White House's Totally Clueless Response To Copyright Infringement: Call In McGruff The Crime Dog

from the this-apparently-is-not-a-joke dept

The White House has shown itself to be totally and completely out of touch on intellectual property issues for a while, so it should come as little surprise that it went even further into silly town, with a big White House briefing, involving IP Czar Victoria Espinel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and ICE boss John (due process? what due process?) Morton to announce (I’m not kidding) that McGruff the Crime Dog was taking a bite out of “intellectual property theft.”

Of course, the first thing McGruff the Crime Dog (and our illustrious White House officials) might want to do is learn what the actual law says and recognize that infringement and theft are two different things. It seems like in all his “biting” out of crime, McGruff forgot that lying about what the law actually is isn’t a particularly good idea.

The campaign is really ridiculous, with tons of absolutely laughable statements, debunked claims and web design from a decade ago. For example, it takes the famously and thoroughly debunked (years ago!) claims that “counterfeiting and piracy costs the U.S. economy more than $250 billion in lost revenue and 750,000 jobs every year.” Those numbers came from the upper end of a “stick your finger in the air” estimate from a few decades ago. And they have no bearing on reality. Even the US government in the form of the GAO has debunked these numbers. So why is the White House standing behind them? Espinel isn’t stupid. She knows that these numbers are false and have been shown to be false. Why would she support a campaign based on them?

The site just gets more and more full of stupid the deeper you dig. It feels like it was put together by someone with only a passing familiarity with the actual debate on copyright infringement (and one that is about 10 years out of date) and a heavy dose of US Chamber of Commerce propaganda. It’s like what you’d get if you simply hired some random clueless ad agency to create the campaign — which it appears is exactly what was done here. Take a bow, CauseWay Agency of Westport Connecticut. You bring the debate over infringement down to new lows by repeating long debunked information and stats as if it were factual. Next time, maybe find someone who actually understands these issues.

Take this page of “facts” for example (complete with stock photo of a girl using a rather old ipod.

Piracy of intellectual property that?s protected by copyright law is a serious crime. Not only does it rob the makers of recordings, videos, movies, games, and other creative works of the money they are entitled to, but it costs tens of thousands of people their jobs each year. It also deprives governments at all levels of tax revenue. Piracy itself is a crime, and it causes an increase in other types of crime. Gangs and organized crime groups have both been linked to the piracy of creative work.

Almost everything in that paragraph is either wrong or highly misleading. Most infringement is a civil offense. Some may be criminal, but most of it is not. Implying otherwise is pretty sleazy. And someone sharing some stuff with a friend is hardly “robbing” anyone. The jobs estimates have already been debunked. The “tax” claims have also been debunked years ago, based on pretending that money not spent on content never gets spent.

Worst of all? That whole thing about “linked to gangs and organized crime”? Totally and completely debunked. SSRC investigated such reports in their report that came out earlier this year and it could find no evidence to support any links to organized crime or gangs, and pointed to additional research that found “no overt references to professional organized crime groups” anywhere in relation to copyright infringement. The one key study that claimed there was such a connection was from a RAND report that involved “Decades-old stories… recycled as proof of contemporary terrorist connections, anecdotes… as evidence of wider systemic linkages, and the threshold for what counts as organized crime is set very low.” In other words, there’s no there there. At all.

Why would the White House support something so clearly false?

Pirated materials are everywhere. All you have to do is walk down a city street to see all the CDs and DVDs for sale by street vendors.

Hello five years ago! As that same SSRC research found, CD and DVD bootlegging by street vendors has been decimated itself by competition online: “they piled out of the business in the past decade as profit margins on pirated CDs and DVDs collapsed. We see no evidence that DVD piracy is still a high margin business… Rather, our work documents that pirate prices have fallen dramatically as burners became cheap in the early 2000s and, more recently, as non-commercial internet-based file sharing began to displace DVD piracy.” Someone should tell the White House to update their out of date report.

