Dear Hollywood: Hire Better Shills

from the wow dept

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a puff piece showing just how much work it is for NBC Universal to keep fighting all those darn pirates. It’s basically a propaganda piece starring Rick “Save the Corn Farmers!” Cotton, NBC’s general counsel who fights piracy the way that Captain Ahab chases Moby Dick. There are all sorts of problems with the piece, including the fact that it appears to believe that just because NBC is sending a lot more takedowns, it means that the “problem” is growing. Of course, as we were just discussing last week, when you look at the actual data, it makes a pretty clear case for anti-piracy efforts doing nothing to stop piracy, but investment in lots of innovative startups providing consumers what they want being the path to success. But, that’s not Cotton’s style.

Anyway, Janko Roettgers, over at PaidContent, wrote a nice post debunking much of the story, which quickly got three comments that all sounded vaguely similar in their poor use of the English language — all of which tried to spin the story into “proof” that greater enforcement, such as the six strikes effort, was needed. Two of them make the laughable claim that each infringement represents “lost revenue.” That’s not how it works. Here’s one of the three comments:

I’m glad the author is pointing out what is pretty clear to people who browse the internet everyday, piracy is still widespread and is evolving every year. Not even taking into account the huge piracy issues overseas, each of these takedown requests represents lost revenue for both views and time spend tracking and reporting this illegal behavior. NBC will and should continue to do this because legal viewing of their content is vital for their business. But the better long term solution is to create a system where NBC isn’t playing a carnival game just to receive the proper copyright benefits for the content they invest so much in.

Of course, the real way to get to that “long term solution” is for NBC to stop playing the carnival game of takedowns — which do nothing to reduce infringement — and focus on making sure its content is more widely available from more legitimate sources.

Either way, Janko quickly pointed out that, in a surprise to no one, it was pretty clear that the comments were from DC-based hired shills for the entertainment industry:

Kelseliz, AlexB and SteveFeather, I’m glad you all enjoyed my story. However, I’m not too surprised you all share the same point of view. After all, the three of you commented from the same Washington D.C.-based IP address, and one of the email addresses you left points to a D.C. lobbying firm that gets paid by major labels, rights holder groups and movie studios… but I’m sure that’s all just one big coincidence.

I know that it’s common in our comments for people to accuse others of being “shills.” Frankly, people jump to the shill label way too fast. While it is clear that some of our commenters do work in the industry, there are very few indications that they are paid to be propaganda spreaders, and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt (similarly, I would urge our commenters to stop throwing around the “shill” term so readily — unless there’s actual evidence, don’t leap to unsupported conclusions). That said, in this case it seems pretty blatant that some entertainment industry “friends” from a DC lobbying group are now out trying to spread a very poorly argued concept that we somehow “need” six strikes. I’d suggest that the RIAA, MPAA and others might find better ways to spend their money.

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Comments on “Dear Hollywood: Hire Better Shills”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Come on Mike, we all know you are a Google shill and a piracy supporter. [incoherent rant] WHY U NO DISCUSS? [incoherent noises]

Note: the word shill was typed slowly to avoid jumping to the label too fast.


On a more serious comment I’m not surprised. And I think SOME of the trolls here in TD are paid but the usual ones are just that clueless.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Recall the comment quoted above from the actual shills. Proper spelling & grammar, Complete sentences, logic flowing from sentence to sentence…

…these are not characteristics of the common troll comments. It seems our lot are still thrashing through the basic arguments (moral stance, legal stance) without insight into the central fact of copyright: an artificial limitation, imposed from without, between creator and audience.

Anonymous Coward says:

” …each of these takedown requests represents lost revenue for both views and time spend tracking and reporting this illegal behavior.”

There is a lot of truth in the fact that antipiracy efforts like takedowns are costing a lot of money.
Which is why we are always so puzzled that they go to these expensive efforts and those of DRM when neither has any impact on piracy and the data on piracy suggests that piracy has no effect on sales. It’s money and time spent to fight a problem that has no impact on you.
Dragging the government and ISPs into this then places a lot of extra costs on the taxpayer and average internet user, unnecessary costs that achieve nothing except I guess employing people in the DRM and DMCA takedown fields.
Is it a jobs programme?

Anonymous Coward says:

Very interesting article considering alot of what I have been reading recently has been declaring piracy to be on the decline. If in fact, growth is still occurring, just at a smaller rate, then it is even more important for piracy enforcement to be implemented (like the six-strikes policies). Craking down now, when growth is slower, should be prioritized to perhaps put the ?final nail in the coffin? on piracy.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Craking down now, when growth is slower, should be prioritized to perhaps put the ?final nail in the coffin? on piracy.

You will never achieve a complete end to piracy without completely removing the rights of privacy, anonymity and free speech.

