Why Chris Dodd Is Doing Everything Wrong With The MPAA

from the you're-not-helping dept

We’ve certainly suggested that Chris Dodd was making a big mistake by focusing on the MPAA’s old talking points in his new role as chief of that lobbying organization. Rather than leading Hollywood to a future of new business models and smarter embrace of what consumers want, he’s kicked things off by being anti-consumer, anti-technology and a supporter of previous policies that have failed massively. It’s not exactly a recipe for success. Marty Kaplan, a professor at USC, is pointing all this out in a wonderful opinion piece, explaining to Chris Dodd why he’s focused on the wrong things. He uses the recent SSRC Report to explain why Dodd is barking up the wrong tree in claiming that the two things to focus on are “education” and “enforcement,” a two-pronged strategy that has failed to do anything useful for the industry for over a decade:

The problem with this is that there’s no evidence that education works. There have been hundreds of vigorous anti-piracy educational campaigns all over the world — more than 333 in developed countries alone as of 2009 — and they’ve failed. It’s not that consumers don’t get that media piracy is wrong. They know what they’re doing. They’re weighing moral considerations against price and availability, and they’re deciding to go with cheap (or free), and now.

[…] Not only is there no evidence that education has been building a stronger “culture of intellectual property.” There’s also little evidence that enforcement works. Splashy raids haven’t reduced piracy. Two weeks ago the judge in a lawsuit by 13 record companies against LimeWire called their demand for $75 trillion in damages “absurd,” and the infringement judgments that have actually been handed down also haven’t stemmed the tide of illicit file sharing. In the SSRC report’s words, “Strengthening police powers, streamlining judicial procedures, increasing criminal penalties, and extending surveillance and punitive measures to the Internet”: to date, none of them “have had any impact whatsoever on the overall supply of pirated goods.”

Of course, we’ve pointed this all out as well, and the response has been for people to yell about how we’re “defending piracy.” Yeah, or trying to prevent Hollywood from continuing down a strategy that has been proven not to work. Instead, we agree with Kaplan that this is a business model issue, and if Dodd were a real leader, he’d actually help move Hollywood into new territory of embracing new business models and new technology:

Sooner or later — and judging by Chairman Dodd’s speech, it’ll be later — the industry will have to move from moralism to pragmatism. Their business model has been digitally disrupted, irrevocably, and they are already vulnerable to the kind of game-changing innovation, and carnage, that Apple’s iTunes visited on the music industry. If the studios are lucky, before a Netflix or a Facebook does that to them they’ll figure out that neither education nor enforcement will rescue them from creative destruction. Pivoting from Moses to merchant will be an awkward adjustment, but they will eventually be forced to conclude that their other options just aren’t working. It won’t matter that they have righteousness on their side. If they have to spend less on producing and distributing content, distraught fans won’t repent of their downloading ways. If jobs are jeopardized, it will be just as wrenching, and just as stoppable, as the transformation that globalization and rising productivity are wreaking on the rest of the economy.

What will the new business model look like? It’s hard to imagine that the sequenced distribution of product over a controllable period of time through an orderly series of “windows” — venues and platforms and formats and pipes and territories, each with their own license deals and consumer prices — will survive unbroken. In that future, a practical agenda for handling piracy is suggested by this 2009 comment from Robert Bauer, then director of special projects for the MPAA, as quoted in the SSRC report: “to isolate the forms of piracy that compete with legitimate sales, treat those as a proxy for unmet consumer demand, and then find a way to meet that demand.”

Wow. Suggesting smarter business models that involve actually delivering customers what they want? Why that’s just someone who is a piracy apologist, I guess…

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Comments on “Why Chris Dodd Is Doing Everything Wrong With The MPAA”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

The dangers of playing Follow the Leader

In the days of Napster, illegal downloads were mostly a music issue because large-scale moving or storing entire movies was not practical for most people. When movie downloads became practical the MPAA didn’t want to have the same problems as the RIAA, so it seemed to be reasonable for the two groups to start chanting the same mantra about “Piracy is killing our business.”

The problem was, piracy was not the thing that was killing either business. At most piracy was nipping at the edges, and it might actually have been boosting some aspects of the businesses.