Making unauthorized copies of these creative works is against the law, and breaking it may subject the person who does it to civil and criminal liability?especially if they distribute the stolen product to others. The penalties for first-time offenders include jail time of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000.

Holy exaggeration McGruff! Making unauthorized copies may be against the law. They might also be fair use or allowed for the purposes of backing up legally obtained materials. Merely making a copy is also almost certainly not criminal infringement, not subject to jail time or fines up to $250,000 (yet, though we’ll see what happens with various laws…).

Once a tune or movie is posted on the Internet, it lives forever?and the artist behind the product is forever deprived of income.

Really, now?

When you buy a tune on the Internet and download it, make sure you don?t send a copy to a friend or someone who might sell it to others

Wait, what? The White House and McGruff think that people are selling the MP3s their friends send them?

If you get a tune from someone, don?t re-send it to others.

What if the artist wants you to send it to others?

Don?t instant message a tune.

Just yesterday I sent a friend of mine a song via IM that was released under a Creative Commons license. Why shouldn’t I do this? Really. Why?

Don?t burn CDs or DVDs.

Why not? Depending on the context, this can be absolutely legal. These days, CDs and DVDs are kinda outdated, but is the White House and McGruff now arguing that making a mixtape is a crime?

If shopping online, beware of sites that aren?t familiar to you?and that are selling expensive products at prices that are way too good.

Watch out, GroupOn, McGruff is ready to take a bite out of you.

About the only nod to the idea that infringement can actually be a market opportunity occurs on the trends page that more or less reprises the story we recently had about how Rovio (makers of Angry Birds) discovered that infringement in China wasn’t actually a problem. This seems like perfect evidence that (as many people have been pointing out for ages), this is a business model issue, and those who are smart can take advantage of them.

One anomaly to the damage caused by piracy recently took place in China, where the small Danish company that makes the “Angry Birds” game actually found a benefit in the widespread, illegal copying of the game, which has been downloaded 50 million times in that country. The company turned the widespread knowledge of its brand in China that resulted from the piracy into a marketing advantage for its other products in the country. Moreover, since consumers couldn?t tell the difference between the fake and genuine products, and sales of the game skyrocketed. In the United States, however, piracy of creative products can damage the brand of the original manufacturer when consumers can?t tell the difference between a counterfeited product, which may be shoddy, and the genuine article. Cheapening of the brand can be a serious problem, especially as reputations are hard to recover when lost.

First of all, McGruff may have just caused an international incident there. Rovio is a Finnish company, not a Danish one. Seriously. Don’t they have anyone looking over this stuff? Second, notice that they ignore the key point of the story: Rovio didn’t freak out, but embraced the market, used the infringement as market data on what to do, and then came out with a better offering for the market, not one that users “couldn’t tell the difference” on. The McGruff report makes it sound like Chinese people are a bunch of idiots who buy Angry Birds products willy nilly, some legit, some not. And somehow, in the US things are different?

This honestly may be the most poorly conceived “anti-piracy” campaign ever. It makes the White House look pretty damn foolish.

Oh, and then there are the videos. How could we forget the videos. Some propaganda PSAs that again go back to bootleg DVDs, claiming that they lead to child labor and gangland murder. Amusingly, the title of the marketing campaign is “Get Real.” If only the National Crime Prevention Council did “Get Real” and decided to stop repeating these debunked claims. Then there’s the heartstrings-pulling video of a young woman busking in a subway station, with her guitar case open with some cash. People stop, listen, and then take her cash. It’s a metaphor! For something. I’m not sure what. Because the internet is kinda the opposite. People who have set up donation and pay what you want models find that fans donate. No one takes money away.

In the end, the whole thing actually makes the White House look really, really bad. It could have been a real leader here, outlined the actual issues with infringement, how the market is changing. It could have pointed out resources showing those who are adapting, highlighting strategies and business models that work. It could have pointed out actual data (not old, debunked or made up stats) that show more content than ever before is being produced today, more people are earning money making content than ever before, and that the overall size of the content industries continues to grow. All of that would be useful. None of that is here. Just pure FUD.