Personally, I view none of those as acceptable collateral damage when enforcing copyright. I view the lessening of copyright as acceptable collateral damage for the retention of our Constitutional rights in this brave new technological age.

out_of_the_blue says:

OR this alleged "Janko" is a lying shill!

We don’t know, but Mike CHOOSES to believe him without any real evidence.

In any event, IT’S IRRELEVANT to who OWNS the content because paid for it!

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Techdirt fanboys are totally committed to free speech — which to them means links to infringing content!

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: OR this alleged "Janko" is a lying shill!

because paid for it!

Grammar numnuts!! It’s your friend!

And we know you’re not a real shill, real shills try to at least be different every post and unlike yourself at least basically coherent.

Though if you work real hard, go to bed early, and learn some more words and how to use them you too could be a real shill someday!

Gwiz (profile) says:

I would urge our commenters to stop throwing around the “shill” term so readily — unless there’s actual evidence, don’t leap to unsupported conclusions

I agree.

Just because someone voices an opposing view, no matter how misguided or misinformed, does not make them a shill.

There’s actually only one commenter here on Techdirt that I suspect might be shilling and that’s our friend who posts from somewhere inside the Beltway and claimed he was an “policy maker” with regards to SOPA.

Same goes for the use of the word troll also. It gets thrown around way to much too. An opposing view doesn’t make someone a troll either. Now if that person keeps derailing threads over and over to spout that same opposing view, then that is pushing near the edge of the troll realm.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think the shill assumption just comes from the consistency of the comments. They make the same wild claims, logical fallacies and outright lies time and time again. They launch constant attacks, never accepting even the most obvious truth when pushed in their faces with facts. Most of the comments achieve nothing except making the commenter look like a fool, especially when they escape from a thread where they’re proven totally wrong, then just repeat the same debunked claims again and again.

That the commenter is a shill is the best, most flattering assumption to be made from this. It suggests that while the person is factually wrong and damaging to any real discussion, they are being paid to be like that. If not paid, they either really are that stupid or they’re a troll (a rather pathetic leisure pursuit IMHO), so if not shills, they’re actually something worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We would refrain if

Well Anonymous Coward #2234 and #5262 are definately shills! Anonymous Coward #252 and #2521 are definately not.

Whoever has gone through the trouble of logging in are just people wanting to put a name behind their messages even if you play advocate for the devil as the lawyer-studying Average_joe, represent a very egoistic ideology like the conservative Bob or represent a left-leaning philosophy with low respect for capitalism and competition like out_of_the_blue.

If you are paid to write crap and create dissent on websites with opposing views, it is so much better and easier to do as an Anonymous Coward and exposing Anonymous Cowards is admittedly not as funny as signed in users. Even more: If you allow anonymous comments you are trying to make the site open for people to comment. If you start organizing “public lynchings” of people with an affiliation with more protective entities, you are making constructive different opinions even less likely to appear than now and making the site even more of a religious sect than the comment section already is!

AB says:

Re: Re: Re:

Very true. I certainly spend more time reading TD alone then watching Hollywood crap. Heck, even with the kids shows our TV is on for less then an hour a day. And most of that is spent watching BBC shows such as Doctor Who.

Internet sites such as Cracked and CollegeHumor produce far more consistently creative entertainment then Hollywood does. And while the news stations might be mildly entertaining because of all the inaccurate stories they report, I prefer to get my news from reliable sources such as the internet (where I can do my own fact-checking).

Maybe if Hollywood worried more about content and less about stock prices they could produce something actually worth watching.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“It must suck to not be able to provide your own content and be dependent upon leeching off Hollywood to artificially boost your stock price.”

Are you that goddamn naive?

Every big business in some way, shape or form leeches off of others. Twisting that fit your anti-tech industry agenda makes you look like a fanatic.

AB says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Erm,actually Google makes information files which many other businesses rely on. Oh, and don’t forget all the grocery stores, restaurants, dry-cleaners, and transportation companies that rely on the tech industry not only as customers but also as equipment suppliers and maintainers.

In fact, all these companies create a cycle of co-dependance. The only industry that no one actually needs is the entertainment industry. Funny that.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That wouldn’t be the same Hollywood that moved to the west coast to make it difficult for Edison to collect royalties?

Or the Hollywood that uses “Hollywood” accounting to make all-time box office successes into financial disasters to avoid paying people a percent of net.

Or the music company that can’t pay artists their royalties because they can’t track them down?

Or the music company that deems the purchase of a track via iTunes to be a purchase of a licence not a purchase of a song (aka a sale) meaning way less royalties for the artist.

Hollywood and the media companies are very effective at leeching off others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Piracy is costing us 100 million dollars in lost sales every ____.
Let’s spend 200 million dollars in the same timeframe to fight it.
And another 200 million dollars to lobby for new laws!

