Australian Press Prints Movie Industry Myths About Piracy Funding Terrorism

from the does-skepticism-exist-down-under? dept

Isn't the press supposed to actually investigate claims handed to them by industry lobbyists? Apparently not. A bunch of folks have sent in the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald has published a totally one-side and unsubstantiated article claiming that "movie pirates fund terrorism." There are just a few problems with this -- including the fact that the so-called evidence for this is weak or non-existent, and the only evidence that is provided comes directly from the movie industry itself, who has every incentive to push this ridiculous story, despite the fact that the movie business continues to have record breaking years at the box office, and attendance is way up this year so far -- despite a massive worldwide recession.

None of that makes it into this article, by two supposedly professional reporters.

Instead, we're told that "piracy" costs the Australian movie industry $233 million per year and "affects at least 50,000 workers." Affects how? That we're not told. As for the $233 million number, that comes from AFACT -- the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, hardly an unbiased party, though the gullible reporters seem to take its spokesperson's words as gospel that cannot be questioned. About the only thing that said spokesperson, Neil Gane, can show as someone being impacted is that "the people who own the local DVD shop who are having to lay off staff." Uh huh. And the people who own the local CD shop are doing so also -- but it's not because of "piracy" but because of competition. You know who's staffing up, though? Apple stores and video game retailers... Hmmm... Why is it that AFACT doesn't count their job growth in its numbers? I wonder...

Then there's the claim from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance's director, Simon Whipp, claiming that all this piracy is impacting the least well paid people in the industry: "We're talking about a group of people who earn an average wage of about $15,000 a year." Honestly, all I can think is that (1) why is the industry paying people such crappy wages and (2) they're probably a lot better off in other jobs then, where they might earn a bit more. I don't see that as a problem of piracy. It seems like the movie studios aren't paying those employees enough to keep them in their jobs.

From there, the article moves on to the absolutely ridiculous, promising to "show how movie piracy is being used to fund terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Jemaah Islamiah, responsible for the Bali bombings in 2002." That would, indeed, be quite interesting, but the article fails to even come close. Instead, it talks about a guy in Sydney who camcorded some films and uploaded them to one of many online groups. What the article doesn't mention is that the same films were almost certainly uploaded by numerous other people, and there's a good chance that most of those films pretty quickly had official (non-camcorded) versions leaked online by industry insiders. But, wait, we're supposed to be learning how this one guy's movies are connected to terrorists.

But, we don't. Instead, we find out that the movies he recorded (but no mention as to whether it's specifically his recordings) showed up in Britain, the United States, Mexico, Spain, Malaysia and the Philippines. We're told that the movies are manufactured and sold in the streets. That's great, but it ignores the fact that, thanks to all this "online movie piracy" the whole "counterfeit DVD" business has been going downhill. In fact, if you must connect the sale of counterfeit DVDs to terrorists, then you should be happy for online piracy taking away that market.

Is any of this suggested in the article? Of course not.

But wait, weren't we supposed to be finding the elusive missing link between movie downloading and terrorism? We were following the camcorded movie recorded by the one guy in Sydney, which showed up in other places... but there the trail ends cold. Instead, we're told to just trust the experts. Ganes (quoted earlier) shows up again to claim: "It has been recognised by governments... that there is a link between movie piracy and terrorist funding." Oh really? It has been recognized by whom? Only by a study funded by the MPAA which didn't really talk about online piracy, but about counterfeiting, and which had numerous methodological problems. At least the article admits that the study was funded by the MPAA, but never considers that it may be biased because of this.

The article quotes the authors of the study, claiming: "If you buy pirated DVDs, there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organised crime." Of course, organized crime is not the same as terrorists, but does the article mention that? Nope. It wants you to assume they're the same thing. It also doesn't discuss the declining sales of counterfeit DVDs.

But it does jump back to the Philippines, where local actor Eduardo Manzano has the definitive proof of the link to terrorists. It's because he says so! "In this country, we have the triad, and we have terrorist organisations which are being suspected now of using profits derived from DVDs for possible terrorist activities." Then, in dramatic fashion, the reporters discuss a raid on counterfeit DVDs, and from there we're told that the guy who camcorded movies in Sydney didn't get a big enough sentence.

Got it? With some gullible reporters, a lack of fact checking, questionable information, a lack of context, a total dearth of anyone who might question the bogus information put forth in the article, we have an article promising to show the link between piracy and terrorism that does nothing of the sort. Now who's out there complaining again about how these professional reporters need to have special protection since they actually do real investigative reporting?
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Filed Under: australia, journalism, movies, piracy, terrorism
Companies: afact, mpaa

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:16pm


    Seriously, check him out. He's hillarious.

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