For what purpose? It’s not clear. McGruff is aimed at kids, but multiple studies (including the SSRC study) have looked at “education campaigns” on copyright infringement and have found that they have no impact at all. It’s not an education issue. It’s that people intrinsically don’t see what’s wrong with sharing music and movies in many cases. And the really bizarre part is I have no clue who this campaign is actually targeted at. It feels like it was perhaps targeted at people who aren’t on the internet and who live in 2003 or so. What a waste of time, and what a shame that the White House would put a stamp of approval on such an amateurish mess.

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Comments on “White House's Totally Clueless Response To Copyright Infringement: Call In McGruff The Crime Dog”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So…stupid person pretends to be new, pops up on a site, accuses the author of being pro piracy…
And just in case by some strange alignment of the planets you are new…Mike has stated on thousands of occasions he isn’t pro-piracy.
Uhh…why do I bother writing these things to people who accuse without so much as a single shred of evidence?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In the immortal hope that humans can somehow overcome their shortcomings and actually put fact and reason before a paycheck and their own self interest.

Without hope we have nothing, this silly idea of hope gave us a president that promises us hope and change. Sadly we appear to have been mislead, but we have hope that when we cast our next vote this time it’ll really matter.

Mostly I blame it on the Andy Hardy movies convincing us we could just get the farmer to loan the the barn to put on a show so we could raise enough to save the soda fountain from the bad banker threatening to take away our hangout just to be mean.

Damn an over 9000 comment and an understanding of Andy Hardy films… what do they make of me…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Mike can be quoted as saying he is not pro-piracy but his posts tell a different story. He posts articles that are sympathetic to pirates (Some movie is region locked or some other excuse). He posts articles pointing out that the war on piracy is futile because the pirates are so smart and have found a backdoor, or a hack or have started a darknet. He posts articles like this one that attack media companies efforts. He SAYS he isn’t pro-piracy all the while he is talking up the pirates and condemning the media companies.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Mike points out that doing futile things to “fix” the problem do nothing but create more problems. That the real problem is not what they want you to think it is, but deeper issues that scare the living daylights out of them.

There is no DRM that is unscathed, and infact there are several cases where the removal of DRM from the end product actually increased sales.

The media companies declared war on their customers, 5 minutes of forced advertisements and FBI warnings on something that they have already purchased. They now want to cripple the entire internet and this will suddenly fix their “piracy” problem.

If you actually read the things posted rather than recite from your script you might actually see that the media companies are doing things that are horrible. The pirates are cool… we have eye patches.

See I might say your most likely not a paid shill spending your time haunting these boards to launch into attacks on Mike, but your words they tell the story. If your going to make attacks and make them work maybe deviate from the written material provided by your employer. Original thought isn’t something we expect from media lackeys but do try.

2/10 – but only for good spelling

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Mike can be quoted as saying he is not pro-piracy but his posts tell a different story. He posts articles that are sympathetic to pirates (Some movie is region locked or some other excuse).

I’m not sympathetic to those who infringe. I just think it’s a total waste of time to go after them.

He posts articles pointing out that the war on piracy is futile because the pirates are so smart and have found a backdoor, or a hack or have started a darknet.

If it’s futile, shouldn’t I say so? Isn’t the really idiotic thing to do to pretend that bullshit like McGruff the Crime Dog will actually help media companies?

He posts articles like this one that attack media companies efforts.

I’m not attacking their efforts. I’m pointing out how stupid they are.

I prefer to live in reality. If you prefer to live in denial, that’s your problem, dude. But I’d suggest that you grow up and join reality.

He SAYS he isn’t pro-piracy all the while he is talking up the pirates and condemning the media companies.

Again: explaining reality is not siding with one side over the other. If you can’t comprehend that basic concept you have no place debating this topic.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hello- I am new here.

No. You’re not. You’re the same person who has been posting here making totally ignorant statements for quite some time now.

Pardon me if this has been asked before, but why does Mike Masnick defend piracy so vituperatively?