Now we’re losing 500 million dollars to piracy! We need to spend more money to fight it!

You know, considering that this is the mindset of the legacy media industry, and that the legacy media industry effectively runs and controls the US government, this kind of explains the US government’s current “spend our way out of debt” economic stance.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The US government hasn’t gone nearly far enough in ‘spending itself out of debt’! At least compared to us ‘sosheealleest you-rope-eeans’. The whole point is to stimulate certain portions of the economy such as construction, infrastructure, that then help other sections improve. Or, you can cut everyone’s money so much that they can’t spend anything and your economy tanks.

And remember, by Republican standards, your soldiers are ‘welfare bums’ cadging ‘free healthcare and benefits’ from the ‘government teat’. i.e. part of the 47%…

Digger says:

Digital downloads != (not equal for the idiots) Piracy

People who download movies, music, software purchase more than people who don’t.

If the content is good enough, people buy it, if it’s crap, they don’t.

Yes, there are some who download that don’t buy, but those are the same people who NEVER WOULD HAVE BOUGHT to begin with.

So not illegal downloading increases revenue, while stupid anti-piracy efforts cost the studios money. Perhaps these entities should go after the companies like Macrovision who have been lying to them for decades.

Go after the big pirates who create wholesale fake CDs, DVDs, Blurays, etc… Leave individuals who share / trade files alone, whole industries will be better off.

Milton Freewater says:

Listen to what the shills say ... you'll learn something

“the better long term solution is to create a system where NBC isn?t playing a carnival game just to receive the proper copyright benefits for the content they invest so much in. “

Right here, folks. This is the agenda.

Piracy is the made-up boogeyman, and stopping it is the theater that drives their real agenda. The lobbyists’ posts admit exactly that – NOBODY believes it’s increasing, including pirates. They made that up, and they don’t write anything accidentally.

Their goal is to use piracy as an excuse to create a system where they authorize our internet activity, SOPA/PIPA style. They pursue it because they think we might give it to them, no more, no less.

There is no point discussing the positive effects of file-sharing. They are not concerned with ANY effect of file-sharing. They are concerned with what they get if they say file-sharing is a problem. That’s one reason why NBC Universal Comcast does not disconnect you after one strike sharing their content.

Anonymous Coward says:

The copyright gang already knows they can’t end piracy. What all this BS is about is about control and attempting to turn the internet into the next tv land with a door open to the store of endless shelves. Pirates will still pirate no matter what.

Over and over it’s been shown right here at TechDirt that it isn’t about money, that’s the red herring. Some of the comments just on just this one article highlight just how well it’s not about money. They are willing to throw tons of money (with the expectation if they get what they want if was worth it by multiples) not to save or make money but in an effort to justify more laws.

What is abundantly clear is their message isn’t working with the public. Quite simply locking up public domain into copyright disrespects public domain, the purpose for copyright to exist to begin with. At a visceral level, people understand that and return the same respect to the copyright holders, which in turn fuels more piracy.

The entertainment industry has changed in it’s management, methods, and what’s important to them. No longer are star entertainers or someone with at least a background in the industry they are in heading the boards and CEOs. Now it’s lawyers and accountants.

Accountants can’t properly price the value of art. They can place value on physical objects and how to hook and rook someone out of their income.

The lawyer’s solution is always court. If they can’t control it or it’s not going their way, then court is the answer. It’s just figuring out how to present it in court in an acceptable manner to get a ruling they wish.

Both have returned to the entertainment industry in spades a true distaste and dislike for the companies that make these items. So it has come down to a war against their own customers with the expectation they will get what they want. It’s not winning them any hearts and minds of the public they so desperately need. Without voluntary agreement with their aims, the public will continue to disrespect the entertainment industry just as they have the public. No amount of ranting, raving, courts, punishment, or any other actions will change this.

We see examples of that every day here at TechDirt.

Beta (profile) says:


The same line caught my eye. If tracking and reporting the infringement costs an amount comparable to (alleged) cost of the infringement itself, and isn’t reducing the rate of such (alleged) infringement, then why track it and report it at all?

To put it another way:
“Why are you tracking and reporting this?”
“Because it’s costing us money!”
“How is it costing you money?”
“Look at how much we have to spend, tracking and reporting it!”

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’re not far off the mark. From the cited WSJ article:

[Kathy Wolfe, who owns a small independent U.S. film-distribution company] estimates that she lost over $3 million in revenue in 2012 as a result of stolen content from her top 15 titles. On top of that, she spends over $30,000 a year?about half her profit?just to send out takedown notices for her titles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But to her, it’s spending 30,000 to try and get some of the entirely imaginery 3 million of revenue that she has somehow “lost”.

