Paramount Worried It Can't Compete With A Bunch Of Amateurs

from the learning-to-let-go dept

Back at the last Techdirt Greenhouse event, one of the presenting startups was Jumpcut, makers of online tools to edit videos, as well as share clips and results so that others can benefit from it as well (the NY Times just had a nice article discussing Jumpcut and its competitors). The question Jumpcut brought up for discussion is one we talk about often here on Techdirt. Noting the rise of "amateur to amateur" content, where people could create, mix, distribute and promote their own content, the company wanted to know where the traditional content industries were going to fit into the mix. As an example of one possibility, the company showed a contest they ran with Warner Independent Pictures, where they let anyone remix the trailer for the new film A Scanner Darkly, and provided plenty of content for users to experiment with. It was a fascinating experiment, that got a lot of interest. However, what happens when people do this sort of "remix" on their own?

Take, for example, this new story about Paramount Pictures, who is suing a young, amateur filmmaker, who found the script to the new Oliver Stone movie, World Trade Center online, and decided to see if he could film his own version (condensed down to twelve minutes) using Yale student actors. The twelve minute version has actually received some good reviews, but Paramount claims that people might somehow confuse an amateur 12 minute video with their version starring Nicholas Cage and Maria Bello -- and backed up with hundreds of millions of dollars (including a $40 million marketing campaign). Considering that the movie industry has been complaining that you can't replicate $200 million films with cheaper production methods, this seems like a very odd position for them to take. However, more importantly, they're falling back on their view that they somehow control every aspect of the product these days, rather than recognizing that there's more to it than the content. Why not embrace these efforts as evidence of fan interest in the film, and use it to generate even more interest? Even if the amateur work isn't good or flattering, just the fact that people would bother to try to recreate it suggests an interest in the film. Encouraging more people to do so gets the idea out there that the original is a film worth seeing. After all, no one spends time making their own versions of films no one cares about.

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  1. identicon
    BillDivX, 21 Jun 2006 @ 1:54pm


    I heard, a few years back, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich from metallica, during their mp3 sharing crusade, where they were asked about people bootlegging shows and distributing those versions of songs. Their comment was "we don't care about those, we care about the studio cuts, because we paid for studio time, paid the hourly fees for Audio Engineers, Mixing Engineers, Mastering Engineers, and CD reproduction." Essentially, they stated that they didn't really care about the musical equivalent of this case. Someone created a version for which metallica did not have to pay for production. Their justification for the piracy crusade is that they need to pay for the cost of producing the studio album, not for the songwriting itself, which is of course, free from the perspective of the band. This is the same thing. someone took the same writing, and produced the content themselves. So , I would guess that metallica should have been ok with this use? Since Paramount did not pay $200 million for that guy to produce his independent version, they lost no real money on it. they are still free to spend $200 mil on the real movie, and if it's really a good movie, they should be able to sell that over a condensed student version. To argue that the script itself is their property is only half correct. To steal the recording is one thing. Audio Engineering on a studio album gets expensive, and even more so producing a movie, but that's not the same as stealing a transcription of a movie script, or the musical notes for the song. Those are "written works of art" which means they fall under standard copyright law, and that protects the exact replication, and does not protect you from "similar works." otherwise, half the software on the internet is in violation, as well as most movies ever made (when was the last time you saw hollywood produce a truly original plot? most movies are the same few plots recycled with different settings and characters.) It would also disallow musicians from performing covers. All of those are fair use, and should be. think of the problems if a cover band could be sued for playing someones song live. I would say in this case the guy is in the clear, because he must have had to hack that script to pieces to fit it into 12 minutes, which puts it, IMHO under the category of Derivative Work anyway. My question is why the script was floating around on the internet. If an exact copy of the script was floating on the internet, not put there by paramount, then that exact copy is their IP, and the person who stole that should get reamed, I would equate that to leaking someones source code.

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