Ignorant statements like that one.

Is he an investor in grooveshark or the pirate bay?

And that one.

Anonymous Coward says:

It sounds like McGruff needs to take a bite out of a law 101 textbook.

I remember when I was little, there was a commercial where this group of kids were playing pinball. A nerdy kid came up and asked if he could play next. The kid who was playing told the nerdy kid to “get lost.” At which point, McGruff popped up from behind some trash cans or something, and asked the bully to consider how he would feel if the nerdy kid really did “get lost”, as in, go missing. The bully sees the error of his ways, and they let the nerdy kid have a turn on the pinball machine.

So I think we all need to stop and ask ourselves: How would we feel if we were Sony BMG, and the modern age told us to “get lost”? I think we all need to… let… them play… um… pinball.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How would we feel if we were Sony BMG, and the modern age told us to “get lost”? I think we all need to… let… them play… um… pinball.


That actually kind of describes the problem the labels are having these days – they are still wanting to play pinball while everyone else is playing Call of Duty and Skyrim.

rubberpants says:

A "Man" on the Inside

What a coup it is for the copyright industry to have a high-level lobbyist actually employed right in the executive branch with all the powers and resources of government at their disposal to push their agenda forward in the world.

I’m still waiting for the President to create The Office of Freedom of Ideas and Information headed by a Software Engineering Czar.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: minor correction

The way the government-industrial complex is set up, some media cartel/collection society cartel will probably demand money from some venue under the pretext that this woman might infringe. If the hosting venue doesn’t want to pay they will have to deny this woman access to play music in their venue or else potentially face an expensive lawsuit. It’s a lose lose lose situation, it’s a loss for the woman, it’s a loss for the hosting venue, and it’s a loss for the public.

Atkray (profile) says:

This really shouldn't suprise anyone

With the government increasingly becoming little more that a subsidiary of the entertainment industry, this is a necessary step. Once people become used to McGruff fighting piracy they won’t be alarmed when 5 Comcast trucks(complete with McGruff stickers on the back bumpers) pull up to a neighbor’s house at 2AM and haul the family out in zip ties, they will just accept that their neighbors were filthy freetarded pirates.

out_of_the_blue says:


Too long; skip to last paragraph.

“It’s that people intrinsically don’t see what’s wrong with sharing music and movies in many cases.”

Well, I don’t see what’s wrong with forcing economists to work on collective farms for at least ten years, or even longer until they grasp what reality is for the poor. — In other words, it’s simply a matter of education and being able to think abstractly enough to imagine what circumstances would appear from a different perspective.

So, as I (like to) frequently repeat: make a movie for $100M, then see how YOU feel about “piracy isn’t stealing”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: tl;stlp

Actually, most people do share his opinion.

Most people think piracy is wrong.
Most people think that pirates should be punished.
Most people agree that rightsholders should be compensated for their works.

You might feel like you are in the majority since you frequent this site, but if you think that illegally downloading music is OK, you are in the minority.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: tl;stlp

Most people think piracy is wrong.
Most people think that pirates should be punished.
Most people agree that rightsholders should be compensated for their works.

didn’t we just have a story about this where if you ask real leading questions you can make it appear that way?
And then there was the study run by someone not funded entirely by media corps buying the results they wants and they found that most people in large agree the issue is being overblown in a major way and seems very out of control.

but facts, just ignore them.

1/10 – still good spelling but you need more content, maybe download some

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: tl;stlp

Too long…don’t bother reading the article, only will read the last article and then comment on it, despite the hazard of commenting on an article without getting the full story.

Also Blue…when you responded to my question about why you repeat $100 million…you never actually answered my question. I asked why you must make a movie for $100 million. Yes, I can see your point of sunk costs and all that…but why the $100 million number? Why is it that you are simply incapable of making a movie for far less?