I can’t really blame either industry for their concerns in the early days. However, we have had a decade of failed efforts to stem piracy. Not only have they utterly failed to stem illegal downloads, we now have objective studies that put the whole situation into perspective. We also have lots of examples of artists that have demonstrated that it is possible to make a very good living by exploiting p2p sharing instead of railing against it.

It is time both industries ask themselves two questions:
-What do customers want?
-What are customers willing to pay for?

Industry shills say that what customers want is “free.” But there have been plenty of cases now that demonstrate that is not not true. Many customers are willing to pay for content. Just ask NetFlix or Kindle or iTunes. They are all making money despite the entertainment industry’s best efforts to impede them. It is time for the industries to stop fooling themselves and set a course that will make them successful in the long term.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What Irving said.

What I meant to say was that organisations who are making the big bucks, like MPAA and the RIAA, can afford to talk and complain a lot instead of working. If they weren’t rich beyond understanding, they’d probably be more busy trying to make money instead of playing whack-a-mole with pirates.

Michael (profile) says:


I don’t think it is that Chris Dodd does not understand what is happening and that he is leading the industry in the wrong direction. I think it is that he simply does not care.

They are paying him a fortune and he is saying what the industry wants to hear – he IS a politician, so this is what he has been doing for a long time. Taking the path of least resistance in his “retirement” job is simply what makes sense. He doesn’t care about the actual outcome, he can ride the wave of money they are giving him and quit when the job becomes work.

Why bother making it into something complicated? Trying to lead the MPAA into the digital era and getting movie studios to adopt new business models is a lot more work than grandstanding, complaining, and lobbying to try to protect a dying business model.

lux (profile) says:

Re: Dodd

This has been my point all along. Instead of debasing this guy for “clearly not understand technology”, why not simply acknowledge he doesn’t give a shit, and move on. Don’t act so surprised people in powerful positions with loads of cash might not want to leave their comfort zone. Again, the movie and music industry is making record profits – don’t fix it if it ain’t broken – just litigate.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Dodd

I read it again, what is wrong with sharing?
Don’t you share anything?

What Greevar meant by “wrong thing” is Dodd regurgitating the lies of the MPAA, and by “right thing” he’s refering to Michael’s point about Dodd not being willing to do the hard work required to drag the MPAA to an understanding of modern digital business models.

John Doe says:

He was brought in to do things the old way

I agree that he is doing it wrong. The problem is, he wasn’t brought in to do it right. He was brought in to do things the way they have always been done. Which tells you one of two things about him. He can’t read the writing on the wall and lead an industry into the future or he knows better and is in it for the money.

Michael Kohne says:

Reasons for not paying attention...

I think there’s several things going on here that are interesting. First off, Chris Dodd isn’t ‘leading’ anything. He’s being paid to do a job, and he’s doing what his employers want him to do. The fact that this is stupid is not relevant to him.

The more interesting thing is that I think that most of of the people who won’t get away from the ‘punish the pirates’ viewpoint have a big problem – if they admit that they were wrong about the right way to combat piracy (and it’s pretty clear that lawsuits, DRM, and legislation aren’t fixing the problem), then they might have to start to admit that LOTs of things aren’t really solvable by legislation and punishment. And for some people, the idea that you can’t just beat the populace into doing what you want is very hard to swallow.

Hulser (profile) says:

Like rain on your wedding day?

Sooner or later — and judging by Chairman Dodd’s speech, it’ll be later — the industry will have to move from moralism to pragmatism.

Does anyone else find it ironic that Hollywood is accused of being morally bankrupt while at the same time their focus on morality issues is preventing them from looking for workable business models to deal with “theft”?

rangda (profile) says:

I don’t think you’ll ever see change at the xxAA’s; they will become irrelevant before they adapt. I suspect the culture of control is too deeply ingrained at all of these organizations. Think about it, if vacancies open up who’s doing the hiring? People that think this is the way to go. If you stroll in there spewing off about “changing business models” and “unmet consumer demand” are they going to hire you? Of course not they are going to hire someone that tells them what they want to here, that it can all be “fixed” and we can get back to the good old days when monopoly rents could be charged and control exerted over both sides of the market. So the organization as a whole will continue to have this mindset until it gets replaced by another that is more agile and can/is willing to react to the marketplace.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think you’ll ever see change at the xxAA’s; they will become irrelevant before they adapt.