Rather than having been conned into halving her profits by some slick talkers who have said “Look at all the piracy, these methods will do nothing about it but we promise it’s for the best”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yep. On top of that, I wonder what the titles were. Whenever someone makes a claim like this, I can usually go to details of the movies and try to work out why it didn’t sell more – usually down to regional restrictions, blocking it from certain distribution channels (e.g. the idiot screed of “I don’t want it on Netflix because they don’t pay as much as a Blu Ray sales”), bad marketing or simply that the film was crap. None of these are guaranteed factors, but they’re a hell of a lot more likely and more easily addressed that “it’s piracy!”.

A quick Google on Wolfe suggests that she’s in a very niche market (gay/lesbian interest films), and has only recently expanded out from the physical US-only market into globally available digital sales. So, a limited market, artificially further limited by regional restrictions and potentially a delay moving to digital subscription and sales (the fastest growing sector)? At first glance, there’s more problems than piracy.

More info would be nice, but it’s almost certain that she would indeed have been better off doing literally nothing, if not funnelling that money into marketing and opening up to a global audience or streaming rental markets.

special-interesting (profile) says:

I don’t think its the lack of talent in the lawyer field of practice but the lack of where we apply that (admittedly, currently, seems lacking) talent.

The Prenda problems brings to light many of the common abuses in practice within the copyright industry. (So much so that I was wondering if the justice branch was legislated out by congress or some executive order.) Am happy that at least one Judge Otis Wright was looking at some of the details. Its nice that perjury is considered a bad thing in one court in America.

Its like (most) judges and legislators alike don’t even care if industry lies to them, makes up preposterous assumptions and even deletes and rearranges/reword research to effect. I hope its a trend.

The lawyers paid by SOPA/ACTA/PIPA or whatever illegal trade agreement that tries to implement new law on its own should be ashamed who they have as clients. Would you want to employ or elect any of these noggin heads?

Note: loved the liberal accounting humor above! Some of it actually made sense and was better logic that what was submitted to congress.

Considering my opinion that we should only support first person witness judicially reviewed with jury law… I hope that another judge will consider the constitutional implications to a free and open society in regards 1) to the DMCA take-down notice UN-proceedure and the 2) summary judgment by implication of things like the Six-Strikes ‘policy’ and the associations that promote such. 3) Is eternal copyright to long to be allowed as a protected monopoly? 4) Why do we have electronic information laws when we even don’t know what that is yet? Its an undefined frontier of knowledge completely unexplored.

Disclaimer: I am for the abandonment of the copyright amendment. (lets do something that adds to shared culture)

Computer Repair (user link) says:

Six Strikes

Even if you aren?t personally involved in illegal content sharing, account holders are responsible for the actions of anyone on their network. Program participants hope that receipt of a warning will encourage account holders to take measures to restrict unauthorized activity on their network by talking to household members, limiting unauthorized access by encrypting their WiFi network, and/or installing software or hardware to block access to peer-to-peer sites.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Six Strikes

All well and good. But:

“account holders are responsible for the actions of anyone on their network”

Do you honestly think that the average account holder has either the knowledge or ability to do this? Speaking as someone who spent a few years in domestic technical support, I can guarantee you that they don’t, and they’re more likely to go offline themselves (thus cutting themselves off from legal content sources) than agree to be their own network admin.

“talking to household members”

That assumes it’s a household member doing the pirating.

“limiting unauthorized access by encrypting their WiFi network”

…and if/when the security is hacked or otherwise bypassed?

“installing software or hardware to block access to peer-to-peer sites.”

You’re aware that peer to peer is not itself illegal, right, and is used by quite a number of perfectly legal services and activities (WoW updates, for example)? Not to mention the fact that blocking this method of piracy will just encourage the use of alternatives rather than stop people from pirating in the first place.

Face it, everything you just mentioned is beyond the capability and training of most people, and such training is not a requirement to hold an internet account. Placing the responsibility solely on domestic consumers will not work, and will encourage people to find ways to finger innocent parties (such as obtaining software that can crack WEP encryption in seconds, which is freely and easily available), especially in urban areas where there’s a lot of nearby connections to choose from. Kicking people offline will do nothing to discourage piracy, and will almost certainly result in unintended consequences that will probably lose more money than piracy itself does.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Unnecessary cost

On top of that, [Kathy Wolfe] spends over $30,000 a year?about half her profit?just to send out takedown notices for her titles.
Then she’s doing it wrong. I once wrote an article for about ATOS Origin that exploded all over the web for a week or so, and one site that reposted it attributed the site they’d found it on, not where I’d posted it. So I used the contact form of the site in question to ask them to correct the attribution, and they pulled the article entirely, claiming that they couldn’t edit it (yeah, right!). Total cost, five minutes max of my time and ?0.00 of my money.

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