows are more stylized and have better production.

I just wish we had access to all of the BBC here. When I travel to foreign countries, most of them have access to all of BBC, but not here in the states. We have the BBC channel, but it is the American BBC channel where they take the stuff that is more watered down than usual and throw it up for us. I like Dr. Who, but I wish I could see far more, especially The IT Crowd. I cannot stand 99% of what is on US channels, even on the channels I tend to watch (Discovery, History, etc.) because 99% of it consists of faux-reality or potty humor.

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