I personally think what’s more likely to happen is that they’ll start to become irrelevant and finally change before they disappear completely. Yes, the people who do the hiring all have the same mentality, but “new blood” comes to every organization, albiet at a slow pace. What could happen is that you’ll see a succession of MPAA presidents either resigning in frustration or being forced out for not solving that darn piracy problem.

The problem is that the MPAA isn’t like a “normal” business. In the normal business world, you can have a young, agile company take business away from the older, bureaucratic company. But the MPAA is like a monopoly. I think that they will be forced to change at some point, but because of their singular role in Hollywood, they’ll survive after finally being forced to change.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If you stroll in there spewing off about “changing business models” and “unmet consumer demand” are they going to hire you? Of course not they are going to hire someone that tells them what they want to here, that it can all be “fixed” and we can get back to the good old days when monopoly rents could be charged and control exerted over both sides of the market.”

LOL … how many of my post have you read ????

arrgster (profile) says:

New business model

New business model. I’ll tell you what it’s going to look like. Netflix is going to start producing their own movies and shows bypassing the studios. They won’t worry about file sharing because at $8 a month why would most consumers go through the trouble of downloading a crappy possibly virus infected movie on some torrent.

This is what the studios need to do. Get the price down to a level where quality and safety from viruses overcomes free. At that point they can start making that argument to the public. “look we have a high quality product that is safe and easy to purchase or rent”.

CommonSense (profile) says:

Re: New business model

I’ll second the hell out of this. Hulu gets my $8 a month because I like new episodes of stuff popping into my queue every week, without having to hunt and download, and they don’t make me feel like I’m wasting that money on 800 channels when I only watch 8 of them.

I absolutely LOVE my Roku box, because they have done what cable companies should have done long ago. Offer many channels for free, but charge on a per channel basis for the premium ones. (I’m not an employee or anything, just a very pleased customer. Though if anyone wants to pay me for this opinion I’d be happy to accept.)

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: Re:

The rights that govern that imagination today are though.

Artists are the only class of people who get to hold on to some imaginary right to charge others for the use of what they produced when it gets out of their hands and that is crazy, if everyone used the same logic you would have to be paying all the workers who produced your car, your house, your furniture and so on, but that doesn’t happen because it would be unworkable and everybody knows that.

Instead artists should start a threshold pledge system, where they get paid for producing something and have no rights after that, it is not their problem what others do or if others make more money with it, just like car manufactures can’t charge taxi cabs for their earnings.

Maybe something like PledgeMusic but one that the musician or artists doesn’t retain any rights after completion of the work.

Demand for the artist can grow then and he can make more money on secondary and tertiary channels, like endorsements, live gigs, merch and so forth,

Maybe Netflix could do something like that for movies, launching a short trailer demonstrating the ideas behind the movie and making people want to see something and use the pledge system to bring it to life.

TV shows could use the same system, so shows wouldn’t be rated by views but actually collection of actual money.

Or a system like Flattr, where people put some amount of money in it and Flattr all that they like and at the end of the month the proceedings are distributed among the producers of something.

Can you imagine Techdirt Video Productions, having a subscribers fee of $10 bucks or $5 a month using a Flattr system, that allows people to configure their Flattr system to automatically Flattrs anything they watch till the end?

Without borders they could get millions of subscribers and reach a bigger audience globally, how much that could be worth?

Also Techdirt Video Productions would have a section for creation of new material where you could pledge your money to have it created, also if people wanted to have a show continue despite it not collection enough money, TVP would offer a way for people to come together and try and save the show, by allowing them to contribute more outside the Flattr system.

Wouldn’t be wonderful to have everybody get what they want?

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, when you think about it, life only have meaning when you can break the law, otherwise there is no fun in it, is there?

Everything that is forbidden is like the light of a bug zapper.

I love to break those laws that say I can’t lend, I can’t copy or I can’t back up anything, I just can’t stop myself.

wallow-T says:

Let’s rephrase that:

“It’s not that consumers don’t get that media piracy is ILLEGAL.”

