Leaked Documents Detail The MPAA's Plans For Sock Puppetry To Mislead People About Richard O'Dwyer

from the nice-try-guys dept

Honestly, the MPAA needs to hire someone who actually understands a modern media strategy — rather than a media strategy from the last century. It seems like nearly everything they do or say is calculated to piss off the public, rather than convince them of anything reasonable. Every chance they have to say the right thing, they say the wrong thing. Every chance they have to take a step towards making a connection with the public, they go the other way. We’ve seen how they call their biggest fans criminals. We’ve seen how they attack the internet. The latest is their Quixotic campaign against Richard O’Dwyer.

TorrentFreak, which lately has been on a streak of finding and publishing leaked info from the legacy entertainment industry, has done it again, publishing the MPAA’s talking points document for responding to press inquiries about O’Dwyer, the UK college student that the US government is trying to extradite from the UK for running TVShack.net. They also have the MPAA’s plans to find sock puppets to attack O’Dwyer. The two documents are from July 19th, so it’s quite recent, and they try to respond to Jimmy Wales’ recent involvement in trying to stop the extradition process. As with any good propaganda, the MPAA appears to take comments out of context to twist them against O’Dwyer. For example, it quotes that the site reminded people of how much money they were saving by watching free videos, rather than paying for movies. But nothing in that statement says that the videos they were watching were infringing copies — just substitutes for going to the theater.

The sock puppet document is the really telling one, in that they admit that that the “overall media coverage has been and will continue to be challenging.” Now, when pretty much everyone sides with O’Dwyer and against the MPAA, a normal, sane organization might think that its strategy is (perhaps) a mistake. But the MPAA instead decides to double down by trying to find sock puppets to publish blog posts and editorials about why O’Dwyer is a dirty stinking criminal:

To counter these assertions, the MPAA and its allies need a coordinated effort to focus more on the criminal activity involved in the operation of TVShack and other similar linking sites. Ideally, this would be done through third parties – but finding third parties – especially in the United Kingdom – has been very difficult so far, so the MPAA must be prepared to respond to media requests on the issue and set the record straight to counter the misinformation campaign by our opponents.

The thing is, the only “misinformation campaign” is coming from the MPAA itself, with these talking points and “how can we get stooges to spin this” document. The folks supporting O’Dwyer have no such things. They just speak the truth.

Furthermore, the documents completely ignore the legal arguments that make the O’Dwyer case incredibly questionable. They, of course, highlight the recent surfthechannel.com ruling in the UK to support the argument that O’Dwyer was breaking the law in the UK and the US. But that ignores the many questions raised by that ruling, and the fact that multiple similar cases went the other way or that similar US cases also seem to be going the other way too (though, that last one came out after this document was written).

There are also some laughable claims about how the decision to go after O’Dwyer was made by Homeland Security and ICE. However, as documents in other cases have shown, ICE relied heavily on claims from the RIAA and MPAA, despite little evidence to support those claims.

Separately, the MPAA weakly tries to hit back on the claims about internet freedom by saying that “this case isn’t about Internet freedom. It’s about a man profiting from theft.” Funny, he hasn’t been charged with “theft” as far as I can tell. It seems that the MPAA has trouble with ever being truthful — even when claiming its providing facts to counter misinformation. And, as the Posner ruling recently showed, being a third party site that has embeds of infringing videos isn’t infringing itself — so arguing that O’Dwyer is some sort of master criminal is pretty laughable.

Then there’s this:

Copyright law is a tool to protect the work of creators and makers, not censorship

They should try to tell that to some of the many people whom copyright has been used to censor over the years. The fact that copyright was supposed to be a tool to protect creators does not mean it can’t be used for censorship. It is, regularly. The two things are hardly mutually exclusive. And, if the MPAA were being honest (ha ha, I know…) it would note that it doesn’t represent the interests of creators and makers at all. It represents the studios, who do whatever they can to rip off content creators… while keeping the copyright for themselves. If the MPAA wants to spew bogus “talking points,” (and get sock puppets to do so for it) perhaps it should start by figuring out how to defend its regular actions that block artists from getting paid.

