from the and-so-it-goes dept
Ever since the failure of SOPA, MPAA boss Chris Dodd has been making the rounds, giving the same damn stump speech over and over again. We’ve reported on it before, but he’s done it again, this time at the National Press Club. As the transcript shows, it’s the same old story.
Play up just how amazing the movie industry is because it “tells stories.” Then, transition into just how many “jobs” the industry creates — and focus on how those jobs aren’t the glamorous ones, but those everyday people (the “little people” if you will) — and always claim that there are over 2 million of them, even if that’s massively exaggerated. At least this time he put in the caveat that he was including people who are both “directly and indirectly” in the industry (plus he admits that he’s including TV people, as opposed to just movies) — such as the people who “prepared our lunch today.” Of course, I would imagine those people would likely be preparing lunch for someone else even if the movie industry disappeared. He also highlights that the industry creates jobs across the country, naming New Mexico, Georgia and North Carolina. Don’t think those are by accident. Those are three states that have provided significant subsidies to the Hollywood studios, and are some of the very few such programs not rated as a dismal failure for the local economy. He claims that “You can go down a list of states all across the nation and find one economic impact success story after another.” He conveniently leaves out that the evidence actually shows that most of these are actually not economic success stories at all, but dismal failures that funnel taxpayer money from states to Hollywood studios which bring in their favorite crews, and hire few locals.
But, then, of course, there’s the key section on “technology” and innovation. At first he tries to play up all of the “innovation,” but again, leaves out how many of these “innovations” wouldn’t actually exist if the MPAA had its way in the past:
Because movies matter—to more people, in more places, who want to watch them at more times, across multiple platforms—the film and television industry is continuously innovating to meet that demand.
Today movies and TV shows can be viewed in theaters, on the big screen, or at home on TV screens, laptops, iPads, Kindles and smart phones.
There are more than 375 unique licensed online distribution services around the world that provide high-quality, on demand film and television shows, offering the easiest, fastest, safest, highest quality product and viewing experience possible.
That the industry was dragged, kicking and screaming, to support many of these things is sort of left out. Also, the fact that the industry has worked ridiculously hard at crippling many of these services, making them way too expensive and annoying (how many services require you to watch a video within 24 hours, because, apparently, no one in the MPAA has kids and recognizes you might want to start a film one night and finish it the next?) seems kind of important, but not mentioned.
There is one thing we agree on:
These innovations are great for consumers. I’m not exaggerating when I say a new golden age in television and film is being ushered in. You can watch more content than ever, through more channels, and the quality of the movies and TV shows is outstanding.
So why did the MPAA fight nearly every one of these changes all along? And why is it still trying to do so? Well, then we get to the usual talk about how the next wave of “innovation” isn’t about providing more value to those consumers. It’s not about extending the golden age. It’s about how can Silicon Valley help the MPAA stop piracy:
This is why it’s so crucial that we protect this content from theft. Because consumers deserve to enjoy first-generation versions of their favorite films—not secondhand, pirated films-of-films shot and recorded inside a movie theatre on a mobile phone.
First off, it’s not theft. Stop saying it is when it’s not. It just makes you look totally out of touch. Second, you know what helps consumers get good works? Making them available in convenient ways at reasonable prices — something the big studios frequently work against, despite his list of services. Finally, you know how to beat the “secondhand, pirated films-of-films shot and recorded inside a movie theater on a mobile phone”? You offer more convenient ways to view the actual product. I don’t know why Dodd and the MPAA think that anyone really wants to watch a crappy cammed version of a film shot from a mobile phone. They don’t. Give them legitimate reasonable options and they prefer that.
We must strike a balance between the desire for a free and open internet and the protection of intellectual property. The future cannot be about choosing one over the other—between protecting free speech OR protecting intellectual property—it must be about protecting both
There is no “balance” needed here. What we need is a free and open internet, period. Protecting IP is a fool’s errand. Focus on providing more legitimate services with better service, more convenience and reasonable pricing and there’s no need to protect things. People pay for Netflix, Spotify and others because they’re simply more convenient. Do more of that and stop worrying about piracy.
We can and must have an Internet that works for everyone, and we can and must have protection for the creative industry’s genius that intellectual property represents.
This assumes that protection is a reasonable goal. It’s not. It will always be costly to protect and will always have collateral damage. Considering you can solve the problems merely by providing better services, stop worrying about piracy, and just start helping more companies innovate cool additional value.
There should be no confusion. For the more than two million Americans whose jobs depend on the motion picture and television industry “free and open” cannot be synonymous with “working for free.”
I’m sure whichever staffer wrote this line thought it was really clever, but what does it even mean? No one is asking anyone to work for free. Just moments before in the speech, Dodd was talking about how the industry was doing great and growing. More movies than ever before are being made and there are all sorts of new opportunities. Focus on those.
To protect IP, and the openness and freedom of the Internet, we must together innovate our way through these challenges. Fortunately, Silicon Valley and Hollywood are making some progress on this front.
No, the challenge is not how to “protect content.” The challenge is “how can we make money” and the tech industry has been providing answers to that over and over and over again, creating new and useful tools and services that help the creation, promotion, distribution and monetization of movies. And the industry has either fought to block or simply looked down upon nearly all of them, until suddenly they’re “big enough” to matter, and then they take credit for those innovations. Don’t “work together” on the useless goal of “protecting content.” Focus on innovating in a way that makes consumers better off.
It’s a simple thing: are you adding value to the consumers, or are you trying to stop them from doing something? If you’re doing the first thing, you’re moving in the right direction. If you’re doing the latter, you’re throwing money away on the impossible. While Chris Dodd represents the movie industry, the joke around here for a while has been that industries fighting the future “sound like a broken recording industry.” Dodd’s been telling this same tall tale for a year now, and it’s time he got some new material. Stop focusing on ways to stop people from doing stuff, and start looking for ways to help them get more value.