The public is quite able to distinguish between “illegal” and “wrong.” Consider underage drinking: College students everywhere know that underage drinking is illegal: that’s what the fake IDs are for. They do not, however, see it as wrong.

(If the public felt that media piracy was WRONG, cassette tape decks could never have become big sellers.)

As for Chris Dodd: His only job function is to get his old pals in Congress to deliver the laws that the MPAA wants, to allow Internet content and users to be proscribed simply on the say-so of the copyright industry. Expecting Dodd to have a grasp of the bigger picture is pointless.

Total corruption, selling access. I’d expected better from my political party.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re:

All political parties are corrupt because they all create peer pressure and social forces that sway the actions of an individual. They also create a phenomenon known as “group-think” which forces individuals to agree to irrational ideas because the group ascribes to it. Partisan politics should be eliminated so that individuals can be more free to think without group influences.

Donny (profile) says:

"It's not that consumers don't get that media piracy is wrong"

I don’t even think that consumers are pirating because of a cost/benefit analysis.

I’d liken the situation to a concept in formal logic related to the validity of an argument.

To wit:
“All men are blond.”
“Socrates is a man.”
“Socrates is blond.”

The argument is logically valid – If Socrates is a man, then he must be blond too – but it’s not actually true.

There’s a difference.

Similarly, consumers know piracy is wrong in the sense of “they might be punished for it”, but I don’t believe many think it’s wrong in the sense of “they ought not do it”.

So why do we have laws that punish individuals for actions that the people don’t think are wrong?

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: "It's not that consumers don't get that media piracy is wrong"

Question:So why do we have laws that punish individuals for actions that the people don’t think are wrong?

Answer: Because of lobbyists like Chris Dodd and laws that allow lobbying to continue. Because without term limits every member of Congress’ full time job is getting re-elected, not serving the people they supposedly represent.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: "It's not that consumers don't get that media piracy is wrong"

‘Similarly, consumers know piracy is wrong in the sense of “they might be punished for it”, but I don’t believe many think it’s wrong in the sense of “they ought not do it”.’

The valid argument that tends to crop up is that breaking the law is wrong in itself, but the ‘anti-pirates’ never care to expand on their premise and tell us why breaking the law is inherently wrong.

So one the one side we have to guess that they assume a slippery slope towards lawlessness and on the other I could probably detail an actual slippery slope into Judge Dredd’s universe.

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: "It's not that consumers don't get that media piracy is wrong"


Judge Dredd: [Dredd has caught Fergee trying to escape inside a servo-droid and is judging him for damaging public property] And you haven’t even been out of jail for 24 hours. He’s habitual, Hershey. Automatic 5 year sentence. How do you plead?
Fergee: Not guilty?
Judge Dredd: I knew you’d say that.
Fergee: 5 years? No! No! I had no choice! They were killing each other in there!
Judge Dredd: You could have gone out the window.
Fergee: 40 floors? It would have been suicide!
Judge Dredd: Maybe, but it’s legal.

Source: IMDB – Judge Dredd (1995)

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Netflix has already disrupted the business model. If there’s a movie I want to see and it’s NOT streaming on Netflix, then I know there’s another movie I want to see that IS streaming on Netflix. It’s more about “What’s on Netflix?” than it is how can I see a specific film. If I really have to see a specific film, Netflix will send me the DVD. Otherwise, I’ve got 300 other movies waiting to be watched – great movies. Netflix is the movie industry as far as I’m concerned.

Matthew Sailhardy says:

Chris Dodd

No one should expect intelligence or foresight from Chris Dodd of the ethically challenged Dodds of Connecticut. There was considerable competition for the “DIMMEST BULB IN THE SENATE” title during Dodd’s time in that less than august body, but most people would concede Dodd was a very strong contender for the crown. Why Hollywood decided to hire a J. Roaringham Fatass for the job of being spokesperson for the movie industry, we may never know. Perhaps they needed one person, who had never won an award, to hand out the thousands of awards presented each year to the Glitterati.

Francisco Pina says:

To change the business model of most companies to try to solve piracy is completely flawed and will fail. Companies have to start asking customers what they really want and the same companies have to start pricing their articles realistically. I read a really great article that talks about this in detail and how to take care of a flawed business model: http://ow.ly/4Lc72

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