In the end, though, this just highlights how incredibly tone deaf the MPAA and its communications staff is to public perception. Attacking Richard O’Dwyer, who has strong public support behind him is not a winning strategy by any means. I’m trying to figure out what the MPAA thinks it’s accomplishing here and I’m drawing a blank. The more the MPAA seeks to demonize O’Dwyer, the worse it looks. Even if he is extradited and convicted, all they’re doing is creating another hero/martyr, and more people who think the MPAA is an old, out of touch, unwilling-to-adapt monster, locking up college students. At best, I’m thinking the MPAA thinks this will act as an “education campaign” targeted at other sites running forums like O’Dwyer’s. But that seems doubtful at best. Similar sites are all over the internet and have been for years. All this effort is doing is helping the MPAA dig its own hole deeper and deeper. It’s like a perfect case study in how not to do communications strategy today.

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Comments on “Leaked Documents Detail The MPAA's Plans For Sock Puppetry To Mislead People About Richard O'Dwyer”

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50 Comments
gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Again...

The MAFIAA Industry is the real thief.Best way to respond tho their BS is three-fold.
1.Stop buying their Content and CENSOR yourself from anything they do.Find INDIE Art to buy and support your local Artists.
2.Someone or some shady organization needs to get their dirty laundry aired to the World.Show the whole World what they truly are made of.
3.Show the money trail to the Politicians.Do not Vote for that person again.

Zakida Paul says:

On one hand we have Richard O’Dwyer who set up a site linking to illegal movies, and on the other we have a dangerous Islamic extremist preacher in Abu Qatada.

The UK government can’t wait to bend to the will of the US puppet masters in extraditing O’Dwyer but we can’t bloody well get rid of Qatada who is costing the UK tax payer a bloody fortune with appeal after appeal, and this is after his living a very comfortable life on Welfare.

The UK Home Office needs to get it’s bloody priorities straight.

Micaela (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is also Shawn Sullivan, who they decided not to extradict at all. Hipocrisy doesn’t even begin to describe this. Insanity is what it is.

“The United Kingdom said that they won?t extradite Shawn Sullivan to the United States to face charges of rape and child molestation because they see Minnesota?s rehabilitation program as draconian. They will, however, extradite Richard O?Dwyer for sharing links to TV shows on his website.”

http://www.gereth.net/blog_irene/2012/07/06/uk-wont-extradite-child-molester-but-will-extradite-file-sharer/

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is infuriating. I’m glad to have read the great majority of the public opinion is against the MPAA. I think it’s about time ppl started protesting in thousands against this shit. Not in front of the Govt but in front of the MAFIAA buildings to draw even more attention.

Madness I tell you. I hope Chris Dodd and the likes are feeling very afraid to go out on the streets with all the animosity that’s mounting against the MAFIAA.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I find it amazing that the cartels seem to think the rest of the world is as stupid as the elected officials they pay for.

They scream very loud about the trillions of dollars they are being ripped off for, but do not avail themselves of the systems already in place.

They look to shift the burdens onto everyone else to protect their precious property.
They pay companies that make use of 1970s keyword matching software to automatically protect them… in the meantime ripping down content not remotely related to them except for a partial word match.
They expect more rules and education will make everyone stop being naughty, while they are ripping off artists and screwing over fans.

They are so far down the path, they can’t think of stopping it. Its like all of the regional rules they helped create that are actively hurting their business now. They are so committed and the regions are the way we always did things we can not possibly do anything different. And they have never had to because they just spend more money (that they claim they don’t have) to buy laws to keep everything as it once was.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

I don’t hate the MPAA any more than I hate scorpions. They are a trade organization representing movie studios and distributors, after all, and their job is not to be a PR arm but a profit-maximizer for their masters.