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: tl;stlp

Also Blue, if you actually admit you’re not going to do the article writer the courtesy of reading the full article before commenting on it…then please, kindly leave. There’s no point in you having an “opinion” on an article when you state point blank that you are somehow too snobby, too elite, too full of yourself to actually READ. Just why is it you bother commenting here at all when you admit you don’t read the articles?

rubberpants says:

Re: tl;stlp

Can you name one movie that cost over $100 million to make that wasn’t profitable for the studios because people watched it without paying for it?

I think that your assertion that Hollywood is “in trouble” at all is blatantly false in and of itself. If you can’t make something people want to see with $100 million dollars then you are a terrible business man and should look at other careers.

Hollywood is doing just fine and doesn’t need more protection from the Government.

Even the universally panned Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was profitable for the studio and it *royally* sucked. They spent as much on marketing for that film as they did to make it by the way. It’s almost like piracy has nothing to do with it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: tl;stlp

So are you a Socialist or a Communist?
Collective farms, is that a polite way of saying that those you feel are inferior should be shipped off to work camps so they can be productive members of our grand society?

The reality for the poor is as items become cheaper to produce in foriegn nations and they move the production there to avoid having to pay minimum wage to those poor workers, they keep demanding more money for the same product increasing profits by using their monopoly standing. They then demand that you purchase the product multiple times by having a flexible view of is it is a purchase or a license for that item. The industry claims they are loosing so much money while giving themselves raises on the backs of their workers accepting cuts for made up losses hurting the business. This in turn creates more poor people who are unable to purchase the items they would be making if they had not been replaced by child labor in another country. When those poor people find a perfectly legal avenue to pay for content, the producers of that content then scream they are being stolen from and try to change the law by purchasing influence. Given how horrible the upcoming election cycle is going to be, I expect we will be seeing many more of these stupid media events pimping the newest and dumbest ideas to save big media as the war chests get padded.

And this ladies and gentlemen is why we need to have health coverage for all that includes real help for those suffering from serious mental illness.

Whats it like being the 100M poster child?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: tl;stlp

“So, as I (like to) frequently repeat: make a movie for $100M, then see how YOU feel about “piracy isn’t stealing”.”

Why $100M? Why does piracy matter if your movie was good enough to make $1 billion at the box office anyway?

Oh, I get it, you’re a no talent hack who overspent on a crappy script and is paying the price for his incompetence. Time to find a scapegoat…

Anonymous Coward says:

How many strawmen can one post have. It’s like an invasion of the strawman army.

No one cares that the company is from Finland nor does it have any bearing on the story.

“What if the artist wants you to send it to others?”

In many cases the artists does not own the rights to the music, they sold those rights to someone else. So just because an artist wants you to share their music does not mean that they have the rights to determine how the music is distributed. Also, considering that 99.99% of music is not licensed through CC I think their point is valid. If someone does not know how the music is licensed they should not assume it is licensed under CC, because odds are that it is not.

“If shopping online, beware of sites that aren?t familiar to you?and that are selling expensive products at prices that are way too good.”

If Groupon were selling first run movies for $5, I am sure they would be a target. Groupon doesn’t actually sell any THING they sell you a “deal”. They are effectively acting as a broker for discount offers.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Finnish people and the makers of the game would care, but then this would mean your a product of the American education system where anything not part of America isn’t important.
Protip – North is not up.

99.99% isn’t CC… would you like to support your strawman with a wooden skeleton of factual basis or is it bad form for me to point out a strawman when you are pretending there are so many in the story. But lovely misstatement of what was actually said to make it fit into your message. And while they might have sold those rights for a period of time they are to get something for that, and given how labels do not like to pay the contractual obligations there might be a flaw in that system. Then there is the case where the contract says the rights are to be returned and the labels often choose to ignore that clause because they still want to make a few more coins while violating the agreement.

So if Groupon offered a package that let you get passes to see first run movies for $5 they should be taken out and shot. Got it.

So where were these strawmen you were talking about, I only found the 1 in your comment but not in the actual story.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is creative use of the “Other” to help train our children to be xenophobic to a higher degree.

We currently only have about 75% of the world hating America so it helps to make sure that we can boost that number higher by making sure we insult as many people and cultures as possible.