I reserve my contempt for those in governments who accept MPAA at face value (in disregard of their track record vis-a-vis truthfulness)and continue to go after citizens solely at the behest of this patently one-sided organization.

I feel the day is coming when a government rep is going to return a call from the MPAA and say “The damage you do to our reputations far outweigh the money you throw at us. Go away.” The cynic in me says impossible; another part already sees a slow pulling-back of support of this rogue outfit.

Rikuo (profile) says:

“Sites thatintentionally act as clearinghouses for stolen content have absolutely nothing in common withgenuine search engines.”

I love that line. So basically, they say anything that’s a general search engine (Google, Youtube) can’t be targeted by them.

“The motion picture industry wouldn?t exist without freedom of speech and expression, which have been among our ?time-honoured? core values for over a hundred years”

So…is the First Amendment only a hundred years old? Or is the MPAA basically saying that Freedom of Speech has only ever existed for the recording industry alone?

“he advertised his site as a place to find movies that were still in theatres and in-season tv shows.”
Sorry, I could have sworn you were implying that having theatrical releases first for movies was a practice mandated by God. How dare O’Dwyer disobey the Movie Gods and disrupt our business model!

“According to an affidavit in support of the extradition,
O?Dwyer had two co -conspirators in the U.S. who assisted in the operations of the TVShack.net website. They have not been publicly named”
I’m honestly a bit confused here. Why not? The copyright cartel loves to boast about their censorship efforts.

” Richard O?Dwyer seems just to be a regular college student who likes playing with computers.Why go to such extremes in prosecution?
Being 24, posing for newspaper photo shoots in a cartoon sweatshirt, and having your mother and Jimmy Wales speak for you, does not mean you are incapable for breaking the law.”
Notice they actually did answer the question here. They basically said that no matter how small their opponent is, they will go to obscene extremes to destroy them in court. How dare O’Dwyer actually have his mother and one of the most prominent netizens in the world defend him!

“The verdict reaffirmed the fact that intentionally distributing stolen content is stealing,”
Another lie here, given that no content was stolen.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re:

“”The motion picture industry wouldn?t exist without freedom of speech and expression, which have been among our ?time-honoured? core values for over a hundred years””

Oh, how I love how they forgot that Hollywood started its whole thing up by committing copyright infringement…

Of Thomas Edison.

Granted, Edison’s a jackwagon and he deserved it, but still…

Nodox says:

I just wanted to point out that the iframe code used on Techdirt to post documents is invisible in some (especially older) browsers. So people that don’t have Flash (or whatever) enabled don’t even know that anything was even posted. (How I miss the days when sites always included actual download links.)

iframe src=”http://www.techdirt.com/docstoc_frame.php?oid=125843250″ width=”560″ height=”550″ frameborder=”0″ marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ scrolling=”no”>

Anonymous Coward says:

Richard O’Dwyer has been caught in game, there is no right and wrong for the MPAA only goals and what they can get away with it.

O’Dwyer did nothing wrong in his own country, he broke no laws there, but the MPAA cares? of course not is not about the law, is about control and expansion of granted monopolies that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if the MPAA realizes that the better the blogger is, the more people that will be dissecting every piece of misinformation presented, leading to potentially larger awareness of why this case is BS to begin with. Oh well, not much more you can expect from people who apparently don’t understand the internet.

nodox says:

@John Fenderson & others

It’s probably a lot more people than anyone realizes, because whenever embedded documents don’t show up in a person’s web browser, they often have no clue that they’re even missing anything — there may not even be a blank box or anything.

Also, the lesser-known browsers are naturally going to be the worst for properly displaying web pages because webmasters generally only test a site using the most mainstream browsers. (then there are companies like Google that keep several different versions of a webpage, to present to different browsers. Or worse, websites that whitelist browser types, and redirect everyone else to a IE/FF/Chrome download page.)

But back on topic. I’m surprised that the MPAA doesn’t claim copyright on all internal documents. The notorious “Church” of Scientology does exactly that, and has a long history of siccing the police on people who dared to leak secret internal documents — or sometimes just to get their hands on a dissident’s computer to rifle through for names and contacts.

SleepyJohn (profile) says:

Worldwide public contempt will kill the MAFIAA

Public opinion can be a very dangerous enemy if you really anger it, as in poking a sleepy bear with a stick when you have no escape route. I think the MAFIAA is too much of an arrogant pea-brained street thug to fully understand this, and with any luck that will cause its destruction.

Even those addled halfwits admit that 95% of the British public are against this, and also, by a reasonable inference, them. If 95% of the bear I just poked with a stick was against me I hope I would have the sense to be very afraid.

When the politicians reach the point of fearing the people more than the MAFIAA then the people will win. We saw a hint of this with ACTA and the European Parliament: those MEPs threw it out because the people threatened to throw them out if they didn’t. Hopefully the same message will register on Theresa May; if it doesn’t I think she will be looking for a new job.

Whatever the technical, legal aspects of this may be, it is so blatantly an abuse of elementary human rights by greedy corporate thugs who think the world exists solely for their benefit that it will hopefully turn the stomachs of even the most lethargic public.

And if that public could be persuaded to stop buying the MAFIAA’s products then perhaps we will have the pleasure of watching a particularly satisfying example of the ‘Ratner Effect’. Total receipts for the next Hollywood Blockbuster Opening Night = $0 (without even Hollywood accounting). That might make them sit up and take notice.

This is rapidly turning into a guerilla war between the MAFIAA and the people, and the No1 Golden Rule of guerilla war is to win the hearts and minds of the people. The MAFIAA and its political henchmen have failed catastrophically to do this, and they will suffer catastrophically for it. How anyone could be so imbecilic as to imagine such behaviour being helpful to them is quite beyond comprehension.

Anonymous Coward says:

An amazing attempt to create something that just isn’t there. Another milestone in Techdirt Yellow journalism!

“sock puppet”. How nice. Perhaps you can use non-journalist hack” next time as your author title, considering it’s just about as offensive.

What the **AAs were looking for is a local voice to be PART of their deal, so that there is some indication that this action is wanted on that level. They aren’t looking for a patsy, they are looking for a local voice.

You can read into it what you like, but there is less here than the copyright / duplication infringement the other day, and you weren’t willing to go out on that limb. Why so confident in sticking it to the **AAs, except that you don’t like them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So they’re looking to find someone on the street who agrees with them someone not in violation of local law should be extradited.

I suppose your definition of an “average” person is a little warped, because unless you’re a MAFIAA patsy most people would not agree that linking site operators deserve extradition.

SleepyJohn (profile) says:

They do have a 'local voice'

Well, there clearly is “some indication that this action is wanted on that level”. According to MAFIAA research only 95% of British people disapprove of the extradition, although doubtless if it continues with its current hysterical campaign of misinformation and outright threatening lies I expect that will soon reach close to 100%. So there is their ‘local voice’ and what could be more local than the boy’s countrymen who are disgusted with the behaviour of their government, which in this situation is unquestionably a puppet, with or without socks.

Dave says:

Assumed innocent unless......you know the rest.

“To counter these assertions, the MPAA and its allies need a coordinated effort to focus more on the criminal activity involved in the operation of TVShack and other similar linking sites.”
Just who are the MAFIAA to set themselves up as judge and jury and arbitrarily decide what is and what isn’t legal and/or “criminal”? Considering that O’Dwyer has not been put through a UK court to have any such decision made, one way or the other, OR been convicted of ANY crime, these goddamn Yankee movie people have got the biggest infernal cheek I have ever seen on this earth. The word arrogance doesn’t even begin to describe their attitude and to have persuaded the lovely Theresa to extradite O’Dwyer on no grounds at all is the lowest of the low. We can only hope the High Court is right on the money and sees the injustice of it all.

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