Former players in the “Other” game –
OWS protestors

Its done wonders for our society, all of our problems can be blamed on the “Other”. This will never result in any violence or anything like that happening, as people feel emboldened as the talking heads tell them the “Other” is the reason they are unemployed, can’t have insurance, why we can;t have nice things.

Its not racist, it just looks and behaves alot like it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This is an important issue, get me….

And they couldn’t even come up with someone new like Shiny the CDR, they had to dust off the nostalgia piece.

“McGruff the Crime Dog is an anthropomorphic cartoon bloodhound created by Saatchi & Saatchi through the Ad Council for the National Crime Prevention Council for use by American police in building crime awareness among children.”

“The National Crime Prevention Council is an American educational nonprofit organization in Washington, DC whose mission is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur.”

Sooo the streets are safe again?

wallow-T says:


I’m really surprised that I haven’t seen more people talking about the impact of ham-handed policies like this, like SOPA and Protect IP, on the young-people, “digital native” vote in 2012. I think this age cohort, which voted 68% for Obama in 2008 (according to a quickly-checked exit poll found online), is quite capable of staying home and not voting in 2012.

It’s going to be a close election, and the Obama team is alienating their strongest supporters.

Jober (profile) says:

So, just out of curiosity...

Piracy of intellectual property [robs] the makers of recordings, videos, movies, games, and other creative works of the money they are entitled to, [and]…costs tens of thousands of people their jobs each year.

How long has that “fact” been in circulation? Because if it’s been repeated for more than a few years, wouldn’t it logically be the case that by now there’s nobody left employed to make “recordings, videos, movies, games and other creative works?” Where are all of these TV shows and videogames coming from?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Don’t burn CDs or DVDs? Sorry McGruff, but if I buy an album from Amazon MP3, LEGALLY, it’s getting burned to CD! No exceptions! Not to mentioned backed-up as well, which Amazon permits in their Terms of Use (Section 2.4)

Oh and BTW, I don’t make copies for other people since that’s against the law and Amazon’s ToU.

wallow-T says:

burn baby burn

Perhaps McGruff could seize my local Staples** store in an ex-parte procedure. Staples facilitates the burning of CDs by selling CD-R blanks. Staples also sells USB drives which are frequently used to exchange music and movies.

For that matter, essentially all CD-R blanks are imported from Asia, so perhaps ICE could interdict them at the border.

( 1/2 🙂 )

** Staples is somebody’s trademark. I could have picked Office Max or Office Depot just as easily for my response. Or Wal-Mart…

Steve R. (profile) says:

The Future Looks Bleak

At one of the Republican debates the issue of so-called “intellectual property” surfaced. Can’t remember the specifics, but Romney in particular was livid that so-called “intellectual property” needed protection.

I can’t remember if Gingrich discussed this, put he did discuss the issue of terrorism. Basically, his response to Ron Paul was along the lines of greater security rather than the protection of civil liberties.

The current White House may be clueless, but those who seek to take over the White House seem equally clueless. The pendulum is rapidly swinging towards a police state to protect so-called intellectual property, as well a fighting the other “wars”.

Anonymous Coward says:

NCPA asks for donations. They also have a contact link. Click the contact link and criticize them for their support of this propaganda. Encourage everyone to start an NCPA donation boycott for their efforts to further the IP extremist agenda against the public interest. Contact them and tell them that our IP laws need to be largely retracted and that any efforts to encourage them should be criticized. Not that these shameless organizations care.

Robert Scott Lawrence (profile) says:

Clueless Response

It would be nice to see a few more folks (i.e., X ≥ 0) who understood the intricacies of IP in the White House — but what do you expect, really? It’s astounding that people go around at some level thinking the government is an independent entity that does what’s best for America, when Hollywood (who this idiotic IP campaign presumably is designed to protect) constantly bombards us with films showing how corrupt politicians and the political process are. It’s as if Americans walk out of a movie and think it’s all fiction . . . .

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